January 2022

Sunday 2nd January  Epiphany   Matthew 2  1-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When King Herod heard this, he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.  And when he had assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.  “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:  ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of My people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and learned from them the exact time the star had appeared.  And sending them to Bethlehem, he said: “Go and search carefully for the Child, and when you find Him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship Him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the Child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with great delight.  On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they withdrew to their country by another route.

The magi, or kings, must have been very determined to reach a baby who they believed had been born to be King of the Jews.  Not for them the comfort and speed of modern travel, but rather a lengthy uncomfortable and dangerous journey, culminating not in a palace in a main city, but in the small town of Bethlehem.  Their faith that they were doing the right thing was quite astounding, and the gifts they brought were generous and helpful for the young family. 

 

Have there been times when you have felt called to follow a course of action which is way out of your comfort zone, possibly even with no defined results as far as you can see?  God often works through ordinary people to bring about his plans for action and changes in the lives of others – are we ready to answer his call when it comes this year?

 

Sunday 9th January: Baptism of Christ  Luke 3: 15-17; 21-22

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John could be the Christ.  John answered all of them: “I baptize you with water, but One more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn. But He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  …. When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in a bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”

John’s mission was to prepare people for the coming of Jesus so that they know he is indeed the son of God, foretold years ago by the prophets.  He was to tell everyone what was happening, and urge them to be baptised, repent, say sorry, and be prepared to embark on a new life.  He probably never imagined he would be called on to baptise Jesus himself – but this was God’s plan, so that everyone would see that Jesus had God’s blessing.

Sometimes the things we are called to do have immense impact on the lives of others;  following seemingly small actions on our part, a phone call, a visit, a letter, a friendly smile, an enquiry into how things are going – God’s hand can later be seen to have been at work helping, encouraging, surrounding people with his love.  Are we ready to be part of his vast army of helpers, responding to his calls in our lives?

 

Sunday 16th January:  Epiphany 2  John 2: 1-11

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to Him, “They have no more wine.”  “Woman, why does this concern us?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Now six stone water jars had been set there for the Jewish rites of purification. Each could hold from twenty to thirty gallons.  Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. “Now draw some out,” He said, “and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not know where it was from, but the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone serves the fine wine first, and then the cheap wine after the guests are drunk. But you have saved the fine wine until now!” Jesus performed this, the first of His signs, at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

In this well-known story, the first of Jesus’ miracles, Mary’s calm confidence in her son’s abilities saves the day from becoming what might have been a disaster at a wedding.  To run out of wine would have been a serious lapse on the part of any host, yet on this occasion outstanding results were achieved when the servants did what Jesus told them to do.

We ask God for help so often, yet are we ready for his overflowing generosity when he responds?  He wants so much to give to his loved children – us – gifts abounding, more than we could ever imagine.  Do we try and narrow his giving? – are we ready to receive more than we could ever ask or hope for?  May this year God’s blessings surround us all.

 

Sunday 23rd January:  Epiphany 3   Luke 4: 14-21

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and the news about Him spread throughout the surrounding region.  He taught in their synagogues and was glorified by everyone. Then Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath. And when He stood up to read, the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”  Then He rolled up the scroll, returned it to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him, and He began by saying, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Whatever must the listeners have thought as they hard Jesus’s words.  A prophecy that they must have heard many times before has actually been fulfilled.  It must have defied belief – something totally unexpected in their daily lives.  Yet this is what God does when he is part of our lives.  He so often brings us to the unusual, the out of the ordinary, the sheer wonder of something we have never seen before.

Are we ready and willing to face God’s revelations in our lives?  Ready to be confronted with new ideas, new ways of dealing with problems, new challenges?  He is there beside us to help us if we take that first step with him.

 

Sunday 30th January:  Epiphany 4:   Luke 2  22-40

And when the time of purification according to the Law of Moses was complete, His parents brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord  (as it is written in the Law of the Lord: “Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to the Lord”),  and to offer the sacrifice specified in the Law of the Lord: “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  Led by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. And when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for Him what was customary under the Law,  Simeon took Him in his arms and blessed God, saying:  “Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You now dismiss Your servant in peace. …….. There was also a prophetess named Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher, who was well along in years. She had been married for seven years, and there was a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming forward at that moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the Child to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. When Jesus’ parents had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him.

Simeon and Anna were faithful servants of God in the temple, day in day out, and they believed the promise given to them that they would see God’s son before they died.  They recognised in this baby that the promise had been fulfilled, and they shared their knowledge with everyone.

So often we do not see the results of our acts of faith – sometimes a whole lifetime’s work with seemingly little to show for it. Yet God is working behind the scenes all the time, and results come in his time, not in ours.  Can we go on doing his work in his strength as he calls us to do, in the certain knowledge that he will bring about his miracles – in his time?   It makes everything far more worthwhile if we can hold on to this amazing truth.




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