January 2, 2022

January 2, 2022  

Morning prayer Ever-calling God, We give thanks that You have gathered us into Your church and graced us with Your faithful presence. We ponder our history, ancient and still developing, and marvel at the many expressions of Your church. Grant us the vision to be a part of a new reformation for the church that will bring ever more joy and justice to the world. Continue to gather us, the diverse lot of us, into Jesus’ vision and dream that Your faithful people may be one in You. Amen (Discipleship Ministries)

Call to Worship Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

L: Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king's son.

May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.

P: May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

L: May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.

May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

P: May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.

L: May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.

P: For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.

He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.

Hymn #256 We Would See Jesus

1. We would see Jesus; lo! His star is shining above the stable while the angels sing;
There in a manger on the hay reclining; haste, let us lay our gifts before the King.

2. We would see Jesus, Mary's Son most holy, light of the village life from day to day;
shining revealed through every task most lowly, the Christ of God, the life, the truth, the way.

3. We would see Jesus, on the mountain teaching, with all the listening people gathered round;
while birds and flowers and sky above are preaching the blessedness which simple trust has found.

4. We would see Jesus, in His work of healing, at eventide before the sun was set;
divine and human, in His deep revealing of God made flesh, in loving service met.

5. We would see Jesus, in the early morning, still as of old He calleth, "Follow Me!"
Let us arise, all meaner service scorning; Lord, we are Thine, we give ourselves to Thee.

Children’s message

"Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?" Matthew 11:3 (NLT)

Have you ever wished upon a star? When I was a child, there was a rhyme we would say in the evening when the sky began to get dark. As soon as it was dark enough for us to see the very first star in the sky, we would say,

Star light, star bright,

First star I see tonight,

I wish I may, I wish I might

Have the wish I wish tonight.

When we finished saying the rhyme, we closed our eyes and made a wish for something special. I don't remember if any of my wishes ever came true, but I am sure that if they did, wishing on the star had nothing to do with it.

The people who lived in Jesus' day were watching and waiting for the Messiah who had been promised by the prophets of old. Many of them watched the stars in the sky looking for a sign that would announce the coming of the Messiah. As you know, a star did appear announcing the birth of Jesus Christ. The wise men saw that star and went to find the Christ child, but for many years after that, some people were still watching and waiting.

In our Bible reading today, John the Baptist is in prison. He had heard reports about the things that Jesus was doing. So he sent some of his followers to ask Jesus, "Are you the one that we've been waiting for, or should we continue to look for someone else?"

Jesus told them, "Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard -- the blind are made to see, the lame are able to walk, lepers are being cured, the deaf can hear, and even the dead are raised to life."

One of the names given to Jesus is "Bright Morning Star." (Revelation 22:16) Jesus is not a wishing star to whom we say a prayer and make a wish. He is a star of hope. Our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people.

Heavenly Father, as we see the many stars in the decorations of this season may we be reminded that Jesus is the "Bright Morning Star" and that when we put our hope and trust in Him, our future is secure. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. (Sermons for Kids.com)

Prayers of Intercession:  Thank You most gracious and forgiving Father for hearing the cries of our hearts.  We now pray as You have taught us: 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. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen. 

Offering spotlight:  As we begin 2022, if you want to track your charitable giving, our church treasurer, Amy Dent, will work with your preferred method of giving.  We have offering envelopes so givers can designate offerings to the general church expenses, LUMC supported missions or our future building needs. ACH bank transfers can be arranged. We do not use PayPal nor do we accept credit cards at this time.  Thank you for supporting the ministries of LUMC.

Offering prayer:  God of this day and all days! We can only imagine the darkness of the world into which You sent Your son – a world that believed that salvation rested on our ability to follow the rules. Jesus came to bring light into that darkness, and into our darkness. As we bring our tithes and offering to You this day, transform them into light for the hungry, for the hopeless, for the forgotten and the oppressed. We will share His light in us! In Christ, we pray. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Preparation Hymn: #254 We Three Kings

1. We three kings of Orient are; bearing gifts we traverse afar,
field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.

Refrain: O star of wonder, star of light, 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. (Refrain)

3. Frankincense to offer have I; incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising, voices raising, worshiping God on high. (Refrain)

4. Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb. (Refrain)

5. Glorious now behold Him arise; King and God and sacrifice:
Alleluia, Alleluia, sounds through the earth and skies. (Refrain)

Message scripture: 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 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, 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.

Message:  The Gifts We Bring     Pastor Becky Cuddeback

Today is Epiphany Sunday; it is the Sunday we reflect on the arrival of the wise men or Magi. They are the first visitors from outside the nation of Israel to proclaim Jesus as king. They offer us a great deal to reflect on and today, I want to look at their gifts.

We are coming to the end of our gift giving season. We have spent precious time and resources to secure the “best” gifts we could for our loved ones and what that looks like has also evolved. For some of us, just the gift of presence is enough, it isn’t so much about what but who was with us. This has become especially true as this pandemic continues to hold us hostage in one way or another. Our desires and wishes have changed as we have matured and hopefully, we are getting more delight from giving than receiving. Maybe for the first time in years, we are seriously examining what we have to give and what it is the recipient wants or needs. Which brings me back to the gifts Jesus received.

No one will argue that the value, monetarily, of the gifts was fitting for Jesus, the King. After all, it’s Jesus. There is nothing too good or too expensive to give to Jesus. We are called to bring our best to the Lord, remember the days of suits, ties, dresses and hats for Sunday worship? Showing up in our very best – which in all honesty, may or may not have been for the Lord. We can wrestle with that thought another day. But these gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, why? What use would they be for a child? We can see the value of these gifts Our world still prizes gold as a standard of wealth and spices have led to the exploration of the world in order to obtain them. The gifts have value, but are not very useful in the state they were given. What would those gifts need to become useful to Jesus? Or, do you think Mary and Joseph hung on to them just the way they were given? I think we could theorize and debate that for days, yet – what I think we can agree on is this, in the gifted state they were of no use to anyone, valuable, yes – useful, no.

How about what we bring to Jesus? Now, I’m not talking offering and tithe, although important. I am thinking about the intangible gifts we all have. Gifts of time, prayer, strength, labor, intelligence, empathy, encouragement for example – they may not be able to be put in a box and wrapped, but they are gifts just the same. They are the ingredients to a blessing, much in the same way carrots, potatoes, chicken and chicken stock are almost soup. It’s in using them and allowing them to be made into something else, that soup is made. We, too, have to be willing to (a) offer what we have, (b) allow it to be used as Jesus sees fit and (c) be ok with the outcome. You see, once we give something to Jesus for the building of the Kingdom, it belongs to Jesus and we don’t always have the vision of the Kingdom that Jesus does. Yet, Jesus desires us to build with Him because He goes with us.

Unlike the gifts of the Magi which maybe we could never afford, our gifts to Jesus when combined with the gifts of other followers of Jesus, build the Kingdom, and Jesus knows where our gifts are needed. Maybe it is a listening ear at the local nursing home, maybe it is one story read at the library, one mowed lawn; we have so much to give in the building of the Kingdom and it is a cooperative effort with others who may not look like we do or think identically to us, yet desire to follow Jesus, it is about unity over conformity. The kingdom has some defining characteristics no matter where in the world you find yourself. It is characterized by love of neighbor, mercy, justice and care and it looks different in each context and we have to be willing to have our gifts made into something useful for the transformation of the world.

Let us pray: Gracious God, all that we have is Yours. Encourage us to offer generously and to be open for all the ways You remake our gifts for the building of the Kingdom of God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Closing Hymn #117 O God, Our Help in Ages Past

1. O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.

2. Under the shadow of Thy throne, still may we dwell secure;
sufficient is Thine arm alone, and our defense is sure.

3. Before the hills in order stood, or earth received her frame,
from everlasting, Thou art God, to endless years the same.

4. A thousand ages, in Thy sight, are like an evening gone;
short as the watch that ends the night, before the rising sun.

5. Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all who breathe away;
they fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.

6. O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come;
be Thou our guide while life shall last, and our eternal home.

Benediction:  Go into this week with the blessings of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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