January 2021

Sunday, 3rd January: The 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, 2asking, “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.  And when he had assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.  “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied.  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.

Today, the first Sunday of a New Year, we remember the Magi who visited the baby Jesus, bringing him gifts.  In modern days of rapid transport and communication links, it is sometimes difficult to imagine the vast challenge of the journey which the Magi undertook, spreading over quite some time.  Yet they felt it was important – vital – that they do this, as we too need to feel when challenged by God to follow a previously unplanned path or challenge.

Do you feel God is asking you to step outside your comfort zone this year as part of his plan for you?  If so, may you have the confidence and certainty of his help when doing so, so you are able to respond wholeheartedly.  May God be with you at the start of, and throughout, this year.

 

Sunday 10th January:  The Baptism of Christ: Mark 1  4-11

John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  People went out to him from all of Jerusalem and the countryside of Judea. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.  And he began to proclaim: “After me will come One more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.  I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  As soon as Jesus came up out of the water, He saw the heavens breaking open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”

John had an important job to do, preparing people for the coming of Jesus and his ministry.  It was important that Jesus was seen to be human – and therefore to be baptised – and John was called to perform this task.  He must have been quite overwhelmed by the thought that he would be baptising the son of God, but he knew that this was part of God’s plan and was willing to play his part.

Sometimes small actions on our part can make such a huge difference to other people, far beyond our imagination.  What may seem trivial  and unimportant to us can be used by God to bring about amazing results, if we will only let him guide us where he wants us to be, saying and doing what we feel is the right thing and the right time.  Perhaps today we could all spend just a few minutes making someone else’s day a brighter one – with even just a smile, a phone call, a letter – so they know they are thought of and are not alone?

 

17th January: Epiphany 2: John 1  43-51

The next day Jesus decided to set out for Galilee. Finding Philip, He told him, “Follow Me.”  Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the same town as Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the One Moses wrote about in the Law, the One the prophets foretold—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”  “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, He said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no deceit.”  “How do You know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus replied, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”  “Rabbi,” Nathanael answered, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus said to him, “Do you believe just because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”  Then He declared, “Truly, truly, I tell you, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Nathanael was somewhat sceptical when Philip urged him to come and meet Jesus, and must have been amazed when Jesus told him that he had already seen him – at which stage Nathanael believed and acknowledged who Jesus was.  God does indeed know each of us, better than we know ourselves.  He knows our weaknesses, our doubts, our worries – and also our strengths even though these may be well hidden.  Doesn’t this encourage us to trust him therefore, as he has the knowledge and resources to help us carry through whatever he wants us to be doing in our lives. 

Can we resolve to be more trusting when God speaks to us, calling us to say or do something in his name? 

 

24th January:  Epiphany 3: 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.

The turning of water into wine was the first of the many miracles Jesus did to teach his disciples and the people.  It must have been quite amazing to have been there and been part of such an important occasion, though no-one would have realised so at the time.  His mother Mary was prepared to trust Jesus even though she too could not have known what would happen.

Sometimes our lives are suddenly brought to a stop by unexpected and challenging events which we do not understand, often feeling ‘life isn’t fair’.  Yet these can be of great importance, even if at the time everything seems impossible with no way out of difficult situations.  Is this happening to you at the moment?  Are you feeling worn out, taken aback by something unusual which is happening in your life?  Ask God to be with you, and even if he cannot explain it, ask him for his help to cope.  He will answer and be there for and with you. 

 

January 31st: Epiphany 4: Candlemas: Luke 2  25-40

Now there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  Led by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. And when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for Him what was customary under the Law,  Simeon took Him in his arms and blessed God, saying:  “Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You now dismiss Your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.” The Child’s father and mother were amazed at what was spoken about Him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to His mother Mary: “Behold, this Child is appointed to cause the rise and fall of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed— and a sword will pierce your soul as well.”

Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple to be blessed, as was customary for all children – and must have been amazed when Simeon not only blessed him, and them, but pronounced such words over the baby.  How could their baby be so special? Was this really true? 

God has always used ordinary people to do his work, but this time his own son would be following his Father’s will.   We are called to listen and follow when God wants us to do something – not always easy, either to ‘hear’ and then to respond.  Are you ready to listen when God nudges you into action? – sometimes to do something quick and simple, and other times to take quite a radical course of action.  You yourself will be blessed if you have the courage to say Yes – to being part of God’s plan.

 




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