Thursday, 3 February 2011

2nd February 2011

Sunday, 2 January, 2011.


Ashgrove West Uniting Church

CALL TO WORSHIP: Isaiah 60:1-6 Responsive.

HYMN Together in Song 291 Earth has many a noble city


Holy God

as we take down the tinsel and pack away the decorations for another year....

as we clear away the wrapping paper

and finish off the cake...

We thank you for the Christmas we have celebrated,

we thank you we have had enough to eat and drink,

we thank you that we have had friends and family to celebrate with,

we thank you for the excitement of children and the joy they share,

we thank you for cards and letters and emails bringing news of friends and family,

but we thank you most of all for your gift to us – for Jesus, coming into this world to share our lives.

As the Christmas things are put aside,

we recall the people who've been put aside,

just as Jesus, Mary and Joseph were that first Christmas.

We confess that as a world,

as a nation,
as a community,
we have let another Christmas go by
and many have not had enough to eat and drink
and many have been alone and lonely
and many have felt despair instead of anticipation
and many will never know what may have happened to loved ones far away
and many do not know your gift of Jesus for them.

Forgive us, we pray,
Help us to work to change what is wrong
in our own lives -
and also in your world.
In Jesus' name we pray.



HYMN Together in Song 301 The first Nowell


Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

“This is the Word of the Lord” Thanks be to God


Today we're looking at the readings for Epiphany – January 6th, the twelth day of Christmas. It's the day we remember the visit of the wise men.

Let's recap the story so far:

Mary snickered when an angel told her she was going to have a baby. She was a virgin. She couldn't have a baby – but since the angel assured her this was God's plan, she agreed to do whatever God required of her. (Picture: Snickers bar)

Joseph found himself in a twirl over this news. He thought about calling the wedding off quietly, divorcing her, trying to avoid disgrace for her and for his family as well. (Picture: Twirl bar)

But Joseph was a good man, no-one was kinder than him. (Picture: Kinder chocolate)

When God advised Joseph that the baby was part of his plan for the salvation of the whole human race, he also agreed.

As the time for the birth drew close, the Emperor called a census.

Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem. It was a long journey, and a rocky road. They were tired when they finally arrived. There was nowhere for them to stay, and that night Mary's baby was born. (Picture Rocky Road bar)

Surrounded by furry friends, Mary and Joseph watched over the homeless baby who slept in a manger. (Picture: Furry Friends bars)

Shepherds working in the fields that night, were taking some time out, when an angel came and announced to them that the baby, God's messiah, was born in Bethlehem. (Picture: Time Out bar)

The shepherds rushed to see the baby, and left rejoicing, telling everyone what wondrous things God had done.

This brings us up to today's part of the story.

Off in the country of Iran, there lived a group of maji. They were holy men of the Zoroastrian religion, not people who studied the Hebrew Scriptures at all. But they were a group of smarties, and they regularly studied the stars. (Picture: packet of Smarties)

One night as they looked up at the Milky Way, they noticed something different! (Picture: Milky Way bar)

Was it the planet Mars? No. It was an entirely new star. For them it mean the birth of a new, a very powerful and important king. They decided to follow the star's guidance, and go and see for themselves. (Picture: Mars bar)

They gathered together gold and other fabulous gifts and set off for the land of Israel. Thinking to find a king in a palace, they went to the palace in Jerusalem, and met with King Herod. (Picture: Golden Rough)

Herod was a snake. He told the maji that he wanted to worship the baby king, and they should tell him where they found the baby. His own wise scholars sent the maji to Bethlehem, where the Hebrew Scriptures said the messiah would be born. (Picture: packet of Snakes)

Despite what he'd said, that snake Herod was only interested in protecting his crown from any possible competition.

He planned to kill baby king.(Picture: packet of Crown Mints)

Following the advice given at the palace, the maji found baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. They gave him their bounty of wonderful gifts. (Picture: Bounty Bar)

God warned the maji that Herod was up to some evil twix and they returned to their own country by another route. (Picture: Twix bar)

When Herod eventually realized the maji weren't coming back, he was furious. His plan to kill this one baby thensnowballed. (Picture Snowballs)

You see, Herod was such a flake, he thought he could defeat God's plan. He thought he had a foolproof way of getting rid of the new baby king. (Picture Flake)

Herod planned to kill all of the babies in Bethlehem, everyone up to two years of age – working on when the maji had said the star appeared!
If he killed all the babies, surely, he thought, that would include the infant king. (Picture Jelly Babies)

God was much, much smarter than Herod.

God warned Joseph that life would be no picnic if the family stayed in town. So Joseph took Mary and baby Jesus and fled to Egypt. (Picture Picnic bar)

God could have just sent us love notes to tell us how much he cared. Instead, he sent his son Jesus, to be one of us. And not to be a privileged king in a palace, but to live like the poorest of us, even to be a refugee running to a foreign land so as not to be killed by a politician bent on keeping his power. (Picture: Love Notes)

And God sent Jesus for all sorts of people. From the ordinary poor workers, like the shepherds, to people who had a different culture and even religion like the maji, to you and me, to people in the church today and people outside the church today. Nobody misses out! (Picture: Licorice All Sorts)

God sent Jesus to be a life saver for all of us – to save us from all the things that keep us apart from God.(Picture Lifesavers)

So this year, as we put away the tree and the decorations, and scrunch up the wrapping paper for the recycle bin, and promise to begin the new year with a new diet or giving up a bad habit or in some other way becoming a generally better person, let's remember the wonder of this season. God loved the world – the whole world – not just people 2000 years ago, but us today as well; not just rich people in the western world, but people struggling with poverty; not just those who are so used to freedom we take it for granted, but those who risk their lives to run from oppression as refugees. God loved this whole, crazy, messed up, world enough to want to be a part of it – a part of us. Sweet huh?

HYMN Together in Song 293 Unto us a boy is born!




Merciful God

we pray for your world

at the dawning of another year

May this new year

be better than the past.

May you guide your world to peace

May you guide your world to compassion

As the maji followed the star

may we follow the light of your love

to peace, hope, joy and faith

in this new year

In Jesus' name, we pray, and we use his words....


HYMN Together in Song 314 AS with gladness men of old



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