St Lucia – Service

When:
03/01/2021 @ 9:00 am
2021-01-03T09:00:00+10:00
2021-01-03T09:15:00+10:00

Greeting-

The Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

And also with you.

 

Call to Worship –

Arise, shine, your light has come.

The glory of the Lord shines like the sun.

Behold, the nations have come to witness God’s brightness.

Kings have come to see Christ’s light.

Lift up your eyes and look around.

The glory of the Lord is all around.

Arise, shine, your light has come.

The light that shines through our lives forever.

 

Opening Prayer–

God of all life, we begin this new year believing that you are present in every atom of our being, present through our minds and hearts, present in our life together. Reveal your wisdom to us in this time of worship. Lead us through your Holy Spirit to your truth and plans for us.

Grant us the courage to follow Christ’s natal star wherever your light shines.

Grant us the wisdom to follow the Magi of old as they left the safety of their homes to find the infant Jesus.

Grant us the purity of heart to forsake the glitter of things that do not endure and embrace the brightness of your glory. Amen

 

HYMN– TIS 304   O Come, all ye faithful vs 1, 2, 4, and 6

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,

come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem; come and behold him, born the king of angels

chorus: O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him,

O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

True God of true God, Light of Light eternal

Lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb.

Son of the father, begotten, not created:

O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him,

O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

 

Lo, star-led chieftains, wise men, Christ adoring,

offer him incense, gold and myrrh, we to the Christ child,

bring our hearts’ oblations:

O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him,

O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

 

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,

sing all ye citizens of heaven above,

‘Glory to God, glory in the highest’:

O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him,

O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

 

Scripture Readings-

Isaiah 60: 1-7;    Matthew 2: 1-12

 

Prayer of Confession- 

Loving God, sometimes we wish the path ahead was easy and clear. After a complicated 2020, where unanticipated complexities brought anxiety and suffering, we long for the new year to bring relief and renewal.
We know you are in the suffering, although so often we prefer to ignore your presence. We know you are the light in the darkness, yet we prefer the darkness be vanquished entirely.

In this new year, centre us in your hope for the path ahead. Renew our faith that we may know revelations of your love, no matter what the journey brings. The year past demanded flexibility, adaptability and grace, sometimes in ways we did not wish to offer. In this new year, grant us courage, should the journey require us to take another road.

The year past brought turmoil in every sphere of living. Help us to pause at the opening of this new year, to encounter you through the Christ Child, to wonder at the gifts you offer, and listen for your guiding voice.

Eternal God, following only a star, the Magi of old left their families to find a child whose birth they believed was so profound it was proclaimed in the heavens above.

We do not always acknowledge the many ways you lead us and reach out to us.

When we would rather sit comfortably in our homes than make a spiritual journey even to the church, stir us and send us on our way.

Forgive our past complacency and limited living of your kingdom ways.

Open our closed hearts and minds to see those in need this year so that the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh are not the only gifts for the Christ who brings light and life to the world. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

 

Words of Assurance

The power that brought light and salvation for the people of Israel so long ago, is still at work in our world. Forgiveness is ours to receive from the Son of the Father who loves us so dearly.

Thanks be to God.

 

Sermon – The Wise still seek Him

Did you get to see the special coming together of Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky just before Christmas on 21st December? It was advertised as a very special event not seen since 1226 and even dubbed ‘the Christmas star.’ I saw a fairly bright star, slightly larger than the normal, but nothing like what we expect of the Christmas star. Astronomers have tried to suggest that star of the Nativity was a conjunction of three stars, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars as in 6 BCE or a comet, but their dates all differ and no one can find the historical star – so maybe it is time to stop looking, or trying to explain it, and just focus on the spiritual imagery and light it brings us. The truth of Epiphany extends well beyond the star story. This was no short flash of insight or revelation as our society normally understands the word ‘epiphany’, but a significant journey seeking truth and wisdom that would transform lives.

Now did you get what you wanted for Christmas? What special surprises were there for you or your family? As adults we know we will not get all we ask for – be it from God or other people. Yet sometimes God surprises us with something better than what we asked for. Matthew’s version of the birth of Jesus has many surprises – for Joseph, in the special conception for Mary of a baby boy Joseph is told to call Jesus because ‘he will save his people from their sins.’ The long genealogy connecting Joseph to King David seems wasted as the son to be born is not his biological one.

King Herod gets a surprise visit from magi – wise men from the east. Scholars tell us the magi emerged within the nation of the Medes around 7 BCE. They were priests offering sacrifices and interpreting dreams so were useful for kings as their political advisors. They survived through the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman empires but by 5 BCE in the western world, the word ‘magi’ was associated with sorcery, similar to our word ‘magic’. In the East, in Persia or Iran, however, magi were known for their work in astrology and astronomy. They saw signs in the heavens and were respected for their scholarship in interpreting and studying phenomena.

So Matthew’s gospel tells us a visit to Israel to pay homage to a new king born to the Jews. Herod gets more than a surprise – he is shocked – and so are the religious leaders as the evangelist Matthew ties this birth of Jesus to ancient Hebrew prophecies. Our readings from Isaiah in Advent, pointed to the coming salvation and relief from Exile for the people of Israel and the promise of a Messiah – wonderful Counsellor, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel – God with us. In Isaiah 60, we see the challenge to the returned exiles living in the ruined Jerusalem to “Arise and Shine” for God’s glory is coming to them. Get up and look around to see what God is doing. Be surprised and joyful that your children are coming home – but look further and see that instead of nations invading you and taking off your wealth, they are bringing their wealth to you – gold and incense and animals to sacrifice to God in your temple. Great caravans of camels are coming from all over. Other nations are in the dark, but God’s light has shone on you.

The reversal of despair after years of oppression and destruction is proclaimed by Isaiah and believed to be happening 5 centuries later by the evangelist Matthew in the miraculous birth of Jesus. He tells of those foreigners coming with gifts of gold and incense for this new king of the Jews. There are no animals for sacrifice because the new king is the Lamb of God who will be sacrificed and so myrrh to embalm his body is given. Matthew has no camels but because they are mentioned by Isaiah, our Christmas scenes have the wise men travel on them.

Would this prophecy of light and joy and hope have been a surprise to the despairing people in Jerusalem in the 530’s BCE or first century CE Palestine? Is it a surprise for us in 2021 to hear it again – ‘Arise and shine for the glory for the Lord is upon YOU’. You are witnesses to God’s glorious actions and saving grace. What are you going to do about it?

The epiphany of Christ did not just happen to the wise men when they found the Christ child and his mother. Their entire experience was epiphany from the observation of that new star, to the searching for its meaning. Prof. Bill Loader explains in “The Christmas Stories” p. 23 (JBCE) that Jupiter was a symbol of world leadership and Saturn, a symbol of Syria and Palestine, so Parthian astrology saw a new world ruler born among the Hebrews. Their epiphany continued as they followed the star on the long journey to Bethlehem, finding the current king Herod ignorant of the new ruler in Jerusalem, and then offering those special gifts – useless to a baby but full of symbolism for the Christ child. Their epiphany continued as they heard the angel’s message for them to change plans and go home another way. Are you open to changing your plans this year? Have you found the Christ – the true ruler of the world – and will you obey his directions?

In the early church community for whom Matthew wrote his gospel, both Jews and Gentiles had found the Christ, the Messiah, God with us, in the person of Jesus. Does this Epiphany, this celebration of the manifestation or revelation of God’s new Way for relationship with humanity, bring you the light and hope you need to overcome the despair and fear of what 2020 brought to our planet – from destructive bushfires, to cyclones and floods, to Covid 19 pandemic with economic and medical disasters world-wide, to democratic collapses and political failures of leadership, to loss of jobs and educational opportunities disrupted?

God’s light is and will shine on us.  We have many stories of God’s goodness towards us in 2020, along with the disasters. We choose to remember the ancient promises of God were fulfilled in the baby Jesus who has saved his people from the sin which separates us from God’s love and peace. We choose to remember we are forgiven and offered new life and new hope for 2021. So, ‘Arise and Shine’ and witness to that Light which penetrates the deepest darkness in our world.

 

HYMN— TIS 314 As with gladness

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 Lord, may we evermore your glory see.                      Verse 1

 

As with joyful steps they sped, Saviour, to your lowly bed,

there to bend the knee before one whom heaven and earth adore:

so may we with willing feet ever seek your mercy seat.                            Verse 2

 

As they offered gifts most rare at your cradle rough and bare:

so may we with holy joy, pure, and free from sin’s alloy,

all our costliest treasures bring, Christ, to you, our heavenly King.         Verse 3

 

Holy Jesus, every 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 your glory hide.       Verse 4

 

In the heavenly country bright need they no created light:

you its light, its joy, its crown, you its sun which goes not down.

There for ever may we sing hallelujahs to our King.                                    Verse 5

 

Offering-

  1. A) Cheques to be made out to ‘St Lucia UCA Parish account’ and posted to 7 Hawken Dr, St Lucia Qld. 4067, please. OR
  2. B) direct deposit to ‘St Lucia Uniting Church’ BSB: 334 040 acct#: 553 842 259 (St George Bank)

Prayers for others

God who journeys with us, this day we pray for people and places that seek light. In places of darkness, may the assurance of your light be proclaimed, that still, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.

We lift before you those whose burden is heavy, those who are oppressed by tyrants and the powerful. Bring your justice, God of peace. May we hear your call to solidarity.(Pause)

We lift before you those who are poor and do not have enough to eat. Bring your justice, God of generosity. May we hear your call for equity.(Pause)

We lift before you those who suffer in body, mind and spirit. Bring your presence, God of healing. May we hear your call to care.(Pause)

In the silence, we take time to name those whose challenges we know well, and whose needs we feel acutely. For our friends, families, community we pray… (pause)

Holy God, receive our prayers and shape our living, that we may be bearers of your light and respond to those places of need in our world. Amen.

 

HYMN- TIS 281 When God Almighty came CCLI Song # 3574353 Michael Edward Hewlett © Stainer & Bell Ltd CCLI License # 217268

When God almighty came to be one of us, masking the glory of his golden train, dozens of plain things shared the experience, and they will never be the same again.

Sing all you midwives, dance all the carpenters, sing all the publicans and shepherds too, God in his mercy uses the commonplace, God on his birthday had a need of you.                                                                                                                                                        Verse 1

 

Splendour of Rome and Local Authority, working on policy with furrowed head,

joined to locate the Messiah’s nativity just where the prophets had already said.

Sing all you tax-men, dance the Commissioners, sing public servants and policemen too, God to his purpose uses the governments, God at his coming had a need of you.                                                                                                                                                                Verse 2

 

Wise men, they called them, earnest astrologers, watching for meaning in the moving stars,

science or fancy learned or laughable, theirs was a vision that was brought to pass.                                                                                                                                                                                                     Verse 3

Sing all you wise men, dance all the scientists, whether your theories are false or true, God uses knowledge. God uses ignorance, God at his coming had a need of you.

 

Sing all creation, made for his purposes, called by his providence to live and move: none is unwanted, none insignificant, Love needs a universe of folk to love:

young men and maidens, old men and children, black ones and coloured ones and white ones too, God at his coming, and to eternity, God took upon himself the needs of you.                                                                                                                                                  Verse 4

 

Sacrament of Holy Communion

Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him,

who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.

 

Be present, risen Lord Jesus, as you were with your disciples,

and make yourself known to us in the breaking of the bread;

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

The Lord be with you.  And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.  We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to God.  It is right to give our thanks and praise.

 

Thanks and praise, glory and honour are rightly yours, our Lord and God, for you alone are worthy. In you, the hope for our redemption was born, and in Christ Jesus, it is accomplished. By your Spirit, keep us in that faith until your kingdom comes in glory. And so, with all the faithful of every time and place, we join with choirs of angels in the eternal hymn:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.  Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the lord. Hosanna in the highest.

 

We thank you Loving God, for these gifts of your creation – this bread and wine – and pray that we who eat and drink them in obedience to our Saviour Christ, may be partakers in his body and blood, and be made one with him and with one another, in peace and love.

We remember how on the night of his betrayal, Jesus took bread, and broke it saying:

“Take, eat, all of you.  This is my body given for you.

Whenever you eat it, do so in remembrance of me.”

After supper, he took the cup, and again giving you thanks, gave it to his disciples saying: “This is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for the forgiveness of sins and the healing of the world. Whenever you drink it,

do so in remembrance of me.”

And so, in remembrance of your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Pour out your Holy Spirit on us, and on these gifts of bread and wine.

Make them be for us, the body and blood of Christ, that we may be one in Christ, and one in ministry in the world, as we pray together:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen

 

Breaking the bread

The bread we break is a sharing in the Body of Christ.

The cup we take is a sharing in the blood of Christ.

God’s gifts for God’s people.

Jesus, Lamb of God,  have mercy on us.

Jesus, bearer of our sins,  have mercy on us.

Jesus, redeemer of the world,  grant us your peace.

 

The Distribution (eating and drinking the bread and wine)

The life of Christ, living in you.

The love of Christ, flowing through you.

 

Prayer after Communion

This has been no ordinary meal. It has been one in which we have been fed and nourished with the life of Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord. May we go from here, refreshed and eager to share that life with others. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

 

Hymn    TIS 301 The first Nowell

1.The first nowell the angel did say was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay, in fields where they lay keeping their sheep on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell, born is the king of Israel.                        Verse 1 & refrain

 

When they looked up, they saw a star shining in the east, beyond them far, and to the earth it gave great light and so it continued both day and night.

Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell, born is the king of Israel.  Verse 2 & refrain

 

And by the light of that same star three wise men came from country far;

to seek for a king was their intent, and to follow the star wherever it went.

Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell, born is the king of Israel. Verse 3 & refrain

 

This star drew nigh to the north-west; over Bethlehem it took its rest,

and there it did both stop and stay right over the place where Jesus lay.

Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell, born is the king of Israel. Verse 4 & refrain

 

Then entered in those wise men three and reverently, upon their knee,

they offered there in his presence their gold and myrrh and frankincense.

Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell, born is the king of Israel. Verse 5 & refrain

 

Now let us all with one accord sing praises to our heavenly Lord,

who has made heaven and earth from naught, and with his blood salvation brought.

Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell, born is the king of Israel. Verse 6 & refrain

 

Benediction-

Go forth as a light to the nations.

We go following the star of Christ’s birth.

Go forth as a people of blessing.

We go proclaiming hope to the poor and needy.

Go forth as a light in your community.

We go with God’s blessings for all.

 

May the Feet of God TIS 779

May the feet of God walk with you, and his hand hold you tight.

May the eye of God rest on you, and his ear hear your cry.

May the smile of God be for you, and his breath give you life.

May the Child of God grow in you, and his love bring you home.

© A.W. Podlich/Robin Mann. Used with permission CCLI Licence #217268

 

Resources used in this service include Words for Worship year A 3rd January by MediaCom (subscription of Rev Dr Elizabeth Nolan) and The Abingdon Worship Annual 2021 edited by Mary Scifres and B.J. Beu, Abingdon Press, Nashville USA (owned by EN);  gathering Pentecost Year A 2021, United Church of Canada (EN subscription); and Uniting in Worship People’s Book by Uniting Church Press (JBCE) 1988 Melbourne and The Australian Hymn Book multiple copies owned by the St Lucia Uniting Church congregation. Copyright license #217268.

 

 

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