1ST JANUARY 2023
OPENING SENTENCE OF SCRIPTURE
Praise, O praise the name of the Lord
Let us pray
Glory to the Father, the God of love, who created us;
who continually preserves and sustains us;
who has loved us with an everlasting love,
and given us the light of the knowledge of his Glory,
in the face of Jesus Christ
Blessed be God for ever.
Glory to Jesus Christ our Saviour,
who, though he was rich, yet for our sake became poor,
and was tested in every way as we are, yet without sin;
who proclaimed the good news of the kingdom,
and was obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross;
who was raised from the dead and is alive for ever,
and has opened the Kingdom of Heaven
to all who trust in Him:
who is seated at God’s right hand in glory,
and will come to be our judge.
Blessed be God for ever.
Glory to the Holy Spirit
the Lord the giver of life
by whom we are born into the family of God,
and made members of the Body of Christ;
who witness confirms us,
whose wisdom teaches us,
whose power enable us,
who will do for us more than we ask or think.
Blessed be God for ever.
To the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be praise and glory for ever. Amen
sung by Sue Turner
God of grace
through the mediation of your Son
you call us into a new covenant.
Help us therefore to draw near with faith
and join ourselves in a perpetual covenant with you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
A reading from the law Deuteronomy 6:5
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
For the wisdom that guides us
we praise you O God.
Reading from the prophets
read by Mark Toner
God’s Mercy Remembered
I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord,
the praiseworthy acts of the Lord,
because of all that the Lord has done for us
and the great favour to the house of Israel
that he has shown them according to his mercy,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
For he said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will not act deceitfully,”
and he became their saviour
in all their distress.
It was no messenger or angel
but his presence that saved them;
in his love and pity it was he who redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
For the word that inspires us
we praise you O God
A reading from the Epistles
read by Kate Lidwell
It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying,
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
And again, “I will put my trust in him.”
And again, “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.”
Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear, that he did not come to help angels but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
For the truth that enlightens us
we praise you O God.
MATTHEW 2: 13-23
read by Reverend Janice Aiton
Hear the Holy Gospel of Christ according to St Matthew chapter 2 beginning at verse 13
Glory to Christ our Saviour
The Escape to Egypt
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
The Massacre of the Infants
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the magi. Then what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
The Return from Egypt
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazarene.”
This is the Gospel of Christ
Praise to Christ our Lord.
A Happy New Year to you all! I hope this year is kind to you and you are greatly blessed. I love it when the first of January, falls on a Sunday, and we can come together to worship and renew our covenant with God. New Year is traditionally seen as a great opportunity to ring some changes, embark on new things, and set new life goals. Some people make New Year Resolutions, that’s not really my thing but that being said I do set myself new life goals and challenges, spiritually, socially as well as physically and mentally. For me the New Year is a time of reflection and thanksgiving for the good that has happened in the past year. It is also a time of anticipation and longing for what blessings might lie ahead. Some of my friends do not stay up and celebrate the New Year. They don’t like the uncertainty of it all and there is also a sense of trepidation and apprehension in what the year might hold.
I suspect that we can all understand this trepidation and apprehension for our news is full of doom and gloom, with rail and postal strikes, hospitals struggling, discontent in many professions and the continuing cost of living crisis and soaring energy prices. It seems dark, and no matter what we might hope for this year we cannot deny the darkness around us at present.
Our gospel reading echoes this doom and gloom. We have Joseph being told in a dream that he is to take Jesus to Egypt to escape the murderous plans of King Herod. King Herod was not someone you would want to cross. He was ruthless. People were dispensable to Herod. He was a tyrant who was power hungry, power driven and completely self- absorbed. He never felt his position was secure and was known for his paranoia and brutality. He even had his favourite wife and some of his sons murdered when he suspected them of treachery. He decreed that forty Jewish nobles should be brought to Jericho to be killed when he died, so that there would be abundant mourning throughout the land at his death. Thankfully his son, who succeeded him, did not carry out this final wish.
In our reading we are told that Herod died, but sadly Herod lives on in other people. There are world leaders out there in 2023, who control their people, dictating to them when they can heat their homes, what they can say, how they can voice their views, what information they can have access to. Putin would be a name that springs to my mind, described by the Guardian newspaper as “a deranged and unpredictable adversary.” He is a power hungry and power- driven despot, whose purpose was to make Russia a great power but ironically by his efforts and designs has done the opposite. He is like Herod insecure in his position and ruthless in his censoring and killing of those who oppose him.
Putin resembles Herod in so many ways. Herod’s cruelty knew no bounds. He killed innocent children to protect his reign. They reckon it was about twenty children under two years of age that he robbed of life. He didn’t care about preserving the lives of others, he was only concerned about his own life. Putin’s cruelty knows no bounds. He has killed countless people and targeted innocent Ukrainian children in schools and hospitals. His lust for power has led to his loss of perspective and his lack of morality and justice. His cruelty has destroyed so many lives and has caused 8 million to become refugees.
It is hard to imagine the life of a refugee, who has fled their country for safety and protection, only to find themselves living in situations that are far from ideal and lost in a foreign land with different mores and language. The trauma of the violence accompanying war and the disorienting separation from loved ones requires emotional and psychological support.
We cannot comprehend the distress those from Ukraine and other countries are enduring, however Jesus can relate. He himself was a refugee, and he would remember, although he was very young at the time, of being uprooted and forced to live in a different country. I am sure Mary and Joseph filled in the blanks for Jesus.
Joseph must have told him of his dream, instructing him to go to Egypt. Joseph is revealed as a man in whom the subconscious is uncluttered and unobstructed. It is a fluent channel. Once the message came to Joseph he did not hesitate. He does not question nor ponder; his action is immediate and he sets off through the night to find a place of safety. Jesus is dispossessed of his place within the land of his birth. Here we have the baby who was to be the Saviour having himself to be saved. I often wonder if the gifts the wisemen brought the holy family were God’s provision for the holy family in their time of exile.
Matthew does not conceal from us the fact that the Son of God is born into a world where things go wrong, not just by accident, or casual error but by viciousness, violence and cruelty. Matthew does not deal here with theodicy, why did God allow the suffering of the innocents, rather he sees the death of the children as a matter of grief. He offers no answers or explanations. He has no neat solution. He knows that some of the most powerful psalms are songs of lament, for the people of God are placed in a harsh and cruel world. Jesus fled to Egypt and then to Nazareth- a no-man’s land! Matthew is at pains to point out that all this was prophesied and fulfilled. The movement of Jesus was not a movement which started from the centre and sent ripples to the edge, rather it started on the edge in Nazareth and moved to the centre. There is nothing sentimental about Matthew’s story-it’s real life.
It’s interesting that Matthew’s story comes today, comes before the arrival of the wisemen. Chronologically, the story goes like this: Jesus is born; the wisemen visit; the holy family flees to Egypt but we hear the story out of order Jesus is born: the holy family flee to Egypt; the wisemen visit. Why would the church ask us to hear this story out of order? Some of it admittedly is just the way the calendar falls this year but I think there is more to it than that! To hear the story out of order jars us and makes us think and pay attention to what God might be saying. Certainly, he is calling us today to be a voice for peace, justice, and grace. He is calling us to challenge the way things are in the world, to stand against evil when we see it, (remembering Edmund Burke’s words: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”) to be the presence of God for those who suffer violence and abuse, to let them know that God is with us, Emmanuel.
Already, on our first Sunday after Christmas, we are reminded of the need for Christ’s birth among us, into this world of doom and gloom. We are reminded that we are not alone and helpless in this world for Christ’s light scatters the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. As God the Father protected and guided Jesus, so he can do so for us as we lean and like Joseph trust in him.
To the eyes of the world at the time it looked as though God was not hearing their cries for help and had forgotten them, nothing could have been further from the truth. God was working quietly and unobtrusively in the life of Jesus, and was bringing his plans of hope and salvation to fruition. God is quietly and unobtrusively at work in our world today. He is still bringing to fruition his plans and purposes, for those who have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to respond.
So, whatever this New Year holds for us, it holds this promise that God is with us. He has great plans for us and he is there to guide and help us. His Holy Spirit will speak to us and nudge us in the right paths. Christ’s light will scatter the darkness, the fear, doom and gloom around us and offer us hope, inner peace and inner joy. This Sunday after Christmas we are reminded lest we forget that Love came down at Christmas and that love of Christ is still present and there for us all. That love is greater than cruelty. That love endures and conquers all fear and gloom. That love will sustain and carry us through 2023, and that love will touch and bless us in so many ways. Amen
God made a Covenant with the people of Israel,
calling them to be a holy nation, chosen to bear witness
to his steadfast love by finding delight in the law.
The Covenant was renewed in Jesus Christ our Lord,
in his life, work, death and resurrection.
In him all people may be set free from sin and its power
and united in love and obedience.
In this Covenant God promises us new life in Christ.
For our part, we promise to live no longer for ourselves,
but for God.
We meet, therefore, as generations have met before us,
to renew the covenant which bound them and binds us to God.
Let us then seek forgiveness,
for the sin by which
we have denied God’s claim upon us.
Let us pray
God of mercy, hear us as we confess our sins,
for the sins that has made us slow to learn from Christ,
reluctant to follow him and afraid to bear the cross:
Lord have mercy
For the sin that has caused us the poverty of our worship,
the formality and selfishness of our prayers,
our neglect of fellowship and the means of grace,
and our hesitating witness for Christ:
Lord have mercy
For the sin that has led us to waste time,
misuse our gifts,
evade our responsibilities,
and fail to be good stewards of your creation:
Lord have mercy,
For the sin that has made us unwilling
to overcome evil with good,
tolerant of injustice,
quick to condemn
and selfish in sharing your love with others:
Lord have mercy
Have mercy on me O God,
in your constant love
in the fullness of your mercy
blot out my offences.
Wash away my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.
Create in me a clean heart O God
and renew a right spirit within me.
Give me the joy of your help again.
and strengthen me with a willing spirit.
The presiding minster says:
If we confess our sins
God is faithful and just
and will forgive our sins
and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Therefore to all, who truly repent
this is his gracious word:
your sins are forgiven. Amen. Thanks be to God.
The presiding minster says:
Sisters and brothers in Christ
Let us again accept our place within this Covenant,
which God has made with us and with all who are
called to be Christ’s disciples.
This means that, by the help of the Holy Spirit,
we accept God’s purpose for us,
and the call to love and serve God
in all our life and work.
Christ has many services to be done,
some are easy, others are difficult;
some bring honour, others bring reproach;
some are suitable to our natural inclinations
and material interests,
others are contrary to both:
in some we may please Christ and please ourselves,
in others we cannot please Christ
except by denying ourselves.
Yet the power to do all these things
is given to us in Christ,
who strengthens us.
Therefore, let us make this Covenant of God our own.
Let us give ourselves to him,
trusting in his promises and relying on his grace.
Eternal God, in your faithful and enduring love
you call us to share
in your gracious Covenant in Jesus Christ.
In obedience we hear and accept your commands,
in love we seek to do your perfect will,
with joy we offer ourselves anew to you.
We are no longer our own but yours.
I am no longer my own but yours.
your will, not mine, be done in all things,
wherever you may place me,
in all that I do and in all that I may endure;
where there is work for me and when there is none;
when I am troubled and when I am at peace.
Your will be done when I am valued
and when I am disregarded;
when I find fulfilment and when it is lacking;
when I have all things, and when I have nothing.
I willingly offer all I have and am to serve you,
as and where you choose.
Glorious and blessed God
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
You are mine and I am yours.
May it be so for ever.
Let this covenant now made on earth
be fulfilled in heaven. Amen.
As we have entered this covenant not for ourselves alone
but as God’s servants and witnesses,
let us pray for the Church and the world.
Loving God, hear us as we pray for your holy catholic Church:
make us all one, that the world might believe.
Inspire and lead all who govern and hold authority
in the nations of the world:
establish justice and peace among all people.
Have compassion on all who suffer from any sickness,
grief or trouble:
deliver them from their distress.
We praise you for all your saints
who have entered eternal glory
bring us all to share in your heavenly kingdom.
Let us pray in silence for our own needs and for those of others…..
Lord our God,
you have helped us by your grace to make these prayers,
and you have promised through Jesus Christ our Lord
that when two or three agree in his name
you will grant what they ask.
Answer now your servant’s prayers according to their needs;
in this world that we may truly know you,
and in the world to come
graciously give us eternal life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Christ the Son of God,
gladden your hearts
with the good news of his kingdom
and the blessing of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be upon you and remain with you for ever. Amen
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ. Amen