The Epiphany - Church at Home

3rd January 2021

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The Adoration of the Magi (Lower part of a rood screen from an English church)

Oil and gilt on wood; circa 1520; V&A Museum, London

Every Sunday 10.30am Venerable Bede, West Road, NE4 8AP

We meet for Holy Communion as the Benwell & Scotswood Team.

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در هنگام خطبه روز یکشنبه هدفون های خود را بگذارید و به این ترجمه گوش دهید.

یا در خانه گوش دهید.

< خطبه / Listen in Farsi

< متن خطبه / or read the translation


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Confirmation & Baptisms

Sunday 17th Jan (maybe!)

We are hoping to still go ahead with the confirmation service, but tier 4 restrictions may mean we have to postpone. If we do have to postpone then we will still have a normal Sunday service on 17th.

If it goes ahead then we will have the privilege of having Bishop Christine with us to take the service. Please pray for all the candidates as they prepare to make a declaration of their faith.


Sundays - Venerable Bede, 10.30am

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WORSHIP

The Epiphany

Reflection by The Revd Chris Minchin

Service led by The Revd Dominic Coad

Watch live at 10.30am >

< خطبه / Listen in Farsi


The service starts with some quiet music; please use this to clear your mind and acknowledge the presence of God.



Intro music


Prelude in E minor by Frederic Chopin.



Opening prayer


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.



Confession

The grace of God has dawned upon the world through our Saviour Jesus Christ, who sacrificed himself for us to purify a people as his own.

Let us confess our sins.


God be gracious to us and bless us,

and make your face shine upon us:

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.


May your ways be known on the earth,

your saving power among the nations:

Christ, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.


You, Lord, have made known your salvation,

and reveal your justice in the sight of the nations:

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.


May the Father of all mercies

cleanse us from our sins,

and restore us in his image

to the praise and glory of his name,

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



Collect


O God,

who by the leading of a star

manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth:

mercifully grant that we,

who know you now by faith,

may at last behold your glory face to face;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

Amen.



Reading


A reading from Paul's letter to the Romans.


This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given to me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.

(Ephesians 3:1-12)

This is the word of the Lord.

(Thanks be to God)



Gospel


The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,

and we have seen his glory.

Alleluia!


Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.

(Glory to you O Lord)


In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

(Matthew 2:1- 12)


This is the Gospel of the Lord.

(Praise to you, O Christ)

Reflection

By The Revd Chris Minchin


The word ‘epiphany’ means a moment of sudden and great revelation or realisation. The feast of the Epiphany therefore is when the rest of the world sees the revelation of Christ. This revelation to the world is represented by the visit of the wise men. We all know the story, three kings with a keen interest in astrology and horoscopes are watching the sky when a new star appears indicating that a king is to be born, they follow the star on camel back as it floats ahead of them. The kings are sometimes even given names - Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. Usually one of them is represented as a king from Europe, one from Asia and one from Africa. Along the way they stop off at King Herod’s palace to ask where the new king is. Herod is instantly jealous. The three foreign kings then carry on until they come to Bethlehem, where the star hovers above a stable. Within is the holy family, the baby has just been born, and the stable is full with shepherds and animals. They kneel in front of the baby and open their treasure chests to give the gifts which every new-born needs– gold for a king, frankincense to burn in worship, and the scent myrrh to embalm him at death. In a dream the kings are then warned to escape from Herod, they run off while he kills any child under the age of two.

Of course- as many historians and preachers like to remind us- this is all fantastical rubbish. Or most of it is. Let’s see, what does the text actually say? Well, they are ‘wise men’ or ‘magi’, not kings at all, but they are astrologers who believe they can discern what is happening in the world from watching cosmic movements, but we can discount the idea they had any magical knowledge or power. All we know about their heritage and race is that they have come from somewhere east of Israel. We can make an educated guess that they were Persian Zoroastrians, as the term ‘magus’ was used to refer to the priests of the Zoroastrian religion. Though we have no idea how many of them there are, there could be two, twelve, or two hundred, and we don’t know what mode of transport they used. They come not to a stable, but to a ‘house’. Maybe the family got an upgrade from the stable in the time since the birth, since it could be anywhere up to two years after the birth that the magi arrived, if we go by the assumption that Herod wants to kill any child under the age of two. And the magi do bring treasure chests with expensive gifts that would be fit for a king - gold, frankincense and myrrh. It would not be uncommon for foreign dignitaries to visit a newly crowned monarch and bring such gifts. They have no names, they are not from a diverse set of continents and races, and as far as we can tell they are not all that powerful.


Evidently, these mysterious magi hold such a fascination for us that we have imagined all sorts of backstories and magical events for them. We have surrounded them with a fantasy story which has become just as much a feature of the Christmas season as animated greats like ‘the Snowman’, tales of morality like Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, or magical adventures like Harry Potter.


But, just because it’s all so fantastical, does that we have to stamp out this magical spark? is that such a bad thing? I think fantasy stories and children’s fiction in fact have a very powerful way of revealing the true wonder of our world, in a way that rational adults are so quick to forget or dismiss in favour of the rational and downright boring. With the power of story and magic snowmen come to life and dance, ghosts reveal us the truth about our desires, and goodness and love fuel spells and enchantments which triumph over the selfish pursuit of power and evil. Fantasy stories, I think, are not a way to obscure truth and dress it up as something more palatable, fantasy stories are the way we explore the depths of what makes us truly human, we can imagine people of all kinds who experience situations we never could, and therefore we use empathy to understand one another and ourselves better. Fantasy stories give us joy where there is suffering, hope where there is none,


I think it can be summed up in the words of that other great wise man, Albus Dumbledore. When Harry Potter asks him: "Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?". Dumbledore replies: "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”


The stories we have added to the Biblical traditions of the wise men, I think, reveal a symbolic truth. Whether it is historical truth is important, but ultimately it is the wrong question to be asking. This is not a historical story - but a tale of the cosmic influence of Jesus’ birth. It is improbable and ridiculous that wise magicians from a foreign land would travel to Bethlehem following a celestial body that moves across the earth, that many nations from different continents would send their most powerful leaders across vast distances, and into great danger of a king who would rather murder innocent children than lose his grasp on power. All in order for these men to kneel before an unknown baby, born in poverty. That different religions, and indeed, entirely different races, could come together to worship a helpless infant as the incarnate God, creator of the universe, who gives the spark of life to us all. It is absurd.


But if you want to dismiss this story based simply on it being absurd, then I’m sorry but you’ll find it’s only going to get more ridiculous – as the story continues, the sick will be healed, the poor will be blessed, the last shall be first, the saviour of the world will be killed on a cross, but he will rise again from the dead and ascend to heaven to lead us all out of death into the eternal light. A helpless baby who gives every single one of us hope, wherever we come from.


The story of the Epiphany where God reveals himself to the world, not just to a select group of powerful people in a small corner of the earth, Jesus’ birth impacts the fabric of the universe itself which celebrates by throwing a shining star into the sky, Jesus is born for all humanity in all our diversity of different races, cultures and whatever religion we come from. Jesus comes to us wherever we are in the world, it does not matter where we start from but where we end up. And if God has anything to do with it, we will all end up gathered together kneeling before Jesus Christ, offering the meagre gifts of our hearts. It is a magical story. But it is true. Amen.



Prayer intentions


Let us worship the Saviour with joy

and make our prayer to our heavenly Father.

The magi came from the east to worship your Son:

Father, grant to Christians everywhere

the spirit of adoration.

Lord of glory,

hear our prayer.


The infant Christ received gifts of gold, incense and myrrh:

Father, accept the offering of our hearts and minds.

Lord of glory,

hear our prayer.


The kingdoms of this world have become

the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ:

Father, grant an abundance of peace to your world.

Lord of glory,

hear our prayer.


The Holy Family lived in exile and in the shadow of death:

Father, look in mercy on all who are poor and powerless, and all who suffer

  • George Snowden

  • the Riches family

  • Dee Humphrey

  • Claire Mozaffari

  • Eric Harling

  • Herbert Agbeko

  • James Garratt

  • Joyce Phillips

  • Dorothy Northey

Lord of glory,

hear our prayer.


Your Son shared the life of his home and family at Nazareth:

Father, protect in your love our neighbours, our families

and this community of which we are a part.

Lord of glory,

hear our prayer.


Father, we rejoice in our fellowship

with the shepherds, the angels, the magi,

the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph

and all the faithful departed:

  • Erica Howell

  • Julienne Guilavogui

  • Dorothy Northey

In your unfailing love for us and for all people,

hear and answer our prayers through your Son,

our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen.



Lord's Prayer


Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us:

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 trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation;

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

the power and the glory,

for ever and ever. Amen.



Hymn

Listen to the music here:


The first Noel 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.

Refrain: Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel.

They looked 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. [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. [Refrain]

This star drew nigh to the northwest, o'er Bethlehem it took its rest; and there it did both stop and stay, right over the place where Jesus lay. [Refrain]

Then entered in those Wise Men three, full reverently upon the knee, and offered there, in his presence, their gold and myrrh and frankincense. [Refrain]


Conclusion


The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

And the love of God And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

Be with us all, evermore. Amen.



Outro music


Andante from Sonata op14 no2 by Ludwig van Beethoven.

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