January 2020

Sunday 5th January:  Epiphany: Matthew 2 1-12 

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.

This well-known story of the visit by the Magi, the wise men, bringing gifts for baby Jesus reminds us of the amazing courage and faith they had to undertake such an immense journey as this – to visit a helpless baby whom they did not know.  They must have asked themselves many times during the journey ‘Why are we doing this’ – yet they kept going – and their gifts are not only an important part of the Christmas story, but they supplied what was needed for the little family to escape Herod and journey to another country. 

We are sometimes asked by God to do the most unusual and difficult things for him, and it’s not easy to obey and follow when we can see no reason for the challenge.   Yet God knows – and will give us the strength we need for whatever he is asking.  May you be encouraged in this New Year when you are asked by God to take a course of action you hadn’t thought possible – in His name.  He will be there for you.

 

Sunday 12th January: Baptism of Christ: Matthew 3 13-17

At that time Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.  But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?”  “Let it be so now,” Jesus replied. “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness in this way.” Then John permitted Him. As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. Suddenly the heavens were opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and resting on Him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!”

Jesus needed to show he was human, as we are.  Yes, he was God’s son, but he struggled with challenges and doubts just as we do, and it was important to demonstrate to the Jewish people that he was the same as they were – and therefore he needed to be baptised. 

Jesus came into the world to save us and he chose to do this  in a simple way – by reaching out to those around him who were hurting, were in need, were worried – and we too are called to do the same.  Even when life seems to be hard and difficult, can we put others before our own concerns and worries and see what we can do to help?  Is there someone you feel you could help today to make life easier, perhaps by a small act of kindness or caring?

 

Sunday 19th January: Epiphany 2: John 1 29-42

…… The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.  When he saw Jesus walking by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”  And when the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following. “What do you want?” He asked. They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are You staying?” “Come and see,” He replied. So they went and saw where He was staying, and spent that day with Him. …… Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John’s testimony and followed Jesus.  He first found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated as Christ). Andrew brought him to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated as Peter).

We accept as normal this calling of the first disciples, yet it was quite an amazing occasion.  They were prepared to give up their way of life and follow someone who, then, to them, was a stranger.  Yet without their faith and determination the knowledge of God’s incredible plan and Jesus’ great sacrifice would not have spread throughout the world.   Yet had they been asked they would have said they were totally unsuitable for such a great responsibility.

Are you being called to do something which seems far outside your comfort zone and for which you feel totally unprepared?  God never asks us to do more than we are able to cope with – and he is there beside us to encourage and support us in what he is challenging us to do.  Can you step out in faith and respond to His call – knowing you will not be on your own, but will be part of His greater plan for you and for other people?

 

Sunday 26th January: Epiphany 3: Matthew 4 12-23

When Jesus heard that John had been imprisoned, He withdrew to Galilee.  Leaving Nazareth, He went and lived in Capernaum, which is by the sea in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, to  fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:  “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” ……

Jesus’s time had at last come, and he began what God had planned for his life, preaching and telling people about God, his love, and how he wanted to be part of their lives.  With his small group of followers, he travelled around, speaking with great confidence to all those who he met, and he became well known for his preaching, for his healing, and for the concern he showed for all those who came to listen to him. 

What we say and do can be of enormous importance to the people we meet every day, our families, strangers we meet on the bus, in shops, at work.  Do we ever stop to think and ask ourselves how we come over to these people?  Are we seen as being part of Jesus’ followers, prepared to speak out at injustice, and offering help and hope to everyone who needs it, not just those with whom we feel at ease?  Can we be challenged afresh this year to stand up during the week for what we profess on Sundays in church?

 

 




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