Sun 3/1/21

Broadcast and Live-streamed Opportunities for Worship
8.10 am Radio 4 Sunday Worship reflects on change and chance.
9.00 am  The Church of England on-line service is available from 9.00 am at: Weekly online services | The Church of England
9.30 am  A modern style of worship is available from Christ Church Gipsy Hill at: https://www.facebook.com/christchurchgipsyhill/
10.00 am  The Cathedral Eucharist is available at: Chester Cathedral - YouTube
Book of Common Prayer Worship which is being livestreamed can be found on the Prayer Book Society website at: Online streaming of BCP services - The Prayer Book Society (pbs.org.uk)


A Sermon for 
EPIPHANY 2021 Sunday 3 January

 

The word epiphany is increasingly used to mean any insightful or dramatic moment that instills new spiritual insight, vision or perspective. In our gospel reading today we have the Epiphany with a capital E - the manifestation of the Christ child to the Gentiles. The Gentiles in this case being the magi, the wise men who came from the east bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh. Some scholars say that the wise men came from Persia, that’s about 1250 miles away from Bethlehem. I dont know how far east their journey actually began, but I believe that from the east” is intended to signify that these men were not Jews, they we Gentiles.

 

So who were these men? Certainly they had a great knowledge of the stars, but I don’t think that they were astronomers. More likely I think that they were astrologers who studied the stars to predict world events. Many scholars argue that the Jewish scriptures (our Old Testament) forbid astrology, certainly there is nothing there to encourage such a practice. Perhaps God uses these Gentiles who practice astrology to show that everyone, no matter who they are, can and will be used by God, and that everyone is welcome in his kingdom if they believe in him.

 

According to the NASA website there are in excess of two hundred billion stars (that’s eleven zeros) in our solar system. These wise men from the east spotted one star and followed it to Jerusalem and then on to Bethlehem where it stopped over the house in which Jesus lay. If I tried that I think I’d probably end up in Scunthorpe. We don’t know what this star was that they followed, it may have been a supernova, or a  comet, or a “great conjunction” such as happened this year at the winter solstice, or a merger of two stars such as “the snowman” that astronomers found in our skies in March. We simply do not know. What we can be certain of  is that the wise men were guided by God. And yet it was a God which was not their god.

 

So how could this have happened? The wise men had obviously been studying. They knew their history. They had searched their own past and whatever sacred texts they had. They were ready and willing to search out a sign and to recognize it when they saw it. But they weren’t just stuck with their heads in books, they must have been keen observers of the world around them. They must have been aware of what was happening in the world in their time.

 

And so they were willing to take a chance and act on what they saw. They were willing to set out on a journey to find Jesus. They were prepared to take the chance that they were wrong in what they were doing, but they obviously believed that what they were doing was important and worthwhile. They were not afraid to seek guidance and affirmation. Unfortunately they picked the wrong guy to ask for directions in King Herod, but we all know that God uses some very surprising people for his divine purpose.

 

I think that there is a lot that we can learn from this. 

 

The wise men set out on a journey to find Jesus. They followed the star, they didn’t have a road map or a sat-nav. They trusted in the God that they did not know. But the whole point of Jesus becoming fully human, as well as fully divine, was so that we could see what God is like, because Jesus is God. If we know Jesus then we know God.  Just as the wise men studied their own history and scriptures so should we study our scriptures. The Bible tells us the story of God’s relationship with his creation and with humanity in particular. It is, in essence, a love story because God is love. It begins with his love for his chosen people, the Jews, and, in the New Testament, we see how God loves the Gentiles too. How he loves the non-Jewish people. How he loves you and me. If we journey with Jesus we must study our Bibles, because scripture is one of the ways that God reveals himself to us. Ultimately I see my Christian faith as being a relationship with Jesus. We need to invest our time with him in prayer and in studying the Bible, only then can we begin to able to know him and to know what he is doing in the world. When we pray, when we read, when we journey with Jesus we should do it with the same commitment as the wise men - as someone posted on Facebook recently, we should do it with all the enthusiasm of a four year old in a Batman T-shirt.

 

J.A.B.  30 December 2020


Prayers for 3 January 2021

 

The Collect for Epiphany

O God,

who by the leading of a star

manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth;

mercifully grant that we,

who know you ow by faith,

may at last behold your glory face to face;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

on God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

The Post Communion Prayer for Epiphany

 

Lord God,

the bright splendour whom the nations seek

may we who with the wise men

have been drawn by your light

discern the glory of your presence in your Son,

the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

Prayers of Intercession

 

Lord, arise and shine

make known your glory.

 

God of wonder and of light, by the guiding of a star, the wise men came to worship your son.

May your Church be a beacon to draw all people to kneel in your presence.

Give grace to all who share your name to proclaim your praise.

 

God of power and might, news of your Christ-child’s birth filled Herod with fear.

Transform the hearts of all in political office to serve your Kingdom with joy.

With the offering of gold, we place before you all our power and aspiration.

 

God of mystery and wisdom, in your Son you make known the purpose of your love.

Bless our homes and those with whom we share joy and laughter, pain and sorrows.

United in a common humanity, may we come to share the promises of Christ.

 

God of healing and restoration,

with myrrh we seek your anointing presence on all who suffer…

may our hearts thrill and rejoice in you.

 

God of glory your radiance fills the heavens and our prayers rise to you like incense.

Hear us as we remember before you those who have died in faith and fear.

May we all come to see the dawning light of your rising glory.  Amen.

 

Ian Black



HYMNS

As with gladness men of old As With Gladness Men Of Old - YouTube

O come and join the dance O Come And Join The Dance Lyric Video - Graham Kendrick - YouTube

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness CHESTER CATHEDRAL-O WORSHIP THE LORD - YouTube

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning EPIPHANY-BRIGHTEST AND BEST - YouTube