URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship – 3rd January 2021

URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service – 3rd January 2021

Epiphany- The Magi

 
Opening Music  Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
 
Introduction
 
The story of the wise men who came to visit the infant Christ is one of the most popular in the Christmas cycle of readings.  We don’t know much about these mysterious visitors – they appear only in St Matthew’s Gospel.  We’re not told how many of them they were – just that they brought three gifts – and St Matthew doesn’t name them as kings.
 
There is, however, an older prophecy that kings will come and bow before the Messiah and this, older prophecy, unites in the Church mind with the story from Matthew’s Gospel and so the idea of the three kings was born.  I’ve seen a reliquary in Cologne Cathedral where the bones of the three kings are supposed to lie – these strange people from the east captured the minds and imaginations of earlier generations of Christians who came to see them as the first fruits of further flung peoples to hear and accept the Gospel.  In our service today we think of those mysterious astrologers who came to pay homage to Jesus as we bring our own gifts, adoration and love to Christ as the start of this New Year. 
 
Call To Worship
 
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,
for a child has been born for us, a son given to us!
 
Glory to God in the highest heaven!
Let us worship the Prince of Peace.
 
Hymn       Hail to the Lord’s Anointed
James Montgomery
 

Hail to the Lord’s anointed,
Great David’s greater Son!
Hail in the time appointed,
His reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression,
To set the captive free;
To take away transgression,
And rule in equity.
 
2: He comes with succor speedy
To those who suffer wrong;
To help the poor and needy,
And bid the weak be strong;
To give them songs for sighing,
Their darkness turn to light,
Whose souls, condemned and dying,
Were precious in His sight.

3: He shall come down like showers
Upon the fruitful earth;
Love, joy, and hope, like flowers,
Spring in His path to birth.
Before Him, on the mountains,
Shall peace, the herald, go,
And righteousness, in fountains,
From hill to valley flow.
 
4: Kings shall fall down before Him,
And gold and incense bring;
All nations shall adore Him,
His praise all people sing;
For He shall have dominion
O’er river, sea and shore,
Far as the eagle’s pinion
Or dove’s light wing can soar.

5: For Him shall prayer unceasing
And daily vows ascend;
His kingdom still increasing,
A kingdom without end:
The mountain dews shall nourish
A seed in weakness sown,
Whose fruit shall spread and flourish
And shake like Lebanon.

6: O’er every foe victorious,
He on His throne shall rest;
From age to age more glorious,
All blessing and all blest.
The tide of time shall never
His covenant remove;
His name shall stand forever,
His name to us is Love.

Prayers of Approach, Confession, Forgiveness
 
Lord, we come to you today, in the darkest months of the year,
as people surrounded by light.
The light that shines from your son, Jesus Christ
We lift our hearts and voices in praise and worship
Hear our prayer
 
Forgive us when we stray into the darkness
At times it is hard for us to find your light, 
As we stumble and fall 
Allow us to be guided, as the Magi were, out of the darkness and into your light.
Lord, hear our prayer
 
Allow us to follow the pathway of Christ
To not be blinded, but to be led in the teachings show to us
Let us be your example here on earth 
For all to see, that they too may follow
Lord, hear our prayer
 
May we always be guided by your words
Should we be tempted to stray, as Herod was,
Let us be reminded of the leadership shown to us through Christ
Guiding us back onto the righteous path
Lord, hear our prayer
 
Forgive us when we place more importance on the gifts we bring
Than on the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit
Settle our restless minds and provide  us with patience
Filling our hearts with love and kindness 
Lord, hear our prayer
 
Allow us time to contemplate the true meaning of epiphany
The realisation that Christ is your true son
The light to our dark world
Our guide and saviour
 
And in this time and place, hear us now Lord, as we say together the prayer taught to us by your son..
 
Our father who art in heaven….
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Open our eyes Lord, that we may see your light
Open our ears Lord, that we may hear your voice
Open our hearts Lord, that we may understand your teachings
Open our mouths Lord, that we may share your work with others.
 
Amen
 
Matthew 2: 1-12
 
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,  asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,  and have come to pay him homage.’  When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
 
 “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd my people Israel.”’
 
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men[e] and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.  Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’  When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,  until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw that the star had stopped,[g] they were overwhelmed with joy.  On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
 
Magi – We Knew it Would be worth it
 
We knew it would be worth it the moment we saw the star,
worth the hassle,
worth the effort,
worth the sacrifice.
But there were times when we wondered, I can tell you!
As we laboured over those dusty barren tracks,
        as we watched fearfully for bandits in the mountains,
        as the sun beat down without a break,
        and still no sign of an end to it,
        we wondered, all too often.
We asked ourselves whether we’d got to wrong,
        misread the signs.
We argued over whether we’d taken the wrong turning
        somewhere along the way.
We questioned the wisdom of carrying on as the days dragged by.
And when finally we got to Jerusalem
        only to find his own people had no idea what was going on,
        then we really became worried.
Quite astonishing – the biggest event in their history,
        and they didn’t even realise it was happening!
Thankfully they looked it up, eventually,
        somewhere in one of their old prophets,
        and we knew where to go then.
It was all there in writing if only they’d taken the trouble to look –
        God knows why they couldn’t see it!
Anyway we made it at last,
        tired, sore and hungry,
        but we made it.
And it was worth it, more than we had ever imagined,
        for in that child was a different sort of king,
        a different sort of kingdom,
        from any we’d ever encountered before.
As much our ruler as theirs,
        as much our kingdom as anyone’s.
So we didn’t just present our gifts to him,
        we didn’t just make the customary gestures of acknowledgement.
We fell down and worshipped him.
Can you imagine that?
Grown men,
        respected,
        wealthy,
        important,
        kneeling before a toddler.
Yet it seemed so natural,
        the most natural response we could make,
        the only response that would do!
 
Hymn       Gaudete
                 Bob Hurd
 

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus,
ex Maria Virgine, Gaudete.
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus,
ex Maria Virgine, Guadete.
 
(Translation: 
Rejoice, rejoice, 
Christ is born of the Virgin Mary)

Nature marvels at the sight,
angels sing the glory,
God becomes a little child,
shepherds tell the story.
 
2: Hail Mary, ever blest,
Mother of the promise.
By your word
the word the Word made flesh
came to dwell among us.
 
3: With the wise men from the East,
with the stars of Heaven,
with the shepherds and the sheep,
come, let us adore Him.
 
4: Now is born Emmanuel,
now is come salvation.
Sing we all noel, noel!
Sing in exultation!

Meditation of the Magi
 
Well, we made it at last.
After all the setbacks,
    all the frustration,
    we finally found the one we were looking for –
    our journey over,
    the quest completed.
And I can’t tell you how relieved we were.
You see, we’d begun to fear we’d be too late,
    the time for celebration long since past
    by the time we eventually arrived.
It was that business in Jerusalem which caused the delay,
    all the waiting
    while Herod and his entourage rummaged around
    trying to discover what we were on about.
They were unsettled for some reason,
    taken aback, it seemed, by the news we brought,
    apparently unaware a king had been born among them.
A rival claimant, they must have thought,
    and who could tell what trouble that might stir up?
Anyway, they pointed us in the right direction if nothing else,
    but we’d wasted time there we could ill afford,
    and although the star reappeared to lead us again
    we were almost falling over ourselves with haste
    by the time we reached Bethlehem.
It was all quiet,
    just as we feared –
    no crowds,
    no family bustling around offering their congratulations,
    no throng of excited visitors,
    just an ordinary house –
    so ordinary we thought we’d gone to the wrong place.
But we went in anyway,
    and the moment we saw the child, we knew he was the one –
    not just the King of the Jews,
    but a prince among princes,
    a ruler among rulers,
    a King of kings!
We were late,
    much later than intended,
    the journey far more difficult than we ever expected,
    but it was worth the effort,
    worth struggling on,
    for, like they say, ‘Better late than never!’
 
Hymn       The First Noel
                 Anonymous 1833
 
The First Noel, the Angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
 
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!
 
2: They looked up and saw a star
Shining in the East beyond them far
And to the earth it gave great light
And so it continued both day and night.
 
3: And by the light of that same star
Three Wise men came from country far
To seek for a King was their intent
And to follow the star wherever it went.
 
4: This star drew nigh to the northwest
O’er Bethlehem it took its rest
And there it did both Pause and stay
Right o’er the place where Jesus lay.
 
5: Then entered in those Wise men three
Full reverently upon their knee
And offered there in His presence
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense.

6: Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made Heaven and earth of nought
And with his blood mankind has bought.
 
Magi – Do you know what we gave him?
 
Do you know what we gave him –
that little boy in Bethlehem?
Go on, have a guess!
A rattle?
A toy?
A teddy bear?
No, nothing like that!
In fact, nothing you’d associate with a child at all,
            even if he was destined to be a king.
Gold!  That’s what I brought!
And my companions?
Wait for it!
Frankincense and myrrh!
Yes, I thought you’d be surprised,
for, to tell the truth
we’re pretty amazed ourselves, looking back,
unable to imagine what on earth possessed us
to choose such exotic and unusual gifts.
It wasn’t so much that they were costly,
though they were, of course –
to a family like his they were riches beyond their dreams.
But we could more than afford it –
little more than small change to men of our means.
No, it wasn’t the price that troubled us afterwards,
but the associations,
the possible meanings his parents might have read into our presents
when we’d gone.
Now the gold, there was a problem there –
a gift fit for a king and designed to say as much, of course.
But frankincense?
Well, the main use his people have for that, as we learned later,
is to sweeten their sacrifices,
to pour out onto their burnt offerings
so that the fragrance might be pleasing to their God.
Hardly the most appropriate gift for a baby.
But compared with myrrh!
Don’t tell me you don’t know?
It was a drug used to soothe pain,
either for that or as a spice for embalming –
more fitting for a funeral than a birth,
having more to do with suffering and death than celebration!
So what were we thinking of?
What possible significance could gifts like those have for a little child?
Frankly, I have no idea.
Yet at the time the choice seemed as obvious to us
as following the star,
as though each were all part of some greater purpose
which would one day become clear to all.
Were we right?  Well, after all I’ve said, I hope not,
for if this king was born to die,
to be offered in sacrifice rather than enthroned in splendour,
then his must be an unusual kingdom,
very different from most we come across –
in fact, you might almost say, not a kingdom of this world at all!
 
Hymn       Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness
                 J. S. B Monsell (1811 – 1875)
 
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
with gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness,
kneel and adore him: the Lord is his Name!

2: Low at his feet lay thy burden of carefulness,
high on his heart he will bear it for thee,
and comfort thy sorrows, and answer thy prayerfulness,
guiding thy steps as may best for thee be.
 
3: Fear not to enter his courts in the slenderness
of the poor wealth thou wouldst reckon as thine;
for truth in its beauty, and love in its tenderness,
these are the offerings to lay on his shrine.
 
4: These, though we bring them in trembling and fearfulness,
he will accept for the Name that is dear;
mornings of joy give for evenings of tearfulness,
trust for our trembling and hope for our fear.
 
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
with gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness,
kneel and adore him: the Lord is his Name!
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
Out of Israel, God in due time raised up Jesus.
His faith and obedience were the response
of the perfect child of God.
He was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel,
the beginning of the new creation,
and the pioneer of the new humanity.
He gave history its meaning and direction
and called the Church to be his servant
for the reconciliation of the world.
 
Intercessions
 
We join together now in our prayers for others, let us pray:
 
Lord God, 
 
In this Season of Epiphany, 
shine your light upon us,
Into the recesses of our spirits, into those places where we experience
anxiety, depression, fear and despair.
We ask today, that you lift up in particular all among us who are struggling.
 
And in this time of silence, we bring those who we love into your light….
 
Shine your light upon us, 
into those places of conflict and tension, within our families, 
in our friendships, in our work and community relationships.
May your light be a healing balm, 
bringing with it forgiveness and reconciliation.
 
Shine your light upon us, 
Across the common human ties that bind all people together
Neighbour and stranger, friend and enemy alike.
In your light, remind us that we are all created 
In your image, unique and beloved by you.
 
Shine your light upon our country and its leaders
That they may govern justly and wisely, showing empathy for all.
Taking into account the needs and concerns not just of the most wealthy and powerful,
But especially of those who are poor, those who struggle with physical and mental illness,
Those who are forgotten and forsaken.

Shine your light on all the places around this world
Where violence and war are found:
For all people who are living in daily fear for their lives.
With your light bring peace to those who languish
In fear, violence and despair.
 
We thank you for the light that shines
The light that we see in the glory and wonder of your creation,
In the snowy mountain tops and cold frosty valleys.
 
Thank you for the light that shines through our community and its members, 
young and old, who remind us of your presence in tears and laughter, 
teaching and learning, order and disruption, work and play.
 
Shine your light upon us.
Around us,
And within us,
That we, too may be a light to the world. 
 
Amen.
 
Offertory
 
As of old when gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh
were offered to the Christ Child,
so we bring our gifts to You, O God.
As you revealed yourself of old,
we pray that these gifts will aid others see you now
in the life of the Church.
Help us always to give ourselves,
our talents
and our treasure to you.  Amen.
 
Hymn       We Three Kings Of Orient Are
                 John Henry Hopkins Jr. 1872
 

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star
 
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light
 
2: Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign
 
3: Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all folk raising
Worship Him, God most high
 
4: Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb
 
5: Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav’n replies



Blessing
 
Lord
Fill us today with the light of Christ,
That we may feel his love and guidance 
In our words and deeds throughout the coming week
So that we may shine his light for all to see.
 
May the illumination of God’s words fill our hearts, 
May the light of Christ shine into our lives
And may the brilliance of the Holy Spirit guide us along our path.
                   
Amen

Closing Music – Handel’s Sarabande
 
Sources
Meditations by Nick Fawcett from his Reflective Services for Advent and Christmas (C) 2001 Nick Fawcett.  Published by Kevin Mayhew Ltd. 
 
Opening Music: Arrival of the Queen of Sheba  ( performed by Bela   Banfalvi  © Warner Chappell, Warner Chappell, UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA – UBEM, UMPG Publishing,)
Hail to the Lord’s Anointed- James Montgomery- Sung by Phil & Lythan Nevard
Gaudete- © Bob Hurd OCP Publications 1996- Sung by Portsmouth Cathedral Choir
The First Noel- Anonymous 1833- Sung by Kings’ College Cambridge Choir
Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness– J. S. B Monsell (1811 – 1875)- (Choir of Christ Church St. Laurence from the album “What Sweeter Music”)
We Three Kings- John Henry Hopkins Jr. 1872- Sung by Kings’ College Cambridge Choir
Closing Music: Handel’s Sarabande (The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Entertainment One U.S., LP (on behalf of Silva Screen Records); UMPG Publishing.
 
Thanks to
Dan Morrell, Andy Braunston, Victoria Turner, Reuben Watt, Rachel Harvey, Lesley Thomson, John Young, Rameez Birkat and Johnson Olubenga Awe for reading the spoken parts of the service.

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