St Clement Church Community Epiphany Service
Today is the first Sunday in 2024 and we are celebrating the Epiphany – the coming of the Magi … the Wise Men. Their coming emphasises that the special baby, Jesus Christ, was born to all, not just the Jews.
With love to you all
Let us pray
Dear Lord, You are the author and perfector of our Faith. You save us and sustain us. Help us to trust in You and to worship whether we have a lot or a little. May our praise bring You glory and remind us of Your promises.
We love You, Lord we seek Your presence, and we worship You alone. Amen
We say together:
Lord, we welcome You amongst us today and celebrate the gift of life that You have lavished upon each of us. We ask that You would open our ears so that we may hear Your voice. Open our minds that we may receive Your eternal wisdom. Amen
Hymn: 49 Brightest and best are the sons of the morning
Prayer of Penitence
Jesus says, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ So, let us turn away from sin and turn to the Lord, confessing our sins in penitence and faith.
Father eternal, giver of light and grace, we have sinned against you and against our neighbour, in what we have thought, in what we have said and done, through ignorance, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault. We have wounded your love, and marred your image in us. We are sorry and ashamed, 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 lead us out from darkness to walk as children of light.
Collect for Epiphany Sunday
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 forever.
Isaiah 60. 1 - 6
Ephesians 3. 1 - 12
Hymn: 47 As with gladness men of old
Gospel: Matthew 2. 1 - 12
(Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew
Response: ‘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, 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.
(This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.)
Today’s Gospel reading tells us the story of the magi or wisemen visiting Jesus and bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Holy Scripture doesn’t tell us their names or how many there are. No one knows for sure. Eastern Orthodoxy says there are twelve but our tradition says there are three, probably because there are three gifts, and names them, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. But, what about the fourth wise man?
His name is Artaban and he comes to us through “The story of the Other Wise Man,” a book written by Henry Van Dyke and published in 1895. It is a beautiful story grounded in the teachings of Jesus. (If you haven’t read it, PLEASE do so … it is free on line, or you can buy it from … of course, Amazon. There is also a 1985 film of this story available on Youtube) Whether the story is true and really happened, who knows, but I like to think it is, because it is an example to all of us – how we could be like the fourth wise man.
Very simply – the fourth wise man is late, so, the others leave without him. His gift is precious jewels and he spends his life travelling and trying to find the King. Does he? If you haven’t read the story, I don’t want to spoil it for you – but again, please read it.
I think that the Epiphany story is really about two things, longing and fear. You could almost call them bookends … the Epiphany story is sandwiched between these two emotions.
On the one side, you have the wise men from the East following the star. They’ve left their own country – the familiar, the usual, the known – called by a longing so powerful that it can’t be ignored. They must go, follow the star. They don’t know where their journey will take them, they only know that they must take it. Who or what is calling them, they don’t know.
On the other side, there is Herod – “He is frightened, and all Jerusalem with him.” He is threatened by the possibility of a new king. His power and identity are at risk of being lost. Maybe he fears an impoverished and a diminished life. He calls others to him, chief priests, and scribes, but he stays where he is, grasping and clinging to what is familiar and known.
The wise men and Herod are responding to the same thing; new life, the birth of a child.
The wise men are open and give themselves to something new and maybe unknown. Herod is closed and wants the same old thing. The wisemen travel and search, Herod stays put, hanging on to what is his.
The wisemen follow their longing. Herod wallows in his fear. Both, however, are about the child. Both are an epiphany.
I think we tend to hear the Epiphany story as being an epiphany to the wise men only. But, isn’t it also an epiphany to Herod too?
Usually, we understand the word ‘epiphany’ as meaning a sudden flash of insight or a sudden realisation. But, is that what today’s story is about? I don’t think so. What if, rather than we having epiphanies, they have us. Epiphanies are not so much about us, saying, ‘Ah, I’ve got it!’ Rather, they are moments when we say, ‘Ah, it’s got me!’ Sometimes, that happens in our longings and at other times in our fears.
Both situations offer us something. Both seek a response from us. That’s what epiphanies do. They give us a glimpse of ourselves, our life, our world, and they call for, and ask a response.
That response is what distinguishes the wise men from Herod.
The difference isn’t that epiphany only happens to the wisemen but not Herod. The difference is that the wise men observe and follow the star, open their treasure chest, go home, “by another road,” and Herod does not. But what if he had?
What if Herod had observed and followed the star too? What if he had opened the treasure chest of his life? What if he had returned home “by another road?” How might his life have changed?
And what if we did these things? How might our lives change?
We all have longings and fears – we all have wise men and Herod within us. They are part of us. Whenever there is a longing or a fear there is an epiphany awaiting our response.
What longing, searching, or desiring gets hold of us? What is calling us? What matters so much that when we ignore it, it becomes the matter with us? What is being asked of us in the name of God?
What fears get hold of us? What keeps us paralyzed and unable to leave the place where we are? What is fear teaching us about ourselves, our lives, our relationships? What would we do if we weren’t afraid and how would our lives be different? What is being asked of us in the name of God?
Whatever our answers are to these questions about longings and fears, they describe an epiphany. They are a star in the sky of our lives waiting to be observed and followed. They are the treasure chest of our lives waiting to be opened. They are the child of new life waiting to be held.
In all that, something is being revealed to us and something is being asked of us. It might be love, forgiveness, healing, hope, gratitude, courage, beauty, compassion, gentleness with yourself or another, mercy, non-violence, repentance, new life, truth telling, wisdom.
And, they reveal Emmanuel, God with us.
That’s the epiphany and it’s always before us, calling and waiting for a response.
What will we do with the epiphany before us today?
My hope for you and for me is that today, we will go home “by another road.”
Affirmation of our faith
We believe in God the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. We believe in God the Son, who lives in our hearts through faith, and fills us with his love. We believe in God the Holy Spirit, who strengthens us with power from on high. We believe in one God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen
Hymn: We three kings of Orient are
Intercessions by Daphne Hawkins
In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ let us pray to the Father.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we pray for your presence as we gather together on this first Sabbath day of a new year, joined in spirit by so many dear friends who can’t be with us. Lord, please be with each and everyone of us and hear our prayer.
Dear Lord, be with all our Church leaders, Archbishop Justin, all bishops, priests and all who work to bring the Christian faith to our world. We especially pray for Reverend Diane and Liz our Reader who work so hard to bring friendship and support to our church and community along with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer
Dear Lord, this Christmas and New Year has brought sadness to our celebrations knowing that our world is experiencing fighting in the Ukraine, Palestine, and Israel. The cruelty and indiscriminate killing of so many innocent people and so many children, bringing so much pain to so many families. Dear Lord, please hear our prayer for peace. May our world leaders and governments and all in authority, especially our own government, at this time put aside petty disagreements and work to bring an end to the suffering and injustice that is destroying our world. May faith, trust and peace be restored to those in need and distress.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer
Lord, we pray for our families and those around us at this time of challenge and uncertainty. We are experiencing economic problems world-wide, and we pray that we will support those in need, those who are vulnerable, families struggling to feed and clothe and warm their homes, the homeless, the refugees, the aged and the lonely. May we open our hearts and help where we can.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer
Merciful Father, we bring before you all who are suffering in mind, body or spirit, those who have lost their faith, those whom no one loves or cares for and those close to us at St Clement.
Reverend Diane and Ken, May, Angela, Diana, Alison and Rob, Terry and Dot, Margaret, Maureen, Rupert and Linda, Jan, Anita and Stephen, Pam and David, Barrie and Sandra, Michael and Patricia, Stella, Alison, Callum, Jay, and Andy.
Dear Lord, please be with anyone who needs you at this time. Lay your healing hands on the sick. Bring light and hope to all in need this day.
Lord, be with all who have recently ended life’s journey and are with you, we especially remember Brian, and those who have gone before us. May they rest in peace with you in heaven.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer
Lord, as we begin a new year, may we pray that:
Happiness be at your door;
May it knock early and stay late;
May it bring and leave gifts of peace, love, joy, and good health for the year 2024.
Rejoicing in the fellowship of St Andrew, St Clement, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, we commend ourselves and all Christian faiths, and all who strive for peace, to your unfailing love.
Merciful Father: accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen
Gathering our prayers and praise into one, let us pray with confidence as our risen Lord has 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.
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. Amen.
An even greater shift by Jeremy W. Johnston
Existing Israelites plundering gold
from Egyptian masters – gentle gold made
into ark, altar, lampstand, table laid
with showbread, tent-tabernacle to hold
the symbols of God. With. Us. Now we’re told
Orient Magi, star-gazers who paid
honour and praise, gave three gifts to the babe.
These gifts, no longer plundered, given gold willingly in worship to the true God,
God with us, perfect tabernacle, tent
wrapped in flesh. King’s gold crowns the star-led search.
Frankincense, a priestly gift. But most odd –
myrrh, embalming resin, with pungent scent.
He brings us in through the holy curtain rent.
God will speak peace to his people, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
The Peace of the Lord be always with you.
Hymn: 48 Bethlehem, of noblest cities
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose years never fail and whose mercies are new each returning day: let the radiance of your Spirit renew our lives, warming our hears and giving light to our minds, that we may pass into the new year in joyful obedience and firm faith; through him who is the beginning and the end, now and for ever.