Sunday 3rd January – Epiphany


The service is now live-streamed and can be found on the church Facebook page.

Collect

O God,
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.

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First Reading

Isaiah 60.1-6

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.  For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.  Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.  Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.  Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.  A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come.  They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.

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 Gospel

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.

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 Post Communion Prayer

Lord God,
the bright splendour whom the nations seek:
may we who with the wise men have been drawn by your light
discern the glory of your presence in your Son,
the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Sermon

The story of the Magi, the wise men, which is at the heart of the Epiphany story is a story of a life changing revelation and encounter with the Word Incarnate, the Christ child.  Indeed, the word epiphany means a showing forth or a manifestation… a showing forth to the wise men who were from the Gentile world.  A showing forth of the Christ to all people… to you and to me.

It was a significant encounter for the wise men. They, who lived their lives as men who sought the truth, find the very source of that truth in the Christ child. And having done him homage, and offering him gifts they return home by another route, transformed and changed by what they have seen, taking the message of salvation with them.

The story itself has an important message for our times. The need to set a different course in life which so clearly manifests itself at this time of year is an expression of a deeply rooted desire to find fulfilment. That’s something which is within all of us. Yet in that search for fulfilment, so many things are sought which simply cannot satisfy. And some of the goals and targets can even be damaging to the individual and to others. Seekers will always be restless in their hearts unless they allow themselves to be drawn into an encounter, and then a living relationship with Christ and his Church.  It was St Augustine of Hippo who said “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

If that can happen, then life should no longer simply be a self-directed search for self-improvement, because the encounter with Christ and the relationship with him becomes the defining influence of life. What the goals should be are made clear by what he has revealed. And what improvements might be made are made possible by cooperation with his grace. It is through this encounter and relationship with Christ that the human quest for happiness and fulfilment is given shape and direction, and by grace, can be shaped towards the goal of human life, which is God himself.

The Gospel is quite clear that having paid homage to the Christ child, the Wise Men left for their own country by another road.  When we have an encounter with Christ we don’t go back the way we came… we are changed, transformed.  God calls us to travel via a new way, a new road with him.  The Epiphany reminds us in a powerful way that when Christ is revealed to us, we are transformed and our life’s journey takes a new direction.

We may still get caught in the same kind of struggles as non-Christians and at times our lives, rather than heading in the direction shaped for us by grace, where our horizons are set by God, remain within the confines of our own attempts at self-improvement.  During those times we need to lift our eyes to see the vista ahead of us… to raise our hearts and minds to the horizons which are set by God. 

The key thing about our celebration of the Epiphany is that it should bring us back to an encounter with the Child in the manger – and so back to the focus of our faith. And having encountered him again, and worshipped him, as the wise men did, we should go on our way by a different path, with lives lived in and through a growing relationship with him.

Amen