Order of Service
Good Morning everybody. Welcome to this act of worship today to celebrate the feast of Epiphany. You may be watching this on Sunday 3rd January or on 6th January –but whenever you are tuning into this service you are very welcome.
We open our service with this traditional carol –
HYMN: We three kings
In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you
And also with you.
PRAYER OF PREPARATION
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
PRAYERS OF PENITENCE
The grace of God has dawned upon the world
through our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who sacrificed himself for us to purify a people as his own.
Let us confess our sins.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
we have sinned against you
and against our neighbour
in thought and word and deed,
through negligence, through weakness,
through our own deliberate fault.
We are truly sorry
and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
who died for us,
forgive us all that is past
and grant that we may serve you in newness of life
to the glory of your name.
May the God of love and power
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit,
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.
who by the leading of a star
manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth:
mercifully grant that we,
who know you now 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,
one God, now and for ever.
3 This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4 a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6 that is, the Gentiles have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. 8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.
This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.
HYMN: Brightest and best are the sons of the morning
Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew
Glory to you O Lord.
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 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.’ 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 “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.”’
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 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.’ 9 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. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 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. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
This is the gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.
‘The Epiphany of 2020’ – a reflection for Epiphany
Epiphany – the moment of revelation, the moment of knowledge and realisation, the moment of recognition. The light goes on and we see.
The Feast of the Epiphany is the other end of the Christmas season – at the end of the twelve days of Christmas. Although we always add the wise men to the nativity scene – that was probably not the way it was. The story of the visit of the magi is a separate story in Matthew’s gospel and according to his account could have taken place more like two years after Jesus was born. (You remember Herod tried to determine the dates and then set out to murder the boys who were two years and under- to be on the safe side.)
It’s an Epiphany for the Magi – as they recognise in the child whom they meet, the king whom they have sought. They are overcome in that moment – the know within themselves that this child is of God – and as they recognise him, they kneel before him and worship him.
It’s also an Epiphany for the world – God reveals himself in the Christ child to these strangers and foreigners from afar – and through them to the nations and peoples of the world. This is a new revelation. The Magi sought the child as the one to be born ‘King of the Jews’ but their very presence in the story and the way in which they paid homage to the child shows us that the child will not just be King of the Jews but King of all the world.
So – Epiphany is the moment of new and deep understanding – a moment that changes perspective. Epiphany changes lives and is often a gift. I came across this poem by R S Thomas, who was a priest and a poet and a vicar of a parish on the most western edge of Wales in the mid twentieth century. It’s called Evening and its about an epiphany. I will put it on screen and it will be included in the reflection in the blog below.
The archer with time
as his arrow – has he broken
his strings that the rainbow
is so quiet over our village?
Let us stand, then, in the interval
of our wounding, till the silence
turn golden and love is
a moment eternally overflowing.
Just to give an acknowledgement. The poem was included in the book Frequencies of God by Carys Walsh and her reflections and thoughts helped shape my own. Like any poem it takes a moment of contemplation to absorb its resonances but what Thomas does here is draw us into an epiphany moment.
Thomas describes a moment out of time – time that usually flies like an arrow is stilled. The rainbow hangs over ‘our’ village, the clamour of the day is now silent and the world around turns golden in the evening light. Naming the village as ‘our village’ includes us in the poem and the invitation ‘Let us stand’ includes us in the contemplation.
But this poem is about more than becoming aware of a rainbow or a sunset. What caused me to connect with the poem was the phrase ‘in the interval of our wounding’. 2020 has been the year of our wounding. The wounding of our community and society, the wounding of our world and the wounding of ourselves – in all sorts of ways, large and small.
But it is the interval that is important – the time out when we notice or think, the still moment, the epiphany moment. During 2020 the complete lockdown between March and June was one such interval. It was an epiphany for the world as traffic was stilled, aeroplanes were grounded and we were brought to realise in a deeper way the impact our lifestyle has on the planet on which we live. It was a moment when people discovered skills and abilities and resourcefulness. A time when we learnt to value the dedication of others and value their offering to our society, especially those who work in the caring professions and in public service jobs and roles. We also learnt compassion as we heard the struggle of people whose support structures had disappeared. The increased awareness of mental health issues has also become part of that epiphany.
Another such interval in 2020 was the precipitation of the black lives matter movement into the world’s gaze. Here was another epiphany moment – as society openly owned the crassness of judging another person by the colour of their skin.
Where I want to lead us – is to reflect on our Epiphany moments, our own intervals in the struggle of 2020. Have we known them, have they led to a different out look or a new understanding of the world and more particularly of God? Have we realised afresh what is truly important to us, have we discovered something new about our faith in the face of our daily concerns and challenges? Have we taken time to stand still and contemplate the rainbow or the sunset and allowed ourselves to become aware of the activity of God and God’s grace towards us?
That still moment, that moment apart which Thomas describes in his poem – is like being in a transfigured world, out of time and space – and what is found there in the depths of the contemplation of that moment – is love. The love overflows and the moment overflows – into eternity. In that moment, love is the reason to be and the source of all being. It is the love with which God has created the world and all that is. It is the love which holds all that is, in place. Whatever our experience of a wounded world, beneath all is love.
It is love which the Magi saw in the eyes of the Christ child and which prompted them to kneel in homage. This is the love with which this child will live and die, this is the love with which he will receive those who come to him. This is the love which he will command those who follow him to have for each other and the world. The very nature and being of Christ is love – a love which can be known by us – and when it is – then that is epiphany.
Let us pray
Lord God, as the wisemen followed the star, we pray that in 2021, you will lead each of us to our own moment of epiphany when we recognise the one who is the Christ and know the overflowing nature of his love.
2020 has been an Epiphany year. The lockdown from March to June made the world stand still for a while and caused the world to look at itself
Epiphany. God is revealed, known, encountered. Like the striking of a match when the flame leaps up, the dark is illuminated.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
HYMN: As with gladness men of old
Our Saviour Christ is the Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there shall be no end.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
And also with you.
Let us hold one another in the peace of Christ in a moment of prayer.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Let us pray with confidence as our saviour has taught us
Our Father, which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Christ our Lord,
to whom kings bowed down in worship and offered gifts,
reveal to you his glory
and pour upon you the riches of his grace;
and the blessing …
HYMN: O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness
With thanks to the Chet valley Churches for their excellent music videos.