January 2019

Sunday 6th January:  Epiphany:  Matthew 2: 1-12

It is easy to forget when reading this well-known story of the Magi – the wise men – coming to visit the baby Jesus, that in those days this would have involved a journey of immense danger and magnitude, all based on something they believed would happen.  Yet they set out, not really understanding who they were going to see – but they found, and knew they had found, the right baby – their joy must have been immense.  They also offered him ‘great treasures’ -  an amazing thing to do for a complete stranger.

Those wise men acted on their belief, and were rewarded with success in their mission.  Can we too, as this New Year begins, be ready to follow our own deep down convictions and take risks where necessary in order to achieve what we feel is right?  It takes courage – but those ‘deep down convictions’ are one way in which God can be calling you to serve him in a different way this year to what you have been doing before.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When King Herod heard this, he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.  When he had assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired where the Christ was to be born.  “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:   ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of My people Israel.’ 

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and learned from them the exact time the star had appeared.  And sending them to Bethlehem, he said: “Go and search carefully for the Child, and when you find Him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship Him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the Child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with great delight.  On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they withdrew to their country by another route


Sunday 13th January: Baptism of Christ :  Luke 3: 15-17; 21-22

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John could be the Christ.  John answered all of them: “I baptize you with water, but One more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn. But He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  …. When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in a bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”

John was sent with a mission – to prepare the people for the arrival of God’s own son, Jesus – but he probably never imagined that he would be baptising Jesus himself.  What a special occasion – and one which God had planned so that he could give Jesus his authority and blessing. 

Sometimes the things we are led to do sharing God’s love can be so more important than we can ever imagine – it could be life-changing for those we meet, and without our part, this might not take place.  Can we follow our instinct and reach out to those around us this year?  One small move on our part might well result in something really special and important happening to that person or people.


Sunday 20th January:  Epiphany 3:  John 2: 1-11

In this story, the first of the recorded miracles which Jesus did, we see the power of God to produce a truly spectacular result – one quite unforeseen or imagined.  Turning water which was to be used to washing into the best wine available was quite amazing – and Jesus can work amazing things in our own lives if we will let him.

So often we feel we have to go it alone, to do things under our own steam – when all the time Jesus is just longing to step in and help us.  The results may not be what we expected (or wanted!) – but in time we will see just how important it was to accept His help and step forward with him in faith.  God’s way is always the best way – for us and for those around us.

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to Him, “They have no more wine.”  “Woman, why does this concern us?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Now six stone water jars had been set there for the Jewish rites of purification. Each could hold from twenty to thirty gallons.  Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. “Now draw some out,” He said, “and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not know where it was from, but the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone serves the fine wine first, and then the cheap wine after the guests are drunk. But you have saved the fine wine until now!” Jesus performed this, the first of His signs, at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.


Sunday 27th January:  Epiphany 4:  Luke 4: 14-21

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and the news about Him spread throughout the surrounding region.  He taught in their synagogues and was glorified by everyone. Then Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath. And when He stood up to read, the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it was written:

 “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Then He rolled up the scroll, returned it to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him, and He began by saying, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus was doing what he knew was his job – to talk to and teach his own people – yet he met with scepticism and disbelief.  How disappointed he must have been – what a set-back to his ministry which he was just beginning.  Yet he didn’t let this stop him;  he set out to talk to and teach other people – with amazing results.

We all have to come to terms with disappointments and set-backs in our lives and it sometimes takes courage to move on, without bitterness or recriminations – yet this is where the ultimate success lies.  Can we put behind us the failures and step out in faith this year?, determined to follow the calling, the dream, the plan?  With God’s help, we can turn the set-backs into successes.


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