Sunday 1st January 2023: Luke 2 15-21
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the Baby, who was lying in the manger. After they had seen the Child, they spread the message they had received about Him. And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, which was just as the angel had told them. When the eight days until His circumcision had passed, He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He had been conceived.
The first Sunday of a New Year – and our reading tells of how the shepherds spread the news of the birth of this special baby, giving thanks to God as everything had happened as it had been foretold. God had plans for his people and will continue to have them – he often tells us what these are. Not everyone can ‘hear’ God speaking to them – but most of us feel ‘guided’ at various stages of our lives. We feel that a certain course of action is the right one for us.
As we start a New Year, can we be more aware of the many times God is trying to help us, leading us in a certain direction. Whatever we are facing, let us share with others as we celebrate the birth of baby Jesus – sent by God to save every one of us. However difficult life might seem, help is only a prayer away – something to cling on to as we go forward.
Sunday 8th January: Matthew 3 v,13 – end
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!”
In the first verse of this passage we read of John the Baptist's humility. He had been preaching to crowds of people and baptised many. He was very aware, though, that, despite his important job, he was only a messenger. When Jesus came for Baptism, John knew who He was and felt unworthy to answer Jesus' request because he did not understand it. Jesus was God, but also fully Man at that point. He had to identify totally with our humanity. Only then could He fulfill what He had come to do - accept crucifixion on behalf of each one of us. In the last couple of verses we read of the Holy Trinity (in as much as it can be put into words! ) - the voice of God the Father, the humanity of God the Son and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him.
Each of us has a job to do for God in our lives. Some of them seem very important and others maybe not. However, all are important to God and we are honoured to do them. Can we work for God with true humility as did John and Jesus? We must learn daily that it is He and He alone whom we serve, whatever our station in life.
Sunday 15th January John 1 29-42
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’ I myself did not know Him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that He might be revealed to Israel.” Then John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and resting on Him. I myself did not know Him, but the One who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God. “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. It was about the tenth hour. 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).
Today we read how Jesus came out of obscurity in Nazareth to begin his public ministry. As he approached John the Baptist, John was telling the crowd what had happened at Jesus’ baptism. He was explaining that Jesus was special. Two men heard what he said and began to follow Jesus, hoping perhaps to learn more. Andrew was so excited by what he saw that he went back to fetch his brother, Simon. Jesus recognised a strength in Simon that he could use, and he named him Peter – Peter meant ‘rock’. Peter’s future ministry would be rock-like – strong.
Jesus saw something in Peter which could be used in God’s service. There is something in everyone which can be used for God. Can we introduce someone to God as Andrew did? Who knows where it would lead.
22nd January: Matthew 4 18-23
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” And at once they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him ………..
Jesus had been baptised, resisted extreme temptation and now he was ready to begin his earthly ministry by calling four men to join his team. The men would have already seen Jesus and probably listened to his preaching. Their response to his call was immediate. They had no idea what would be expected of them, yet they trusted Jesus
Can we follow Jesus and trust him, even though we may not know where he is leading us?
Sunday 29th January: John 2 1-11
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.
Jesus had begun to reach out to people as he began his ministry. We heard last week how he called some disciples to work with him. Now God was challenging him to a new aspect of ministry – helping people by performing miracles. At first he was reluctant, but Mary had confidence in him and he was encouraged. Sometimes God challenges us with a new form of ministry. We pray about it and know that we must answer his call. When we do, we discover that God gives us some kind of support. Sometimes it is in the form of encouragement from other people.
Do we recognise God’s help in the encouragement others give us? How can we give similar encouragement to other people?