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St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
Sunday Worship Service Recording , Bulletin & Sermon
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St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
January 3rd, 2021 s 10:00 a.m. Worship Service
SECOND SUNDAY OF CHRISTMAS
The Rev. Joan Priest, Worship Leader
Mr. David Warfield, Director of Music MinistryElder Jeff Snider, Liturgist
Elder,Dale Green GATHERING WE PREPARE OURSELVES FOR WORSHIP BY PASSING THE PEACE OF CHRIST, ACKNOWLEDGING WHO WE ARE,
AND RECEIVING THE ASSURANCE OF GOD’S GRACE.PRELUDE The Three Kings Robert Powell
GREETING & ANNOUNCEMENTS
CALL TO WORSHIP The Maji came from faraway places, following a star.
We come to worship, and the star sheds light on our lives.
The Magi brought gifts to offer the Christ Child.
We too bring gifts – ourselves, our hopes, our dreams.
The story continues, the good news abounds.
There is a living Christ to discover and worship and serve.
Let us rejoice and be glad! Let us worship God.
*HYMN 150 As With Gladness Men of Old DIX
As with gladness men of old
did the guiding star behold,
as with joy they hailed its light,
leading onward, beaming bright;
so, most gracious God, may we
evermore be led to thee.
As with joyful steps they sped,
Savior, to thy lowly bed,
there to bend the knee before
thee whom heav’n and earth adore;
so may we with willing feet
ever seek thy mercy seat.
As they offered gifts most rare
at thy manger rude and bare,
so may we with holy joy,
pure and free from sin’s alloy,
all our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to thee, our heav’nly king.
Holy Jesus, ev’ry day
keep us in the narrow way,
and, when earthly things are past,
bring our ransomed souls at last
where they need no star to guide,
where no clouds thy glory hide.
The first three stanzas here us an as.so structure to draw parallels between the coming of the Magi and the spiritual lives of the singers, summed up in the prayer of the fourth stanza, Even though this adapted German tune was named for him, the author did not care for it.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Gracious God, Spirit of Power, you call to us across deep waters and dark places. Yours is the light which guide us and the voice which we follow. We pray that you would reveal yourself to us as we worship you.
Gracious God, Spirit of Power, we confess that at times we come to you seeking miracles, but only for ourselves. We confess that we withhold the gifts you bestow on us for service, using them only for our own benefit. Open our eyes, that we may trust your wonder-working power and allow that power to work in us, and through us for others. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
ASSURANCE OF GRACE
PASSING OF THE PEACE (USING ASL)HEARING
WE HEAR GOD’S WORD, WRITTEN & PROCLAIMED. GOD’S WORD IS CENTRAL TO OUR FAITH;
HENCE WE PUT IT AT THE CENTER OF OUR WORSHIP.FIRST READING Isaiah 60:1-6
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. 3Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 4Lift 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. 5Then 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. 6A 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.
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
SECOND READING 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.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They 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.’” 7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then 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.”
9When 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. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On 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. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
SERMON Epiphany: The First Baby Shower
Many years ago, when I served as an Associate Pastor in another church, it came time to start preparing for the annual Christmas Pageant and I was in charge. Well, after making the difficult decision of which twin sister would be Mary – we had to draw a name out of a hat for that one! – a young woman came in to see me and said, “I’ve been thinking that my son Jeremy could be the star of the Christmas pageant!” Knowing that her son was about fifteen months old and quite active, I asked quite confused, “the star of the pageant is the baby Jesus, do you want your son to sit in our little wooden manger during the entire pageant?” “Oh no,” she laughed, “I mean the star of Bethlehem! You see, I ordered this beautiful gold costume which has a huge star on the front of it, and I was thinking we could somehow suspend him from the ceiling of the church, so that he could actually hang over the manger!” You can’t make this stuff up! Well, I tried very hard to hide my tremendous surprise and tried even harder not to burst out laughing and simply said, “oh, I don’t think so.” Well, she went off in quite a huff! Who wouldn’t want their little precious child to be the star?!
My friends, a star has risen in the sky, our light has come into the world, Emmanuel, God with us, Christ has been born! This Wednesday is the day of Epiphany, the feast of the shining is upon us and so I thought we would start our celebration today. Epiphany means manifestation or revelation; the Greek word for Epiphany is radiance. Christ, the light of the world has come again, and we are to be radiant and let our light given by Christ, shine upon the world.
The Gospel of Matthew wants us to know that the birth of Jesus was not just a one-time event for the people of Israel – it was a world-wide event, a cosmic event! Even people in foreign lands could see that something special was happening in the little country of Judea, in the even smaller town of Bethlehem. Technically, the day of Epiphany is even more important than Christmas Day, for this is the day Jesus was revealed to the entire world as the Son of God, the light of the world come to us.
This is the day we are to consider where Christ is in our own lives, the special gifts he has given to us and allow this brightness, this light and love, to move us forward into 2021. This is the day we are to begin our Journey once again; to search for the sacred, to search for God’s radiance in ourselves and in others. So, if you think about it, it’s a perfect first Sunday for me to begin serving as your new Bridge Pastor. Hopefully I will be a light shining in your life for the next few months as you search for a permanent pastor. Hopefully we will be able to somehow serve together and find ways to shine God’s grace and love to each other, to the entire church community, to the city of Groton, and maybe even to the world.
So on this Epiphany Sunday, I ask you, where is Christ in your life? Who do you need Jesus to be or how will you pray for the presence of the incarnated Christ into your reality in this next year? And what gifts will you bring to the Christ child as you serve others this year?
So on this Epiphany Sunday, let’s explore these questions, through a study of the wise men. In ancient Persia at the time of Jesus, there was a learned class of men who were teachers and instructors of the kings, called magi. They were men of holiness and wisdom, who could interpret dreams and predict the future. They were knowledgeable in the areas of philosophy and astrology, as well as medicine and natural science.
In those days, everyone believed one could foretell the future from the stars and believed one’s destiny was determined by the star under which they were born. I wonder what they would have thought of the Christmas Star when Saturn and Jupiter aligned, which shown on December 21 – were you able to see it? I wonder what it predicts about 2021. Well, these particular philosophers saw a similar unbelievable new star in the sky, a star they believed meant a new king was born, a king who would be a protector or shepherd of Israel, a Messiah they must search for and worship. So they begin their search in Jerusalem and there they meet King Herod.
Years ago, Dr. Seuss wrote a book called “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” You know the story, a strange looking character called the Grinch, hated seeing and hearing all the people celebrating Christmas – – so he tries to figure out a way to stop Christmas from coming to the little town of Whoville. He decides to steal all the presents, decorations, and special Christmas food, thinking that then, he could stop Christmas. The Grinch spends the whole night before Christmas sneaking around and stealing everything from all the houses in Whoville. When Christmas morning comes, the Grinch is shocked to find out that his plan didn’t work at all – – Christmas still comes to Whoville. The people are still happy, and they gather hand-in-hand to sing Christmas songs. He learns that Christmas is about much more than just presents and decorations and food.
It has been said that of all the biblical characters, Herod is most like the Grinch. Think about it, he isolated himself from others, he selfishly tried to ‘steal Christmas’, eliminate Christmas; he believed hewas the focal point of his life, and his priests and teachers act a lot like the Grinch’s poor little dog, Max. (1) He was known to be insanely suspicious, ruthless, and jealous. And the older he became the more suspicious Herod became, eliminating anyone seen as a rival to his power, including his wife, three sons, an uncle, and his mother-in-law! So, when he heard of a child born who was destined to be a king, so that his own children – those who were left – might be excluded from the throne, he went mad. So, he called together his advisors, to tell him once again – all about this story of the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem. Then he hears of these Magi who are in his town searching for this king; so, he sends for them and instructs them to search for the child, on his behalf. The wise men did find the child but being warned in a dream of Herod’s true intentions, they protected the child, kept its location a secret and were never heard from again.
Both King Herod and the Magi were on a kind of journey, searching for the meaning of life. The only difference was the wise men used wisdom and knowledge to search for a savior and when their search took them to the baby Jesus, they went beyond their search to experience, to experience the light of Christ and allow that light to permeate their lives and direct their future. Money was not an issue to them. Power was not an issue to them. Position and titles were not issuing to them. They were seeking something that would help them make sense out of what was going on in life. (2) We need to learn from these wise men.
Legend tells us that there were probably three wise men, because there were three gifts mentioned. Legend gave them names and descriptions – Caspar was young and brought the frankincense, Melchior was old and brought the gold, and Balthasar was swarthy and brought the myrrh.
And so here we have the very first baby shower, complete with fine gifts. One brought gold, a precious metal most difficult to find, the gift for a king. Another brought frankincense from the leaves of the Boswellia Tree, a sweet perfume used in the Temple, the gift for a priest. And one brought myrrh, an aromatic gum produced from a thornbush that grew in Arabia, which was made into a holy ointment and used for embalming the dead, a gift for the one who would sacrifice his life for his people. The gifts foretell that Christ was to be the true king, who reigned over his people with love and fairness, the perfect high priest who would be a bridge between the people and God, teaching them how to pray and worship; and the supreme savior of us all.
When they saw the child, they were “overwhelmed with joy” literally, these words mean, they were jumping for joy. These learned men hungered for meaning, for truth, for answers to the mysteries of life. Jesus was the answer to their spiritual quest, a far greater gift than any that they gave.
King Herod, on the other hand, was also on a journey, but believed that meaning came from self-preservation, a drive to be the star – the light – and eliminate all other light that might distract others from his own. And life – – was all about the gifts he received from others.
A few years ago, my children said to me, “you know mom, Christmas has kind of lost its magic, it’s not as fun or special anymore.” And I told them “That’s because your focus needs to shift.” Somewhere along the line it’s supposed to shift from running down on Christmas morning to see what you get, to running down on Christmas morning and watching people open what you give. It’s the shift from being a Herod who wants all the power and “stuff” for himself, to the Magi who search for the perfect gift to offer. And when that perfect gift offered is received, we bask in the radiance it provides the one who receives it. You can always tell your children are changing from one to the other when their Christmas list goes from 3 pages long to – – one or two items or when they say, “I really don’t need anything, I just want to come home and be with you all”. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a list.
This year’s Christmas was even more special for my child, Lee was married in October, so, this was Lee and Maria’s first Christmas as a newly married couple. And so on Christmas morning, the only present they cared about, was the one they gave each other. It was just beautiful to watch them so excited to give a gift to each other, something they had saved for and spent a great deal of time finding, so personal that it brought tears to their eyes. When was the last time you received a gift like that?!
The world which the wise men with their gifts, carefully chosen, rode through to find the child Jesus was a tough, bloody, confusing, dangerous world. It was a world where Herod had no compunction about ordering the slaughter of hundreds of male children in order to destroy the possibility of a threat to his power and wealth.
We too live in a sometimes tough, bloody, confusing and dangerous world. Right now, I would say our world is a bit hopeful, but I would venture to describe most of us as still remaining confused, isolated, nervous most of the time, simply exhausted, and each of us really suffering in some way. Finding God in this world like the wise men will take courage. To journey into this time as wise people of God, we are to study the world and all that is in it, like the Magi did; meditate and pray, look and listen, give of our best gifts, be guided by the star and seek the child; like the Magi did. The star, the light of Christ doesn’t eliminate darkness in our lives, depressing times, scary times, dark times. It doesn’t take it away, it is a light in the midst of it, a light to lead us while we are in the dark. The little lights in our life, health, happiness, family, security, may be blown out tomorrow but one light is never extinguished, the light that overcomes the darkness, the light in the midst of the darkness, the eternal light of Christ.
God has never stopped creating and God continues to work through history, even now, maybe especially now, within this world, within this community, within this church, within each one of us to make that light shine. God has never forgotten God’s people and our mission as a light to the world. To be Christ’s gifts given to the world.
And we are called to protect the children, as the Magi protected the Christ child. The church, this church needs to be a safe place for our children and youth, even remotely. Because as we know, its rough out there. In my 30 years of ministry, I have heard so many stories about drugs, alcohol, violence, abuse involving youth, even children. But the message must remain the same, we love all children, it is safe here, and we are here to help them. We cannot protect them from everything – we can only guide them, show them, love them.
Let them wear wings of silver and sing like angels, carry crooks like shepherds and wear shiny robes bearing gifts, remembering the story, becoming part of the story – maybe not the star hovering over the manger! – but part of the story through their questioning, dreaming, believing, doubting, seeking. We need to make this a place that accepts them for who they are, wherever they are on the journey. The reason God came to us as a child, was so that we could learn the importance of listening and caring and learning from the young. They have a lot to teach us.
We all search for meaning and purpose in our lives. We are all on a journey much like the one of the Magi. In this new year, we all need to be guided by the star and never lose sight of it, be directed by God’s Holy Spirit as we navigate our way through this journey together.
My friends do not become the star of your life, let the star of God guide you; do not become a Grinch or a Herod who tries to steal Christmas, take all the gifts and make life only about yourself; journey into 2021 like the Magi seeking the star, following the light, allowing Christ’s light to radiate within you and point the way beyond you, so that you too may see Christ in others and be Christ to others. So, arise, shine, for your light has come. May it be so, Amen.
Gunter, The Rev. Dwight. “Seeking”. Preacher’s Magazine, 2007.Ibid.
RESPONDING GOD HAS SPOKEN, AND WE RESPOND. WE AFFIRM OUR FAITH, PRAY FOR THE WORLD, RE-COMMIT OURSELVES TO MISSION,
PRESENT OUR TITHES & GIFTS, AND OFFER THANKS THAT GOD CONTINUES TO SPEAK TODAY.* AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
We believe in God,
the creator of all things,
the giver of life and breath.
We believe in Jesus Christ,
born Emmanuel, God with us,
baptized and revealed the most beloved Son of God;
he sought to heal humanity by taking our brokenness upon himself,
suffering for us,
dying for us
and being raised from the dead for our sake
and for the sake of all the world.
We believe that he will come again.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
continually poured out refreshing our lives,
leading us into a new day,
ever-birthing the church, the body of Christ in the world.
This Spirit is our soul companion and counselor of truth
of the gift of faith,
the ever presence of God
and the promise of eternal life.
Thanks be to God! Amen.
* HYMN 151 We Three Kings of Orient Are KINGS OF ORIENT
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.
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain,
gold I bring to crown him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
over us all to reign. [Refrain] Frankincense to offer have I;
incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising, voices raising,
worshiping God on high. [Refrain] Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb. [Refrain]
Glorious now behold him arise;
King and God and sacrifice:
sounds through the earth and skies. [Refrain]
Although Christians had begun by the 2nd century to speak of these visitors from eastern countries (Matthew 2:1-12) as “kings,” perhaps because of passages like Psalm 71:10 and Isaiah 60:3, it is more accurate to think of them as man or astrologers, the scholars of their day.
PRESENTING OUR TITHES & OFFERINGS
(If you’re joining us via Zoom,
we invite you to make your offering online.
Thank you to everyone for your generous support!)
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING & DEDICATION
Gracious God, source of life and bringer of light to the nations, you provide for all our needs. We bring our gifts to you this day in response to your goodness. We thank you for sending Christ into our midst. Use what we offer, to enlighten all people to the truth of his salvation and bless all our endeavors as we seek faithfully in Christ’s name to do your will. Amen
SHARING OUR JOYS & CONCERNS
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE & THE LORD’S PRAYER
THE SACRAMENT OF COMMUNION
Prayer of Thanksgiving
SENDING WE HEAR THE CHARGE, RECEIVE THE BENEDICTION, AND ARE SENT TO CARRY GOD’S WORD INTO THE WORLD.CHARGE & BENEDICTION
POSTLUDE As With Gladness Men of Old Albrecht *Please rise in body or in spirit.