Epiphany Prayers and Reflections: 7 January (Matthew 4.12-17,23-25)

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 4.12-17, 23-25

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.’  

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. 

Matthew 4.12-17, 23-25 NRSV

Reflection

Through the season of Advent we heard John the Baptist’s message of repentance. Today we hear of the moment when Jesus begins to proclaim: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. Then we hear of Jesus going so much further than John did.

John was the long-foretold herald of the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. His message was one of preparation for the ‘main event’. As John called people to repent, he was calling them to turn from their sinful ways, be washed clean in the waters of baptism and then hold themselves in readiness for the true baptism that was to follow, baptism in the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ message followed on from John’s, but went so much further.

John preached and baptised in the wilderness around Jerusalem. Jesus, we are told, travelled through Galilee. Rather than waiting for the people to come to him, Jesus went out teaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. Then, he went further by curing every disease and every sickness among the people. The message and the actions of Jesus changed the lives of the people, and especially the lives of those who were afflicted and whose lives were restricted with sickness and pain of every kind.

We are told that Jesus’ fame spread throughout all Syria. We are also told that great crowds followed him. In our modern culture, ‘fame’ has become something self-serving and destructive. We are constantly witnessing the way in which ‘fame’ destroys lives because it separates those who crave its power from God. Jesus’ fame was different. Jesus’ fame revealed a lifestyle and mission that brought healing and new life to those who followed him. Jesus’ fame was not a fatuous display feeding a superficial ego. Jesus’ fame was rooted in the sharing of the good news of the kingdom far and wide.

Throughout Advent we were called to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ into this world. At Christmas we were called to worship the Holy Child and to give thanks for his Incarnation. As we journey through Epiphany we are called to emulate Jesus himself as we set self aside and share the good news of the kingdom with all we meet. Let us pray that we might be selfless advocates on behalf of our Lord and Saviour as we strive to bring Christ’s healing and light into the lives of others.

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.