Jan 102021
 
Tavistock Circuit – At Home Service 10th January 2021

Prepared by Rene Chambers

Call to worship: O Come all ye faithful, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

We come separated, but united in Spirit, to worship, give thanks and praise to our heavenly Father to whom all glory and honour is due.

Introduction: While out walking with my little dog one day last week in the snow and ice –I was not enjoying my walk one bit – I thought of the words of the carol “In the bleak midwinter” and couldn’t help pondering on just how bleak a winter it has been this year and continues to be. When I thought about the sorrow and suffering, the loneliness and isolation, the fear and anxiety, the restrictions and confusion, the dark, cold evenings, this winter seemed very bleak indeed. But the carol, though it begins sombrely ends with great hope and joy and I was encouraged. Let’s sing :

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter, a stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim worship night and day,
A breastful of milk and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him whom angels fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air,
But only His mother in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man I would do my part,
Yet what can I give Him, give my heart.

Let’s come before the Lord in prayer:
Lord, we come in all our weakness and poverty of spirit to you in all your greatness and power, the created before the creator, and humbly bring our praise and worship. We know we are not worthy for you to even consider us yet you love and cherish each one and provide for us most abundantly. We know that we go astray and fall short of how you would like us to be in this world and for that, we ask your forgiveness. Give us hope, patience, protection and strength in this very difficult time. In Jesus precious name. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer 

Reading: Please turn to your Bibles and read Matt 2:1 – 11

My son and I saw another natural phenomenon, about 2 weeks ago, “The Great Conjunction”, which brought to mind another carol. I wonder how many of you witnessed this just a few days before Christmas, when the planets of Jupiter and Saturn passed each other very closely and were very bright in the sky. It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it did just a few days ago, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this “great conjunction.”
Some call this “The Christmas Star” as it is thought that this may have been what happened 2000 years ago around the time of the birth of Jesus. Whether it was or not, we will never know, but it seemed a timely reminder of the star which guided the Three Wise Men in their quest to find the baby Jesus.

Let us sing: The First Nowell.

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.

They lookèd up and 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.

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.

This star drew nigh to the north-west:
o’er 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.

Then entered in those wise men three,
full reverently upon their knee,
and offered there, in his presence,
their gold and myrrh and frankincense.
Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell,
born is the King of Israel.

Then let us all with one accord
sing praises to our heavenly Lord
who hath made heaven and earth of nought,
and with his blood mankind hath bought.
Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell,
born is the King of Israel.

Reflection
In Spain, Dia de los Reyes, or Three Kings Day, is celebrated on January 5th each year with colourful parades, sometimes with camels or with mechanised floats re-enacting the arrival of the three kings to worship the baby Jesus. Then Spanish children excitedly hurry home to make sure they are asleep before the kings come and leave gifts in their shoes. So much of the Christian story is about giving, not only of presents and money, but of love, hearts, sacrifice and care. One thing that has been remarkable in this pandemic is the selfless care given and sacrifices made by health and care workers – it has been truly amazing. The heart of the story is that Christ gave His life for us. In the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 15:20 Pauls refers to Christ as the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep”. Jesus Christ was God’s first fruits, His one and only son, the best humanity had to offer. God gave Jesus, who was raised from the dead, up for us. The carol we sang earlier asks “what can we give?” and the answer, “Give my heart”.

The other day I read the story in Genesis 4, about Cain and Abel, a story which prompts us to ask ourselves, Am I a Cain or an Abel? Do I give willingly, openly of my very best, of the first fruits, or do I give reluctantly, out of a sense of duty and with a clenched fist? I was challenged too, because for years I had given God the first fruits of my day in reading the Bible and in prayer but inadvertently, due to a change of circumstances and routine, I had let the habit slip. My time with God had become rather haphazard. Giving our first fruits means giving our best to God, something that costs, putting God first, prioritising.

Many of us at the beginning of a New Year make resolutions for a fresh start. Many of us decide to lose weight after overindulging at Christmas, or we enrol in a gym – not an option yet this year. This year, mine, is to reorganise my schedule so that once again I can give God the first slot of my day, to give Him my first fruits. It does mean getting up a bit earlier but I know it will be worth it. And I’ve decided to read through the Bible again from start to finish. If I read 3 or 4 chapters a day I should complete it in a year. How about joining me? I’m sure it will be a great help in getting us through this lockdown.

Yes.. “the lockdown”..again. Unsurprisingly the word “lockdown” was named word of the year by Collins dictionary in 2020. It’s a grim start to the year but I was encouraged by January 1 entry in
my devotional.

11 But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven, 12 a land that the LORD your God cares for. The eyes of the LORD your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. Deut.11:11-12

It’s a reminder that there will always be hills and valleys in life but the new year lies before us and we are going to possess it. God cares about our lives and will provide all our needs. His love and provision is a stream that never runs dry. His light will guide us through just as the Christmas star guided the Magi to the Saviour. As stars shine brightest in the darkest skies, may our lives shine brightly at this dark time.

Poem

He leads us on by paths we did not know;
Upward He leads us , though our steps be slow.
Though oft we faint and falter on the way,
Though storms and darkness oft obscure the day;
Yet when the clouds are gone, We know He leads us on.

He leads us on through all the unquiet years;
Past all our dreamland hopes, and doubts and fears,
He guides our steps through all the tangled maze
Of losses, sorrows, and o’er clouded days;
We know His will is done; And still He leads us on.

– N L Zinzendorf

Prayers
Heavenly Father we thank you that your eyes are always upon us from the beginning of the year even until the end of the year. Look now, with mercy, upon your troubled and needy world.

We lift to you all those suffering from COVID-19 and all other diseases. We pray for healing for them, for capacity in our hospitals to cope with the rising numbers, for strength and endurance for those caring for them.

We pray for all those grieving the loss of loved ones, may they know your comfort and that you are close to them.

As we enter lockdown again we give thanks for our warm and comfortable homes but remember those who have no homes and those who are spending a cold winter in makeshift shelters in refugee camps and we lift them to you.

We pray for all those who find lockdown difficult emotionally, who are feeling isolated and lonely. May they know you presence and strength.

We pray too for those fearful of losing their livelihoods and those who have done so already. May they know your provision.

We pray for all young people whose education is being disrupted and who may be fearful about their futures. May they know your peace.

Take a few moments now to pray for those known to you who are suffering in any way.

We ask these things in the precious name of Jesus.

Our final hymn. As with gladness, men of old.

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 splendour see.

As with joyful steps they sped
Saviour, to your lowly bed,
there to bend the knee before
you, whom heaven and earth adore:
so with ever-quickening pace
may we seek your throne of grace.

As they offered gifts most rare
at your cradle plain 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.

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.

In the heavenly city bright
none shall need created light
you, its light, its joy, its crown,
you its sun which goes not down;
there for ever may we sing
alleluias to our king.

Blessing:
Eternal God, by a star you led wise men to the worship of your son.
Guide by your light the nations of the earth,
That the whole world may see your glory;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you; The Lord look upon you with kindness and give you peace. Amen