Reflection and Sunday 7 Jan

  a green cross motif 7 Jan 2017

a wee reflection on the week ...



For me, Christmas is not quite finished.  Well it is never quite complete without Epiphany, a day which often slips past as we already have decorations in the loft, the tree in the brown bin (apart from the one branch which prevents the lid fully closing), and selection boxes in the cupboard where they won’t tempt us (yet!).

But Epiphany offers so much to the Christmas story, even though we squeeze the Three Kings into the church nativity despite the reality that they didn’t arrive till a few years after the prompt shepherds who clearly hadn’t so far to travel anyway.

Epiphany is so much more than a wealthy relative arriving to leave a quick pressie then heading off again.  It is about a deep insight into the meaning of the Christ-child; it is an opening up of the story beyond the barriers and boundaries and borders of religion, nationalism, and colour or creed.  This is a wonderful part of the story which takes it beyond a wee byre in Bethlehem into the known and unknown, safe and dangerous big world beyond. 

Epiphany is also much more than the ending of the Christmas season, but the beginning of the living out of the story as the message heads of on well-trodden paths as well as along roads less travelled.

Epiphany reminds us of what we have to do with the story … carry it with us as we journey from this place.  Don’t pack away the story along with the tinsel and lights and socks, but let it live in you and be told through you.  The story is a challenge to us as we travel, but it is also a comfort.  Take the story with you and it will help you recognise the moments of Epiphany when they come and what they might mean for you.

I share this poem which touched me, perhaps due to its title, but might strike a chord for you too.

The priest’s excuse – a reflection (Don Dowling)

We did not go to Bethlehem

(King we have enough in Herod)

To chase the bubble of the star men’s dream

And so incur a tyrant’s rage.

We would not go to Bethlehem

to listen to the echoes of an angel’s song

vouched for by absentee shepherds

to excuse their duty’s dereliction.


We will not go to Bethlehem

to see a brat, born out of wedlock,

lying in a feeding trough in a smelly byre,

hailed though he be, as King.


We never went to Bethlehem

with gifts, unlike our sovereign liege who sent

fire and knife to kill that child

who claimed his royal throne.


We did not go to Bethlehem –

safer far to read the scrolls

than to risk the journey –

We were not that foolish.



this sunday’s service


Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14           Isaiah 60:1-6        Ephesians 3:1-12                Matthew 2:1-12

Psalm 72. 1-15

The psalmist speaks of the God who will come to bring comfort and release for the poor and broken peoples of the world.  Even the kings of the earth with all their wealth and power will ultimately bow down before him.  This Psalm would have been in Matthew’s mind when he wrote the story of the ‘kings’ bowing down before Christ.


Isaiah 60. 1-6

The prophet speaks of a day when, out of the darkness that covers the earth, a light will come that will draw all nations and kings to it.


Ephesians 3. 1-12

Paul, speaking from prison, tells how the mystery of Christ has been revealed to the gentiles, beyond the confines of traditional religious expectation.  All are enveloped in the light that is Christ.


Matthew 2. 1-12

The Magi, probably astrologers from Persia, go in search of the truth they have been seeking.  They encounter Herod who is determined to get rid of this threat to his power, but the wise men refuse to tell him.  They risk their lives and their reputation, laying down the tools of their trade at the Christ and turn their lives around heading off in a new direction, but always following the star’s light.


Psalm 72:1-15     A Prayer for the King

72 Teach the king to judge with your righteousness, O God;

    share with him your own justice,

2 so that he will rule over your people with justice

    and govern the oppressed with righteousness.

3 May the land enjoy prosperity;

    may it experience righteousness.

4 May the king judge the poor fairly;

    may he help the needy

    and defeat their oppressors.

5 May your people worship you as long as the sun shines,

    as long as the moon gives light, for ages to come.


6 May the king be like rain on the fields,

    like showers falling on the land.

7 May righteousness flourish in his lifetime,

    and may prosperity last as long as the moon gives light.


8 His kingdom will reach from sea to sea,

    from the Euphrates to the ends of the earth.

9 The peoples of the desert will bow down before him;

    his enemies will throw themselves to the ground.

10 The kings of Spain and of the islands will offer him gifts;

    the kings of Sheba and Seba will bring him offerings.

11 All kings will bow down before him;

    all nations will serve him.


12 He rescues the poor who call to him,

    and those who are needy and neglected.

13 He has pity on the weak and poor;

    he saves the lives of those in need.

14 He rescues them from oppression and violence;

    their lives are precious to him.


15 Long live the king!

    May he be given gold from Sheba;

    may prayers be said for him at all times;

    may God's blessings be on him always!



Isaiah 60:1-6                       The Future Glory of Jerusalem

60 Arise, Jerusalem, and shine like the sun;

The glory of the Lord is shining on you!

2 Other nations will be covered by darkness,

But on you the light of the Lord will shine;

The brightness of his presence will be with you.

3 Nations will be drawn to your light,

And kings to the dawning of your new day.


4 Look around you and see what is happening:

Your people are gathering to come home!

Your sons will come from far away;

Your daughters will be carried like children.

5 You will see this and be filled with joy;

You will tremble with excitement.

The wealth of the nations will be brought to you;

From across the sea their riches will come.


6 Great caravans of camels will come, from Midian and Ephah.

They will come from Sheba, bringing gold and incense.

People will tell the good news of what the Lord has done!



Ephesians 3:1-12               Paul's Work for the Gentiles

3 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles, pray to God. 2 Surely you have heard that God in his grace has given me this work to do for your good. 3 God revealed his secret plan and made it known to me. (I have written briefly about this, 4 and if you will read what I have written, you can learn about my understanding of the secret of Christ.) 5 In past times human beings were not told this secret, but God has revealed it now by the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets. 6 The secret is that by means of the gospel the Gentiles have a part with the Jews in God's blessings; they are members of the same body and share in the promise that God made through Christ Jesus.

7 I was made a servant of the gospel by God's special gift, which he gave me through the working of his power. 8 I am less than the least of all God's people; yet God gave me this privilege of taking to the Gentiles the Good News about the infinite riches of Christ, 9 and of making all people see how God's secret plan is to be put into effect. God, who is the Creator of all things, kept his secret hidden through all the past ages, 10 in order that at the present time, by means of the church, the angelic rulers and powers in the heavenly world might learn of his wisdom in all its different forms. 11 God did this according to his eternal purpose, which he achieved through Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In union with Christ and through our faith in him we have the boldness to go into God's presence with all confidence.



Matthew 2:1-12  Visitors from the East

2 Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the time when Herod was king. Soon afterward, some men who studied the stars came from the East to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the baby born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star when it came up in the east, and we have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard about this, he was very upset, and so was everyone else in Jerusalem. 4 He called together all the chief priests and the teachers of the Law and asked them, “Where will the Messiah be born?”

5 “In the town of Bethlehem in Judea,” they answered. “For this is what the prophet wrote:

6 ‘Bethlehem in the land of Judah,

    you are by no means the least of the leading cities of Judah;

for from you will come a leader

    who will guide my people Israel.’”

7 So Herod called the visitors from the East to a secret meeting and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem with these instructions: “Go and make a careful search for the child; and when you find him, let me know, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9-10 And so they left, and on their way they saw the same star they had seen in the East. When they saw it, how happy they were, what joy was theirs! It went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 11 They went into the house, and when they saw the child with his mother Mary, they knelt down and worshiped him. They brought out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and presented them to him.

12 Then they returned to their country by another road, since God had warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod.



The Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6 and means ‘a manifestation’, ‘a revealing’, ‘an opening up’, of the good news beyond the boundaries of religion, nation or culture. This feast commemorates the visit of the wise men to worship the baby Jesus. Legend has it that their names were Caspar, Melchior and Balthassar. The men were not kings but more like astrologers (Magi) who studied the stars and to whom many would go and pay money to help them map their life journey. 

According to the Gospel narratives, the wise men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh with them, and because there were three gifts tradition formed the belief there were three visitors, even though the number is not mentioned in the Gospels.  However, these gifts were very symbolic. Gold was a precious and expensive gift, and showed how important Jesus was. Frankincense is a sweet perfume which was often burned in the temple to worship God. It was a sign that Jesus should be worshipped. Myrrh was used to keep things fresh, and it was used by the women to anoint Jesus’ body when he died. By bringing it as a gift to Jesus, the wise men foretold his suffering and death.


a prayer

(Keri Wehlander, Canada)


God of life,

like a promised land

you invite us to leave our frantic ways.


Like a banquet-laden table

you bid us to restore our empty spirits.


Like a pool of still waters,

you call us to cease our crowded living.


Like a bright and shining star,

you lead us,

and restore our lives of wonder.










The Reflection and Sunday Service is taken from the weEbulletin which the minister emails each week to those interested whether or not they belong to the church. If you wish to be on the mailing list please let the minister, Stewart McPherson know.

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