Christmas Prayers and Reflections: 6 January (Matthew 2.1-12)

Preparation

O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Blessed are you, Sovereign God,
king of the nations,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
your name is proclaimed in all the world.
As the Sun of Righteousness dawns in our hearts
anoint our lips with the seal of your Spirit
that we may witness to your gospel
and sing your praise in all the earth.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.

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.’

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.

Matthew 2.1-12 NRSV

Reflection

The wise men said: we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage. Then … they left for their own country by another road.

We are all on a journey. That journey begins with our birth and ends when our mortal bodies fail and our earthly pilgrimage concludes in death. Every life-long journey is different as each of us responds in a different way to the signposts, the chances and the challenges which ease or hinder the path we follow. On this feast of the Epiphany we are being invited to reflect upon how the wise men responded to the signposts, chances and challenges which led them to the Christ-Child in a far away foreign land.

Epiphany has always been special to me because it was when I was confirmed. I can vividly recall the text upon which the bishop preached. From the King James version of the Bible, the bishop began with these words:  we have seen his star … and are come to worship him. For me, there has always been great power in these words. They make it plain that a signpost to God was seen, recognised for what it was, and followed … despite what must have been great inconvenience and uncertainty! Furthermore, these words reveal an intention ([we] are come to worship him) that leaves us in no doubt: for the wise men, and for us, the worship of God should come before all else!

Theologians and historians tell us that the wise men are most likely to have travelled over one thousand miles on their quest to find and worship the baby Jesus. If only we could demonstrate such strength of faith! I recently met someone who used to be a regular church-goer. He was clearly embarrassed to have bumped into the vicar. Before I could say anything he blurted out that he and his wife still believed in God, but they were, “Giving Church a rest.” What an interesting concept that is, as well as being complete nonsense! The Church does not need a rest, it needs to see the commitment of the wise men replicated day after day as we journey through this life and worship God.

As well as making that long and arduous journey, the wise men, we are told, returned by another road. As they sought to avoid the political machinations and cruelty of this world, they allowed God to lead them along another path, an unknown path. We are also called to follow the path God has laid for us, the path that will be unfamiliar, and that may seem unwise and dangerous. But, it is God who knows best. It is God’s signposts we should be following, and not our own well-trod and self-serving paths, those paths that will lead us away from God.

On this feast of the Epiphany, let us pray that we might continue our earthly pilgrimage with renewed determination and energy. Let us pray that we might join the wise men in following the signposts that will lead us to Christ. Let us pray that our worship might be renewed in sincerity and vigour. Let us pray that we might journey by that other road, the road God has chosen for us.

Prayers

From the rising of the sun to its setting,
let us pray to the Lord.

That the people of God in all the world
may worship in spirit and in truth,
let us pray to the Lord.

That the Church may discover again
that unity which is the Father’s will,
let us pray to the Lord.

That the nations of the earth
may seek after the ways that make for peace,
let us pray to the Lord.

That the whole creation, groaning in travail,
may be set free to enjoy the glorious liberty of the children of God,
let us pray to the Lord.

That all who with Christ have entered the shadow of death
may rest in peace and rise in glory,
let us pray to the Lord.

Let us commend the world, to which Christ showed the way,
to the mercy and protection of God.

Creator of the heavens,
who led the Magi by a star
to worship the Christ-child:
guide and sustain us,
that we may find our journey’s end
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Believing the promises of God,
let us pray with confidence as our Saviour 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.

Christ the Son of God
perfect in us the image of his glory
and gladden our hearts
with the good news of his kingdom;
and may the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among us and remain with us always.
Amen.