January 8, 2023 - Epiphany Sunday

For the week of January 8-14 – Epiphany Sunday

Morning prayer: God of all time, we praise and adore You for breaking into the darkness of this world with the glorious light of Your presence. A light which made Your love for the world visible in the Babe born in Bethlehem—Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Saviour. A light which guided those gift-bearing travelers from afar to find and worship the Christ-child. A light which leads us to You, now revealed in Jesus Christ. We pray that You will accept our worship for it arises from hearts and minds in awe over the enormity of Your gift to us of pure love. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn: #245 The First Noel

  1. The first Noel the angel 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.

  1. 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. (Refrain)
  2. 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. (Refrain)
  3. This star drew nigh to the northwest, o'er Bethlehem it took its rest;
    and there it did both stop and stay, right over the place where Jesus lay. (Refrain)
  4. Then entered in those Wise Men three, full reverently upon the knee,
    and offered there, in His presence, gold and myrrh and frankincense. (Refrain)

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

Children’s message Matthew 11:3

(John sent word by his disciples) 3and said to Him (Jesus), “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”

Children’s Message  Today we are celebrating Epiphany Sunday on the church calendar. Epiphany marks the day the wise men find the child Jesus. The wise men follow a star – it is a sign and we are always looking for signs to lead us to what we are looking for. Since the time of King David, the Israelites were looking for a sign that the coming Messiah had arrived.

John the Baptist and his disciples wanted to know if they were following the right signs that would lead them to Jesus this promised Messiah. When John’s disciples ask Jesus if He is the One, Jesus confirms that they had found Him.

We have to follow the right signs in our lives as well because we want to be sure we are following Jesus as well. Just as John and his disciples asked Jesus a question, sometimes we have to ask if this path or person is leading us toward Jesus or away from Jesus. Never be afraid to ask God in prayer, or your parents, teachers, brothers and sisters in Christ or even your pastors questions about where you feel you are being lead or where others are leading you. It isn’t a bad or shameful thing to ask questions! There are no silly or strange questions and asking questions never means that you don’t have faith or that you are unbelieving. Questions help us grow our faith and develop a deeper understanding about God and our relationship with God. God will never stop loving you if you ask questions, so ask as many as you like as often as you like!

Prayers of Intercession:  Thank You, Lord, for hearing our prayers for those dear to 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 sins, as we forgive those who sin 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 spotlightThis day in our church calendar reminds Christians of the Epiphany of our Lord. We celebrate the Epiphany of our Lord, “the mystery of the manifestation of Our Lord, Jesus Christ to all peoples” as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called it, when the Magi visited the Christ Child.  Thank you for your giving of both money and time to teach children and adults how to live as disciples of Christ; how to look for the star, how to look for the Son. 

Offering prayer: God of glorious surprises: Like the wise men sent by Herod, we, too, come as searchers for a glimpse of Your presence. As were the people in those days, we are surprised that we find You not in a palace but in a stable, surrounded by a family of poor refugees and worshiped by the lowly shepherds. Like them, our gifts from our wealth seem simultaneously too material and woefully shabby and outshined by what You have given us. Just the same, use our gifts for the work of justice, mercy, and compassion—as would befit the Savior who sleeps in a manger. It’s in His holy name, we pray. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

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.

  1. Born a King on Bethlehem's plain, gold I bring to crown Him again,
    King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign. (Refrain)
  2. Frankincense to offer have I; incense owns a Deity nigh;
    prayer and praising, voices raising, worshiping God on high. (Refrain)
  3. Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom;
    sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb. (Refrain)
  4. Glorious now behold Him arise; King and God and sacrifice:
    Alleluia, Alleluia, sounds through the earth and skies. (Refrain)

Scripture Lesson 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:    When We Meet Jesus                  Pastor Becky Cuddeback

I’ve spoken through Advent and the Christmas season saying that Christmas is a conversation between God and God’s creation. This conversation reveals the vision of the Kingdom of God and in order to be part of the conversation, we must first believe Christmas means something and that something matters. It isn’t merely a mental exercise or a theory, it is real. I mean we can have a theological debate as to what Christmas means, how God works God’s will in the world and for the world. But it is all chatter and big thinking if it doesn’t have an everyday application in our lives or its part of living experience. We like to exemplify and label big movements of God, to memorialize them. We make them into historical facts and then these movements are manageable for us.

Take for example the Exodus. Now this isn’t a simple story, but here is the thumbnail – God calls Moses to be God’s spokesperson to tell Pharoah to let God’s people go. There is back and forth between Pharaoh and Moses. Some rather unpleasant plagues hit the region, ending with the death of the first born, except for the Hebrew slaves – because God intended to save them all along (The Passover). Pharoah relents and sends the Hebrews away, but while they are leaving, Pharaoh changes his mind. He and his armies chase the Hebrews and the armies are swallowed up by the Red Sea that God had parted for the Hebrews so they could safely cross. Now there is way more to that story and to what happened to the Hebrews and Moses, but that is the sketch. We have seen this story played out over and over again in human history, but we hesitate to draw the Biblical comparison to current events. We like to lock those God moments down, as if there would not be another Exodus again after Moses. Yet, we know there have been. God’s people have been moving away from tyrants for eons and making and establishing new lives for themselves in new places. It is important for us to know the stories of these God movements so we can see them for what they are, because the danger of locking these movements in historical context on historical timelines is we begin to get the idea that God has only acted in the past and we don’t anticipate God to act in the same way again. When we do this, when we lock God only in history, we worship not the Living God, but a dead one, which isn’t what we say we believe, correct? We believe in a living, loving God, who sent Jesus. Our model for how to live with each other and how to love God. He frees us from sin and death and gives us abundant life through the full unleashing of the Holy Spirit for this life and the one to come.

This is why today’s account out of Matthew is vital to our personal faith, our personal story. It is about our testimony. The wise men set out following a star. We don’t know how or where they got the information to be looking for a coming Messiah. But somehow a seed got planted in their minds that there would be this King and they see His star and follow it. They find themselves far from home, far from where they are comfortable; they don’t recognize or understand anything around them. They are in a new place that holds the answer they are seeking. They consult with the local authorities, who are caught off guard with the wise men’s arrival. The locals check with the folks that are supposed to know and are supposed to be also looking for a sign and are told they are in the right place. The king in power also wants to see this Child, not in devotion, not because the king is seeking the Messiah, but to destroy the Child. This Child is the fulfillment of the prophecies and the Child is a threat to the king’s power. God directs the wise men not to return to the king and the wise men went home another way. They changed directions upon meeting the Christ child.

This is their testimony; it is ours.

We begin by someone planting a seed within us. We can recall and point to a person or a group of people who started us on our journey to encounter Jesus. We move toward Jesus and when we meet Him, we return another way. We can’t continue as we had before. Meeting Jesus changes us. Do you remember your encounter with Jesus? The moment you were moved by His presence, affirmed and assured of your relationship with Him. That’s your testimony! Maybe you are thinking, I don’t know that I have met Jesus. I know the stories. I read my Bible. I sing the songs. I come to worship. I participate in missions. Yet, I don’t know that I have encountered Jesus. I have the head knowledge, but my heart is lagging behind.

Then today your journey begins, if you really desire to meet Jesus, to have an encounter with Jesus. And Beloved, we know where we will find Jesus. He will be among the outcast, the hungry, the naked, sick, isolated, persecuted, the oppressed – for Jesus said that when you did anything for the least of these you did to Me. Amen.

Closing Hymn: #249 There’s a Song in the Air

  1. There’s a song in the air! There’s a star in the sky!

There’s mother’s deep prayer and a baby’s low cry!

And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,

for the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!

  1. There’s tumult of joy o’er the wonderful birth,

For the virgin’s sweet boy is the Lord of the earth.

Ay! The star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,

For the manger of Bethlehem cradles of King!

  1. In the light of that star lie the ages impearled;

And that song from afar has swept over the world.

Every hearth is aflame, and the beautiful sing

In the homes of the nations that Jesus is King!

  1. We rejoice in the light, and we echo the song

That comes down through the night from the heavenly throng.

Ay! We shout to the lovely evangel they bring,

And we greet in His cradle our Savior and King!

Go into your week with the blessings of The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit.