Worship for January 3, 2021

Worship for January 3, 2021

You can join this week’s worship service by visiting here.

Thank you to Mary Parlee, Carolyn Dunlop, Judy Kennedy, Brenda Barnes and Terrie Croft for sharing the gift of music.

Below, you can find Steve’s reflection and prayers for this week.

In these exceptional times, please do stay in touch, with us and with each other. The peace of Christ be with you all.

Epiphany Sunday
Scripture: Matthew 2: 1-12
Music: No Room, The Huron Carol

I have some friends and family who usually take down their Christmas Tree on Boxing Day; the wrapping paper has been tossed and gifts are put away other than the gift cards that they used the first day the stores are open. Most have disposed of the turkey carcass and the leftovers by now.

On the other extreme, for some the real fir tree stands on Dec. 25, it is still there on the Orthodox Christmas (Epiphany) Jan 6 and even Armenian Christmas on Jan 18 and for some beyond that even though there are more needles on the floor than there are on the tree. If you don’t believe me, give me a call in a couple of weeks.

As for the Christmas story, today, we shift from Luke’s familiar, family oriented version complete with angels, shepherds, sheep and goats, donkeys and cattle lowing to Matthew’s version that is more mysterious and darker, where the cast has been guided by a star. It features Magi on camels with gifts; while lurking in the dark background is the evil King Herod, his minions and his occupation forces.

Now the Magi are supposed to be wise but apparently they are not the best astronomers as they ended up about 10 kilometers away from Bethlehem in downtown Jerusalem. As befitting people in their position they were hosted by Herod. But, when he heard why they had come he was threatened by the idea of a new king and he secretly plotted to do away with the child.

As for us, we tend to focus more on the gifts in this story rather than the darker stuff. Even for me, that is an appropriate focus for this season as someone who likes to deal with the whole of the story and the major themes and the underlying issues.

I wonder, as I have in the past, what is the most wondrous gift you have ever received? Not the most costly or extravagant but what is the most wondrous. What is the gift that you most remember because of the meaning it held at the time and maybe the meaning it still holds for you today.

In the past, I’ve talked about a pair of Huron snowshoes. They were a Christmas gift 46 years ago from a young woman who I had been dating for about a year. They came from Taylor’s Hardware store in Grand Falls. I knew that baby-sitting didn’t pay much then and those snow shoes were truly a gift from the heart. They have even more meaning to me these many years later and they symbolize a relationship that has spanned a lot of wonderful years and the odd snowstorm.

As I look at them, it strikes me they have aged much better than I have. Also, I’m glad we gave each other higher tech ones a couple of years ago that weigh about a tenth of these.

I suspect we have all received gifts that speak to us more over the years than in the moment they were offered. Sometimes these gifts have helped me see something in a new light; myself, the other person, a relationship, the reality of our world and even God’s deepest longings for the world. 

As I’ve been thinking about this passage and about gifts, I had a bit of an epiphany, a minor insight, I’ve begun to wonder not so much about the gifts I’ve received, I wonder what gifts I will be remembered for. Not the presents that I have wrapped or stuffed into a bag just before midnight on Christmas Eve but what have I given that has made a difference to others? What have I done to reflect God’s light in the world? I have a hard time to wrap my head around that idea. Maybe the same is true for you.

It is far easier for me to see and talk about the light that others have shown me. Many of you who have risked telling me about a struggle that you have faced and how you had to rely on God to make it through to the next day or even the next hour. Sometimes it has been in the face of a medical issue, sometimes around a family crisis, often times it has been in the face of grief. For me, it is a privilege to hear those stories because I know it takes great courage to share some of our most vulnerable moments with others. It has been a gift that has helped me see the light of God shine through in a person’s life even in the darkest of times.

One of the people who always showed me light was someone here who is now gone from our midst. I knew he didn’t have much money and there was never much extra. I knew he always put money in the collection plate every Sunday but I had no idea how much. (I actually don’t know what any one gives financially and I really don’t want to.) Just before Christmas every year, he would show up and usually ask to see one of the ministers.  He would have a cheque, not a huge one, would tell me, this was money he and his wife had managed to save over the year and they wanted the church to use it to help out someone in need. I told him about all of the agencies that are more directly involved but he would insist that we take it just in case someone needed some extra help at Christmas. We always put it to good use. I can’t tell you who it was, I never asked for his permission and he wouldn’t want to be held up. Still that generosity was a sign of light for me. He left the church a small bequest but never wanted anything to be shared publicly but still his light always shone for me.

I wonder what gift you would like to be most remembered for?  I wonder where your light has shown and you may not even have realized it?

In these early days of 2021, perhaps it is good to wonder about where you would like to shine your light in this new year? What gift would you like to be remembered for?

God’s light shines for us as a beacon of hope and a source of strength. During this coming year may you reflect God’s light with those closest to you and perhaps with those who barely know you.

As our Creed says, “We are not alone. God is with us. Thanks be to God. Amen.”

Pastoral Prayer
Holy One, like the Magi we have been searching for you, seeking you, longing to see your light so that we might know more of who you are and what you long for us and from us.

It’s easy to let the darkness in our own lives and in this world overwhelm us. It’s also easy to become distracted by so many diversions and the multitude of competing interests that keep creeping into our lives and that draw us away from searching for your light. We confess there are times when we feel lost or when we want to give up the search for your goodness. 

Help us, as you helped the Magi to see that your light always shines. Help us as you helped the people around the Galilee to see your light in the face of Jesus and in the face of our neighbours. Embolden us to share that light in the world so that it may illume every dark corner we encounter. 

As we begin a new year, a new season, we use this moment to rededicate ourselves to your service and our gifts and talents towards creating your kingdom in this world.

We rededicate ourselves to compassion: give us courage when we find ourselves encountering pain and suffering in others and in ourselves.  Free us from judgment and self-righteousness and bless us with humility in all we do.

We rededicate ourselves to reconciliation: let us ask for forgiveness of those we have hurt. In your mercy, strengthen us for the hard work of forgiving those who have hurt us. Where there is division between individuals, races, or tribes, guide us to be bearers of light and understanding.

We rededicate ourselves to justice: to fighting against unfair and unequal laws and treatment, and to exposing systems that benefit those who have much and penalize those who have little. 

We rededicate ourselves to peace: help us to respond to hatred with love, to anger with kindness.  Fill us with your peace that we may share it wherever we go and that by our witness and our actions peace may fill the whole world.

We rededicate ourselves to truth: to be willing to set aside our own opinions when they run counter to evidence and fact. Help us to speak truth in the face of those who would mislead and twist reality to their own purposes. Encourage us to speak truth to power.

In the midst of this pandemic we pray for all in need. We pray for those who feel frightened and alone during this time, for those who are dealing with major changes in their health, their economic circumstances, their family situation or other parts of their life. Bring comfort to your people and help us to be sources of comfort and light to those in need.

We pray for those who are grieving, for those who are ill and in need of medical treatment. We pray too for those who place themselves at risk for us during this time and through all times.

May your kingdom come, may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, this day, this year, now and forever. We ask this through the name of your child, Jesus the Christ, who entered this world that the world may see your light, O God. Through him we offer these prayers as we dedicate ourselves to you, today and always. Amen.