Dunsford United Church – Transcript Service – Ephiphany – Sunday January 3, 2021
Kevin Fitzpatrick, Student Supply Minister
*GATHERING The Wise Men Seek Jesus
WELCOME AND CELEBRATIONS
In the name of a message of love and compassion in the world we know as Jesus Christ, and I bid you good morning.
Wherever you are, whether you join us here in person,
Or join us from your home thanks to technology
God is with you, God is with me
And God is in creation in all forms, everything good,
God is where God needs to be.
We come and celebrate together, our milestones, our successes, anniversaries, birthdays, and God celebrates with us!
LIGHTING OF THE CANDLES
If you have some candles you can light, to represent Christ, Community and the World, don’t worry about the colours, sizes, or look of them, the candles will represent the light that we need in our world these days and throughout this season of sparse light. Put them somewhere you will see them to bring that sense of who Jesus is in our lives.
We come today, knowing our Light has come, we light the Christ Candle, representing Christ in our lives
We light our Community Candle, we carry that light and do Gods work, as the light and the hands of God
We light the World Candle, looking for other messages of love and light in the world, our neighbours, and the light shines brighter, mending the world
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THE LANDS:
We acknowledge, honour and respect this land and the Anishnabeg/Mississauga peoples with whom Treaty 20, Williams treaty, was signed, on the lands where we are and we acknowledge also and give thanks for the lands and people of treaties and unceded territories of all who are worshiping. It is up to all of us to live into truth, respect, reconciliation and right relations.
CALL TO WORSHIP:
A Light has come, light to shine for all
With praise we come to the Lord’s light
It will shine through the darkness of winter
We will be illuminated in God’s love
God’s love shines on all the nations
Wise ones are guided, and seek out that pure love
We praise your name O Lord and give thanks
For your love that shines brighter than stars
We come as brothers and sisters, God’s children
Opening our hearts to compassion, kindness
Opening our minds to acceptance, understanding
Living as God’s people together, loving one another.
HYMN: “A Light is Gleaming”
Please feel free to sing along with this video and the words are included!
We gather our hearts together,
feel the Spirit move in us and open our hearts to prayer.
Holy Spirit of a loving and living God, we give you praise, as we are part of the love you give to us, a part of Christ, by the grace we receive from you daily. We pray with heart, soul and mind, bring us into your presence, and reconcile others to us through the witness of Christ. A love in the teachings, actions and words that reconciled people to God. Remind us we are all members of the body of Christ, that if one member suffers, we all suffer. May we as part of the community of believers, a faith community among a host of witnesses, declare the love of Christ in our actions, words and teachings to those needing that love in our world today. We give thanks, and rejoice as a community of Christ, given gifts of the Spirit, to share will all peoples. Accept our adoration and praise for these great gifts, we pray in Jesus name. Amen.
MINISTRY OF MUSIC:
Casting Crowns – Somewhere In Your Silent Night
WE HEAR GOD’S WORD
Isaiah 60:1–6 Living Bible
Arise, shine; for your light has come.
Arise, my people! Let your light shine for all the nations to see! For the glory of the Lord is streaming from you. 2 Darkness as black as night shall cover all the peoples of the earth, but the glory of the Lord will shine from you. 3 All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see the glory of the Lord upon you.
4 Lift up your eyes and see! For your sons and daughters are coming home to you from distant lands. 5 Your eyes will shine with joy, your hearts will thrill, for merchants from around the world will flow to you, bringing you the wealth of many lands. 6 Vast droves of camels will converge upon you, dromedaries from Midian and Sheba and Ephah too, bringing gold and incense to add to the praise of God.
Matthew 2:1–12 Living Bible
Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem, in Judea, during the reign of King Herod.
At about that time some astrologers from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in far-off eastern lands and have come to worship him.”
3 King Herod was deeply disturbed by their question, and all Jerusalem was filled with rumors.[a] 4 He called a meeting of the Jewish religious leaders.
“Did the prophets tell us where the Messiah would be born?” he asked.
5 “Yes, in Bethlehem,” they said, “for this is what the prophet Micah[b] wrote:
6 ‘O little town of Bethlehem, you are not just an unimportant Judean village, for a Governor shall rise from you to rule my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod sent a private message to the astrologers, asking them to come to see him; at this meeting he found out from them the exact time when they first saw the star. Then he told them, 8 “Go to Bethlehem and search for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him too!”
9 After this interview the astrologers started out again. And look! The star appeared to them again, standing over Bethlehem.[c] 10 Their joy knew no bounds!
11 Entering the house where the baby and Mary, his mother, were, they threw themselves down before him, worshiping. Then they opened their presents and gave him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 But when they returned to their own land, they didn’t go through Jerusalem to report to Herod, for God had warned them in a dream to go home another way.
Questions for Your Reflection
What words or scripture sentences call to your heart or your faith?
How do we seek Jesus in our day like the Magi?
Where do you find your faith bringing God’s light into the world?
Musical Intro for Reflection
VU #77 In Bethlehem a newborn boy (verses 1&2)
Voice 015 Recording by Brenda Shield
Please play the recording attached to email
Lord, we thank you for bringing us here today, open our hearts, open our minds, open our being to your presence in this place, and in your world. May your Holy Spirit touch us and inspire us each and every day. Make Your way our way, and make your words inspire us to be your servants and may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be praise to you. Amen.
Today we celebrate Epiphany, our brothers and sisters of the Eastern Orthodox faith will celebrate Christmas on January 6, 2021; to them this is the day Christmas happens.
It corresponds with the wise men and their travels to see Jesus, as they followed the star to Bethlehem to pay homage to the King of kings, God incarnate, the word made flesh. Our scriptures this morning speak of kings, and wise men, and the mystery of God of light.
The Magi and their appearance in Matthew is very important, because it signifies that Jesus came not only to reconcile the Israelites with God, but God came among humans to reconcile all who are faithful to God, and for all the children to be part of the promise, the mystery, the kingdom of God.
We know little of these wise ones who come to see Jesus, legend tells us that there were three, every nativity scene says there were three, this is because of the gifts that they brought, gold, frankincense and myrrh. Some have given those names, Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar but the number of and names are just legends. The bible tells us the wise ones or magi visited, but it doesn’t give us how many or who their names were. Another interesting fact, if we read the scripture, it says the wise men found the house and visited the child. Scholars figure that Jesus would have been a toddler, when the wise men visited him and Mary and Joseph. He may have been 2 or 3 because of the length of time it would have taken the magi to travel to Bethlehem.
Matthew tells us the star led them to Bethlehem, and some believe that it was a special star that God established to guide the wise men, others believed it was a phenomenon of astronomy that created a “new star” that guided the travellers to Jesus.
One man in particular, Rick Larson, a Christian looks at historical astronomical evidence that created such a celestial event in his presentation of the Bethlehem Star. In this he claims that a convergence of Venus, Jupiter and the star Regulus created a bright object in the sky like nothing ever seen before. With these three heavenly bodies looking like they had been joined together, would give the impression of a “new star.”
And we seen this year on December 21, 2020 the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, aligning to look like one heavenly body, something that has not happened in 600 years, and this could be just one explanation of the Christmas star
The wise men themselves held a lot of knowledge of astronomy, prophesies, and facts that would lead them to Jesus. In the book of Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that no one can interpret. The wise men of the king’s court could not, and only Daniel with God’s help could decipher. Daniel remained at the king’s court because he deciphered the dream and because he was God’s prophet,
The magi would have knew much about Daniel’s writings, which included a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. It is thought that the magi we know from the Christmas story were descended through these wise men.
The history of the magi is said to go back even further, back to the book of Numbers, which talks about a soothsayer named Balaam who came from Persia, who may have been an ancestor to the wise men of Babylon in Daniel’s time gave a prophecy that is written in Numbers:
I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab
and break down all the sons of Sheth.
With all this knowledge at their disposal, the Magi would have much information and their knowledge of the stars would have been a map to follow towards Israel to find the new king. The only information they didn’t seem to have was “where”, so they asked and that’s why they ended up at the court of Herod, who provided the information they were looking for, God was with them to lead them to Jesus.
All of this information as pertinent and useful as it was, one more thing the Magi used to find Jesus, it was faith, faith carried them on their journey. A journey of 800 or 900 miles from Persia (modern Iran) to Bethlehem in those days was quite an excursion. They would have to prepare for the long journey and it would be a caravan of supplies, and they may have travelled with soldiers to protect them. It was also a fact finding mission as well, asking questions to those in neighbouring countries to find their way to Jesus, who by the time the Magi found him would have been at least two.
A long time to travel to find a king mentioned in prophecies of long ago. Still it was their faith who carried them to take this journey, it was faith to go and seek and ask questions. It was faith that carried them into the unknown and gave them strength for this journey. They would have listened to God, looked for the signs God provided them, and followed what God was saying to them.
We know this for a fact, when they were in Herod’s court, Herod asked them to come back to him with the news of the child and where abouts so Herod could go worship. God warned them in a dream about Herod’s real plans, so the Magi didn’t return to Herod.
We can relate to a journey such as this, we as Christians make a similar journey every day. We struggle to follow our star that takes us to an unfamiliar place, we are called out of our comfortable places to seek the gift of a loving God.
We seek Jesus every day, and we use our faith as the Star, and follow as our guide to be messengers and examples of God’s love to others. Our journey can be filled with tragedies and triumphs and yet our faith holds us on our path to seek out the Christ child to help us through the dark valleys, the long climb to the mountain top, the desolate deserts, as well as the smooth road.
Isaiah calls to us that our light has come, that God’s presence is truly with us, that the light of God’s glory will shine from us, that the riches of the people will come to us
How do we read this in our day?
We know the meagerness of our financial riches in the churches of our day, there is barely enough to pay our bills, the world will not bring earthly riches to the doorstep of our church building, our riches are beyond what our earthly coffers can handle
Isaiah is talking of the riches of love, compassion, kindness, generosity, humility, benevolence, hope, joy, peace, comfort that we can offer as God’s hands and feet in the world
We do this by being God’s people – the church – (ecclesia; the Greek meaning of church which is the people, not the building) those riches that we are called to share evenly with all; neighbours, and the stranger in our midst, our community and our world
Sometimes the busy in our lives gets in the way of truly listening to God and hearing what God’s message is to us from day to day.
And sometimes it is the selfish, the greedy, the ego, the pride that starve the world of God’s voice in our day, It’s something I struggle with from time to time to listen, to just listen to God and look for the signs like the Star that led the Magi. They were willing to change for God as well, after they had found the Christ child, God warned them not to go back to Herod, so they changed the direction of where they were going and went home a different way.
God asks us to change directions sometimes, and we sometimes ignore that call, because it’s uncomfortable, or means we have to work harder, or it means journeying into the unknown and we are afraid. We have nothing to fear because God is with us, and God will travel with us no matter where we go, as long as we listen, and look for the signs that God has provided.
It will not always be easy, the Magi knew this, their journey was long, and we know little of the dangers they faced during the journey or what the weather was like or what troubles they faced in order to find Christ, but we know their faith was with them, God was with them and they were able to just seek God’s guidance and rely on the fact that God would carry them through to see the gift that God had promised all those years ago, a gift of love from God to us.
We do the same thing at Christmas, we enter the season with the love and compassion and the meaning of who he is to all, Immanuel, God among us, God in human form, we hear our Christmas story and take it as part of who we are as Christians and part of our own story.
And wise ones still seek Jesus, and I am reminded this through a poem that I know the Holy Spirit put in front of me for this message
By the sweat of their brows,
with their hands men earn bread
Among them are those that desire to be led
With spiritual eyesight sent from above,
They sense a sign pointing to He who is Love.
They carry forth gifts not fit for a king,
Through service they witness
what hope, Emmanuel means.
The child of God they encounter is not found in a manger,
It’s the brother or sister they once viewed as a stranger.
As the star in the East led the wise men of old,
The Bread of Life leads wise men today
to the hungry and cold.
And sends to the fatherless, the widow, the poor,
Earthly angels proclaiming His love evermore.
Precious gifts to the Christ child
upon a holy night were once brought,
But wise men today a new thing are taught.
“Give unto others as Christ would have you give.”
Remember the season and echo the reason for His miraculous birth.
Let’s look at the first Christmas, the Christ child born in a stable, with his mother Mary and earthly father Joseph, surrounded by barnyard animals, his first visitors were the shepherds, a lowly bunch of ragtag characters whose life was spent to the care of sheep, the angels appeared while the shepherds were watching their flocks and they were the first to be told of the wonderful news of Jesus’ birth of the child lying in the manger, and how He will come to save his people.
Something those simple men would not truly understand though they would know the message of the prophets’ words of the longing of a Messiah to come and rescue the kingdom of Israel. Majestic visitors would come, the Magi, bearing the gifts we know of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh for the new king.
The wise ones would know of the prophecies of the ancients and the astrology involved and the story tells us of the star that led them to Bethlehem to Jesus and the stable.
The Magi would have a greater understanding of the prophecies, yet could not know the life of Jesus and its far reaching effect beyond their lives.
Is this a perfect Christmas?
The God of our understanding, Lord of hosts, come in human form lying in a feed trough, in a dark dingy stinking animal pen, a cave carved in a hillside.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Jesus is born into a world who does not want Him, as the story says there was no room, for Mary and Joseph, or Jesus, so there was no room for the God of creation in any kingdom on earth, no king would give up his throne for him, and the threat of the king of kings to any earthly kingdom.
We know Herod sent soldiers to kill all the young boys in Bethlehem, because Herod feared a threat to his own crown and had to protect his kingship. And how Joseph protecting his own family, was warned by the angel of the Lord to flee with Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt until a time that the Lord would say it was safe to come back to Israel.
Jesus and his family became refugees, alone in the world, fearful of their lives, living among strangers, the comfort of familiarity of family and home, gone for the moment and they were uncertain of when they would return to that life.
And yet today our world is the same, filled with blood thirsty tyrants, religious leaders that use the word of God, to benefit their own agenda, the rich and pompous who live in extravagance, unwilling to give up power, or act in benevolence and charity
There is a great divide that separates
And there are still those poverty stricken and destitute, the sick and captives, the oppressed and persecuted, who eek through life, surviving another Christmas season, who long for the hope, love, peace and joy to be born into their lives Jesus came to a world where most would not welcome him, no king would lay down his crown and give up his throne, so Jesus could step in and take that place. We know though, that Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world and the king of kings had to be accessible to all and not just the privileged and powerful elite but approachable for the entire world.
It was God’s plan to come among us and it is here where Jesus is laid in a manger. It is not a perfect Christmas but one that the whole world can understand, that even the God of all creation had to be humble and become human so the world would understand the love born to the world, a new beginning, for God and humankind.
We must be careful in our intentions that Christmas is not just a day, and the spirit of the season is something we just turn on and it builds as we approach Christmas day, and we put our decorations away in tidy boxes, and tuck Jesus away safely with the creche. Don’t pack away Jesus
Christmas is living Jesus’ actions and words every day, that we may shine the light of God on the world for others to see that message of love and compassion,
And we share that message and we seek other wise ones to work with other messages of love and compassion to seek to eliminate all social injustices our world faces
We are called like the shepherds to the manger to share Jesus and rejoice with others on the gift gave to us by God, we are asked to be wise like the Magi and not be ignorant to the problems that plague the world.
We are asked to be the change that God wants for this world that was offered to us in the manger, God brought about the new change, the new hope, the new joy, an everlasting light and the new love, to reconcile the relationship between us and God, and to reconcile humankind to one another through Jesus’ teachings.
We are asked to welcome Jesus into our hearts and live for the light and spread that light into the dark world, becoming children of God, so that we maybe a welcoming host to all who look for our hospitality both at Christmas and all the rest of the year through. AMEN.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Eternal Creator, we are not altogether convinced that darkness is a thing of the past. Many people in this world of ours feel their world is one of darkness and gloom. Pressures crowd in upon us and get us down.
The causes are varied: bereavement, illness, money, worries about family, trouble at work or not having work, drugs, drink, boredom, doubt, weariness, futility.
Then there are the world issues: war, poverty, climate change, disease, unfair trade and so on. It does not help when we feel that as Christians we should be doing so much better than we are. Gracious and loving God, we rejoice that you are with us in our troubles, you know us and you love us – always.
Even though we have made a mess of things personally and collectively you remain faithful. We rejoice that your Son came not to a perfect world, but to a broken world, our world. To bring light to the darkness, our darkness.
We pray for our dark and dreary world, a world in need – in need not just of a technical fix, but in need of love and grace, forgiveness and new life, hope, peace and fellowship, in need of renewal, in need of YOU.
We pray that you would come alongside us and all those for whom we pray, that you would show us Jesus, the light of the world, the one who came (and who comes) to rid us of sin, to give us life and health and peace, peace that passes all understanding – not a temporary respite from trouble but the strength to overcome it and ultimately to receive life eternal.
You don’t wave a magic wand for everything to sorted instantly – you require us to exercise our faith and to respond to your call to preach the gospel and to seek to live it out, to look to you for the strength that we need to share your love and grace. Help us to share the good news in word and action – the same good news that the fishermen were called to proclaim that there is a Saviour, a merciful one who loves us and whom we can love and adore.
We have been set free. Enable us to use our freedom to share in bringing in the kin-dom. In the light of this we have something to celebrate, something to shout about – for even in our trouble and pain, even in our loss, we know that Jesus is with us.
Hear us as we come and bring the names of those of our community who need our prayers and we hold them in your presence, that your light be with them.
we pray for those broken – let us pray that they may see and know the light of Christ:
The Lord is my light and my salvation. Hear our prayers, Lord, spoken and unspoken and answer them for Jesus’ sake, following Christ as he taught us to pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power and the glory,
Forever and ever.
WE ARE SENT OUT IN FAITH TO SERVE
HYMN: VU#45 Joy Is Now In Every Place
Voice 016 Recording by Brenda Shield
Please play the recording attached to email
Have a Blessed Week!
Scripture for Reflection Next Week
The first days of creation.
Psalm 29 (VU p. 756)
God’s voice is over the waters.
Paul baptizes with the Spirit.
Jesus is baptized by John.
Thank you to Brenda Shield for all music and videos
Pastoral Prayer: https://re-worship.blogspot.com/
Wise Men Still Seek Him Poem https://lds365.com/2011/12/23/wise-men-still-seek-him/