EPIPHANY—A PLACE FOR EVERYONE
Isaiah 60:1-5, 10-12. Matt.2:1-12
January is the celebration of EPIPHANY the revelation of God’s love-- our EPIPHANY is the birth of Jesus –and the Christmas story tells us there is A PLACE FOR EVEYONE- the very presence of GOD’s love shining on everyone in the world.
****I read a story over the holidays-it was an EPIPHANY for this minister.
He went on to say—“Once I’d been given an acting part in the church Christmas play-it was then I began to understand central message of Christmas Pageant. The main message of the story- there’s PLACE for everyone in the Christmas story. As we were getting ready for our first performance—just before the curtain went up--
A beloved kindergartener appeared on stage-wearing a feathered white swan costume- it stood out in sharp contrast to the gray/brown manger scene.
As the minister, the Director expected me to discourage this little girl from wearing the swan costume. Kneeling down beside the little girl I asked if she wouldn’t she rather be a donkey-sheep or goat.
I’M A SWAN she said. —I tried to explain there where no swans at Jesus’ cradle.
She looked at me with calm conviction.
DON’T YOU THINK SWANS LOVE JESUS TOO?
I TOLD DIRECTOR SWANS ARE IN!!
The minister suddenly realized that the Christmas story is not just about Jesus being born but there is room in God’s inn for everyone including a swan.
In years past, we all attended our Sunday Schools’ Christmas pageant—and we all enjoyed seeing the children from the youngest to the oldest dressed up and playing their part.
I’m sure it brought back memories--- we all wanted to be near the baby --to be Mary or Joseph but first –we were assigned the part of an angel-or a shepherd or one of many animals.—oh to be a Magi–to kneel before the baby Jesus. Finally we got to be one of the Magi or Mary or Joseph near baby Jesus who lay beaming brightly in the cradle. And the flashing of cameras as our parents and grandparents recorded our performance.
When the curtain fell, we all sang “Away in a Manger.” And bow to the applause!
Many of us church goers never get past the beautiful story of baby Jesus in the cradle and all the children on stage. When it is over we go home and wait for another year for the Christmas celebration.
We often miss important modern lessons I think lie within the story that address our situation in the world today.
We might discovered several stories expressing ways God’s light comes to us, a sort of EPIPHANY, each story telling us there is a place and a role for each of us.
So, this morning, I thought it might be a good idea to take another look at the Christmas story and see if there is a message for us today.
Starting with the story of:
Luke 1: 34-38
-- The story of the angel telling MARY, 12-14 year old young girl pregnant with Jesus—and her cousin ELIZABETH 90 years old pregnant with John the Baptist –Mary she will have a baby and her reply caused artists and musicians to capture this moment on canvas and song.
How Mary goes to Elizabeth and console each other. Why had God had chosen them, a young unmarried girl and an old cousin who was beyond her child bearing years.
It’s a message of “impossible becoming possible.” God will use people no matter their age, their gender and even if handicapped physical or mentally; God can and will use you.
We think we’re too young or too old to help out.—or don’t ask me, I’ve been there done that-- maybe it’s a bad ankle or hip . But this scene tells us God will use us regardless of what our stage in life
-we just have to be willing to do what we can!
Then in: Luke 2: 6-7
--The struggle of YOUNG Mary and hubby JOSEPH, expecting their first baby—having to put up with a long journey on a donkey to Bethlehem—having to settle for a smelly, draughty stable to have her baby-just some thin strips of cloth. We wonder how Mary coped with such poor conditions to have her first child.
Doesn’t it remind us of all REFUGEES from mid east countries, who face a similar situation today —travelling in the in the desert, in unfriendly land.-- mothers giving birth in tents.
Are we, the E.U. and West going to turn them away-do we have no room in our inn or will we make room.
Just think, right here in our own valley there could be a young couple, the young mother expecting their first child-father unemployed--living in a one room apartment --getting food from a food bank.
Jesus birth tells us to open our hearts, to search out those in need and make a place at our table.
The Shepherds: Luke 2: 15-18
--Then, there’s the SHEPHERDS, the poor dirt farmers of the day--nomads-following their sheep to good grazing--why are they part of the story— shouldn’t the rich Magi have been the first to pay homage to the baby—never mind the poor shepherds. God seems to give priority to the poor-it goes along with Jesus teaching “that the last shall be first.”
God sends Her Love expecting us to reach out to the poverty stricken –the homeless-drug addicted –they are not be forgotten--they are given a prominent place ,
--. I have been told there are 100 or more homeless people in Valleyfield-- can the church make room for them in our busy lives?--the story tells us God’s love has a special place for the poor-the lonely—the downtrodden—the story tells us we should consider them when we make our budgets and do all we can to help them.
Finally THE MAGII: Matthew 2: 9-11
the amazing story of THE MAGI (some call them Wisemen) The contrast between the Magi’s riches and the “humble cattle stall” We see the Magi coming from countries like Iran, Turkey and Syria,(today’s names) these were scholars coming together to honour baby Jesus.
We see the wealthy Magi sharing their wealth with a poor family who had to bed down with the barn animals.— GOD tells us—“ we are our brother’s keeper” and we must share our very best for those in need. The Magi brought very expensive gifts of gold-frankincense and no shoddy second hand stuff-- but the best.
We are reminded that wealth doesn’t bring happiness but it’s in sharing the blessings God has given us brings happiness..
I’m sure if we reflect on this theme “God has a PLACE FOR EVERYONE.” The question arises “what do we do with all the refugees fleeing the war torn countries.—what about the REFUGEES coming to Canada.
Some of us choke, when we think of the 50,000 how will we ever be able to handle that many. They will over burden our social aid and health systems.
We need to be reminded this is not the first time we have opened our door to others.
The Irish potato famine in 1847, 110,000 (more than double) sick and dying Irish arrived in Quebec City and Montreal, many of them with typhus. 45,000 were sent to Toronto in one summer, double the population of the city. Citizens responded, they built hospitals, sent newcomers to farms, fed them and averted what could have been a disaster.
Protestants had to tame their fears of CATHOLICS, look past differences to help our fellow human beings. Today we must eliminate our fear of MUSLIMS-learn about their culture and recognize all the refugees want peace and security.
We have the experience we have no excuse for not doubling up on the 50,000. Our ancestors did it and Canada became better off for it. So we should learn from our past and look forward to a more diverse, prosperous nation.
On the TV News this week it showed refuggee children sliding in the snow. The look on their faces is enough to melt our hearts knowing we have room in our INN and can give them a better future.
Doesn’t today’s refugee crisis seem “Déja-Vu.”
This is when we Canadians are at our best!
The Christmas Story is an Epiphany-- God is telling us:
There’s- a place for those of different faiths
a place for those who are suffering
a place for those who need healing.
“GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD SHE GAVE HER SON… a son whose light shines on all of us- male and female-young-old-rich-poor-the pensioners-gays-transgender; yes there is a PLACE FOR EVERYONE in his KINGDOM.
CALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
ALL: The earth was barren, with no form of life. It was under a deep ocean and covered with darkness.
ONE: But the Spirit of God was moving over the waters — and God
spoke, saying, "Let there be light." And there was light.
ALL: God saw the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day" and the darkness He called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning
the first day!
PRAYER OF INVOCATION & THE LORD'S PRAYER: Eternal God, when we pause and really consider this wonderful universe in which we live, we cannot help but be filled with great awe. We can feel the force, the Spirit, gather around us and reach out to us. And in the great silence, 0 Lord, Your voice becomes clear to us. Today, in this day that You have made, we pray that we might sense the wonder of who You are and all that You do. We pray that we may bless Your holy name and be united with You in holy love. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, saying; Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.
One of our own has left us, he will be greatly missed.
PRAYER: I would like us this morning, as a congregation, to pray together for Harley. He
served as our minister for several years, and to me he was first a teacher, then a colleague; he was a counsellor, and he was a friend. Let us pray together: Loving and merciful God, we entrust our brother Harley to Your mercy. You have loved him greatly in this life; now he is freed from all its cares, give him happiness and peace forever. The old order has passed away; welcome Harley now into paradise where there will be no more sorrow, no more weeping or pain, but only peace and joy with Jesus, Your Son, and the Holy Spirit. God, grant us to share in the inheritance of His saints in glory; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be with us, now and always. Amen.
Holy Spirit, You have honoured us with unique spiritual gifts.
We acknowledge that these gifts are to be ised for Your glory alone. Help us to offer our talents so that others may be encouraged to share abundantly. We are honoured and humbled by the responsibility of using these gifts as stewards of Your kingdom. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
God's library by Nancy Campbell
Let us pray: 0 God, who created all things and who makes all things new, speak to us, Your people, today. Let us open our hearts and the pages of our inner selves to You. May Your truth touch not just our intellects, but also our deeper yearnings for knowledge, and the desires of our heart and soul. May Your new creation in us shed light upon our everyday walk down the aisles of life.
When we think of God's library, we immediately think of the Bible: The most read book in the world, the first printed book. The Bible is a book of laws, proverbs, songs, prophecies, parables — the word of God. It is a book of guidance, hope and strength which helps us grow spiritually. Books are important to most of us and for every Christmas and birthday I make sure my grand-children receive at least one book.
Many of us here are grandparents. We remember the birth of each grandchild with excitement. We see the little one nurtured and loved. We swell with pride as the child gets cuter and cuter with each passing day. Then the baby begins to crawl, quite wobbly and unsure at first, but gradually beginning to crawl with greater and greater dexterity. We watch closely as our grandchild's life unfolds.
And then it happens. The child has learned to walk, but what's this he would rather crawl. We tell our children not to worry the baby is crawling because it's what he knows best, it's easier, he's just as happy crawling. He gets where he wants to without the struggle of walking and falling down. At Christmas, my daughter shared her concern with me because her 20 month old son is still not talking. She assured me that he understood everything but will not say anything but his own unique language. I told her that because he was in a French daycare during the day and in an English household at night and on the weekends, that he was still sorting out his vocabulary in his head. One of these days he will start talking and probably won't stop. It's normal for new parents to think that their child is stuck in the infant stage.
While the apostle Paul was in Corinth for the first time, he found the people were spiritually immature, and he felt it necessary to talk to them as if they were infants. Paul had to show the people of Corinth that they needed to discard the elementary teachings of Christ and move on to maturity. He told them that God's plan was birth, growth and maturity.
We can all see this plan clearly in the world around us. We see the order of God's creation and His will that all things grow, develop and mature into what God had planned and to give these things purpose. Plants grow and mature and provide oxygen and food. Animals grow and mature and provide food and clothing. These things have purpose, as do people, who also grow, develop and mature.
In this sense of birth and development, the spiritual world is no different from the physical world. We need to be born spiritually just as we are born physically. We can see the importance of being born spiritually and we know the significance of regeneration. But the Corinthians had a problem. It's true, they were born again, but they weren't growing the people were stuck in their ways.
By reading our Bibles and other books of interest, we continue to grow spiritually. The simple act of reading helps us grow in many ways. We've all been to a library at least once in our life. Books, books, books — story books, histories, poetry, travel, mythology, biographies —books everywhere! Books for us to read and to learn and to grow. We walk up and down the aisles, looking for a section that interests us, checking tiles, and finally spying the book we like, we take it down off the shelf.
Have you ever noticed how we read a book? It's usually like this: we leaf through the pages, looking at any pictures. Then if we like the pictures, we look at the print to see if we can read it easily. Then, if all these things suit us, we just might read the book. Funny, isn't it?
God's library is much more than the 66 books of the Bible. As a matter of fact, God has a lot of libraries. We call them churches, but they are libraries, and we, the members of the church, are the books. And we are all first editions. As a smatter of fact, some of us might even be considered as rare books! That's right, you and I. Peciple come in and look around until they see some of us with the title "Christian." They take our life down and look through it for pictures yes, the scenes that portray us; it may be our tempers, or our selfishness, our snobbishness or our coarseness, or it may be our cheer, our friendliness, our trustworthiness or our caring. If they don't like these scenes, they put us to one side just as we do a book whose pictures we don't like. But if they do like them, they begin to look at other things, such as habits, speech, manners and ideals. If these are clear-cult, they may take time to really know us, because when we read books we attain information, and the more information and knowledge we have, the more we grow and mature.
What are your outstanding traits and habits? Would they draw others to you or would they make them shun you and push you away? Do people know what you stand for? We don't like blurred pages in a book, therefore we don't like smeared principles in people. When you grow in spirituality, we become full grown, mature, Christians.
So now, think about how Paul uses the word infant to emphasize the level of spiritual maturity to which the Corinthians had attained. Corinth was a very wealthy city. It was situated only 50 miles from Rome. It was a center of art, athletics, business and religion. The temple of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, sex and fertility was located there. One thousand Priestesses, who were prostitutes, carried on their immoral trade. Corinth had such a bad reputation as an evil, immoral city that it had become an insult to refer to someone as a Corinthian.
The church at Corinth was in trouble. Women had abused their freedom in Christ by refusing to show submission to men. The Lord's Supper had been turned into a common meal. There was a dispute about miracles. Some even denied the Resurrection. Paul decided to try to
correct these problems. He told the Corinthians he was coming to visit them. Whether he came with strength or gentleness depended on them. He expressed his hope that they would repent.
Babies cry when they want to be held or when they're hungry or when their routine is threatened. Some Christians are like that. Their feelings are easily hurt. Spiritual infants are like bombs, always ready to explode. We all know people like that and we've heard these phrases:
At church they are extra nice, out at home they are explosive; At church she's ideal but at home, impossible; At church he’s always praising, out at home he’s always pouting. And you have probably heard many such phrases.
Paul told the Corinthians that Christ had written upon their hearts and this served as a powerful letter for commendation for Paul. A church is an epistle of Christ, open for all to read. Christ is the living One, He is always writing new epistles, in harmony with those which were written from the beginning, and at the same time, new and fresh and suited to today's lifestyle. it is our job to minister the epistle so that Christ is conveyed to and impressed upon all you believe.
The Ten Commandments were written on tablets of stone by God's own hand, but the Spirit is inscribed on the convictions and affections of you and I. The Word is written on the heart. If you go to the Lord justifying yourself and accusing others, He will only write on the ground. 131,1t it you go to Him with a penitent neart, he will write on you HIS grace and truth.
We need to remember 5 things to gain spiritual maturity and be the good books that people want to read and know. We must always look to Christ. We must remember the cross of Christ. We must continue to build our spirituality. We must pray to be more concerned with others than with ourselves. And we must ask God to teach us patience, kindness and maturity. Ask yourseit it tnese areas in your me nave aevelopea properly.
We read this morning: "You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts. known and read by everybody." Whether a letter or a book, the all-important thing is this: it must have in it what the title says it has. What do you expect to find in a geography book? In a story book? In a history book? Or in a song book?
Paul said that Christians are books in God's library. "known and read of all men " Therefore, if our title says "Christian," people have a right to expect our lives to teach and explain Christ. They'll be disappointed to find other things there, just as we would be disappointed to find a history book full of math or a song book full of maps. Are your pages easy to open and nip through, or are they brand new, stuck together, with a sun spine — never Peen used? Clod wants to know, what kind of book are you
Come In, Come In And Sit Down
Come in, come in and sit down, you are part of the family,
We are lost and we are found, and we are part of the family.
You know the reason why you came, yet no reason can explain,
So share in the laughter and cry in the pain, for we are part of the family.
God is with us in this place, like a mother’s warm embrace, We’re all forgiven by God’s grace, for we are part of the family.
There’s life to be shared in the bread and the wine,
We are the branches, Christ is the vine.
This is God’s temple, it’s not yours or mine, but we are part of the family.
There’s rest for the weary and health for us all, There’s a yoke that is easy, and a burden that’s small.
So come in and worship and answer the call, for we are part of the family.
“The health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how we support our libraries.”
- Carl Sagan