Worship for Sunday 3rd January, by Pru Cahill

Today we celebrate the Epiphany when we remember the coming of the Magi, the wise men from the east, to visit Jesus. We hear how God calls us to reveal the glory of Christ to the world in which we live.

A Prayer of Approach

A sense of order calls us to worship

– on this day of the week 

A sense of expectation calls us to wait

– believing you are with us

A sense of searching calls us to listen

– for your voice and to hear what you want to tell us


Jesus, our Lord and Saviour

be with us in this time together

inspire us to worship you

with all we are and all we bring. Amen.


Hymn: StF 65 Sing of the Lord’s Goodness

Sing of the Lord’s goodness Father of all wisdom,
come to him and bless his name.
Mercy he has shown us, his love is forever,
faithful to the end of days.

Come then, all you nations,
sing of your Lord’s goodness,
melodies of praise and thanks to God.
Ring out the Lord’s glory,
praise him with your music,
worship him and bless his name.

Power he has wielded, honour is his garment
risen from the snares of death.
His word he has spoken, one bread he has broken,
new life he now gives to all.

Courage in our darkness, comfort in our sorrow,
Spirit of our God most high;
solace for the weary, pardon for the sinner,
splendour of the living God.

Praise him with your singing, praise him with the trumpet
praise God with the lute and harp;
praise him with the cymbals, praise him with your dancing,
praise God till the end of days.                                                                 (Ernest Sands b 1949)

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Maker of the world, and of the heavens,
creator of the deeps, of oceans and space,
of the green places, woodland and jungle,
of ice fields and wild deserts,
of rivers and shores:
Loving God, we give you thanks for you are the Generous One, giver of all gifts.

Maker of all living things,
we thank you for
the power and beauty of the earth,
for creatures great and small,
for minds and hands:
Loving God, we give you thanks for you are the Generous One, giver of all gifts.

Maker of eyes and ears,
of mouths and tongues,
of hearts and minds,
we thank you for our curiosity,
our inventiveness,
our urge to discover and explore:
Loving God, we give you thanks for you are the Generous One, giver of all gifts.

Maker of conscience and understanding
maker of feelings, thinker of the first thought.
We give you thanks now
for science and technology,
for arts and music,
for the languages of words and numbers.
Loving God, we give you thanks, for you are the Generous One, giver of all gifts.

Loving Maker, we thank you for the gift of Jesus Christ who walked in our world,
died for us and lives for us.
We thank you for your love,
lived in and through him.
Give us grace to carry this gift to everyone we meet.
Loving God, we give you thanks for you are the Generous One, giver of all gifts.  Amen.


Hymn: StF 494 Come thou Fount of Every Blessing

Come thou fount of every blessing

Tune my heart to sing thy grace

Streams of mercy never ceasing

Call for songs of loudest praise

Teach me some melodious sonnet

Sung by flaming tongues above

Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it

Mount of thy redeeming love.


Here I raise my Ebenezer

Here by thy great help I’ve come

And I hope by thy good pleasure

Safely to arrive at home

Jesus sought me when a stranger

wandering from the fold of God.

He to rescue me from danger

interposed his precious blood.


Oh, that day when freed from sinning

I shall see Thy lovely face

Clothed then in blood washed linen

How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace

Come my Lord, no longer tarry

Take my ransomed soul away

Send Thine angels now to carry

me to realms of endless days.


O to grace how great a debtor

daily I’m constrained to be

Let Thy goodness now like a fetter

bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it

prone to leave the God I love.

Here’s my heart, O, take it seal it

seal it for Thy courts above.

Robert Robinson (1735-1790)


Matthew 2:1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.


In our reading for today are some wise men, from the east. Tradition suggests there were three of them although we don’t know that for sure. Tradition also suggests they may have been educated men who remained in Babylon after the exile and who knew the Old Testament prophesies of the Messiah’s coming. They may however have been from different lands, perhaps representing the whole world coming to bow at Jesus feet.

We might define wisdom as a combination of age, experience and learning. We might expect it to be present in someone of standing in the community.

I wonder what it was that made these visitors to Jesus wise? Was it their age, their life experience, or their years of study?

Age alone, though, isn’t an indicator of wisdom. Older people can and do make unwise judgements while younger people are sometimes wise beyond their years.

Jesus, when he was twelve, amazed his parents when on his first visit to Jerusalem was found talking to the teachers and showing great understanding and wisdom.

So no, age alone doesn’t make people wise.

Was it experience then?

Even with all the words of scripture concerning the coming of the Messiah the world seemed to be unprepared for the arrival of Jesus as a baby.

Herod at that time had been on his throne for over thirty years. Surely he would have known exactly what was prophesied to take place in his realm?!

No again, experience on its own doesn’t make people wise.

Was it their learning that made the wise men wise?

I had an uncle who was a physics professor. He was an incredibly clever man but there is no way you could ever describe him as wise. He was clever but somewhat lacking in judgement.

Being learned or in a leadership role doesn’t in itself make someone wise; we all know that. In the history of the world there have been some notably bad leaders. We hope that people who are wise and of good judgement are elected to these positions of influence but that isn’t always the case.

So, if age, experience, learning or position doesn’t make people wise, what does?

In the book of Kings, King Solomon asks for the gift of wisdom. 1 Kings 3: 9 Give me an understanding mind so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. God not only grants him the gift of wisdom but riches and long life as well. King Solomon is regarded as the wisest man who ever lived. He trusted God to guide him and he used this gift in ruling the people and resolving their disputes.

In the story of Job, Job’s three friends all sought to give him advice and insight into the bad things which had happened to him. These friends made things worse for Job by insisting that Job’s bad fortune was down to his sinfulness.

Eventually, it was the words of the young Elihu who gave a new definition of the word wisdom. From Job 32: –

… it is the spirit of Almighty God

That comes to men and gives them wisdom.

It is not growing old that makes men wise or helps them to know what is right.

It is the spirit of Almighty God

That comes to men and gives them wisdom.

The travellers who arrived from the east were wise because they trusted in God to lead them. They studied the star and they studied the scriptures which told them the place where Jesus was to be found.

Their sole mission was to bring gifts and kneel in adoration. They fell down before him and worshipped him.

This story isn’t just one of intrigue, majesty and gifts. It’s a story of people determined to find out Jesus and worship him, to go where God leads and be prepared to change direction when necessary.

As we promise to serve God throughout this new year, let’s trust God to show us his direction. Let’s ask for the gift of wisdom, not for our own benefit but in seeking out Jesus as the wise men did, to worship him.

Leading into Prayer

Prayer of Intercession

God our Father revealed his Son to us
as the light of the world.
Let us pray to the Lord,
in the light given to us by his Son,
for the needs of the Church and the world.

We pray that the Church may reveal ever more fully
God’s abiding love for all people,
and help them draw closer to the person of Christ.
Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for the peace and well-being in the world,
especially that all leaders of East and West
may follow the star which leads to true peace and justice.
Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for this community and for our families;
that we may welcome Christ into our lives and
like the Wise Men, remain forever pilgrims
who keep our eyes fixed on Christ as our guiding light.
Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, hear our prayer.


The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our trespasses

As we forgive those who trespass against us

And lead us not into temptation

But deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom

The power, and the glory

For ever and ever. Amen.

Hymn: StF 224 As with Gladness Men of Old

As with gladness men of old
did the guiding star behold,
as with joy they hailed its light,
leading onward, beaming bright,
so, most gracious Lord, may we
evermore be led to thee.

As with joyful steps they sped,
Saviour, to Thy lowly bed,
there to bend the knee before
thee whom heaven and earth adore,
so may we with willing feet
ever seek Thy mercy-seat!

As they offered gifts most rare
At Thy cradle, rude and bare,
So may we with holy joy,
pure and free from sin’s alloy,
all our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to Thee, our heavenly King.

Holy Jesus, every day
keep us in the narrow way;
and, when earthly things are past,
bring our ransomed souls at last
where they need no star to guide,
where no clouds thy glory hide.

In the heavenly country bright
need they no created light;
thou its light, its joy, its crown,
thou its sun which goes not down.
there for ever may we sing
alleluias to our King!

William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898)


Lord, as we continue our journey with you this week,
as we seek to live out our faith every day,
be with us, surprise with your love,
nudge us when you want us
to see or do something new –
for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

 (prayer from rootsontheweb.com)