Welcome & Announcements
Call to Worship
A new day has dawned, a new year begun
O Lord, call us so we may hear Your voice
The world turns to hopes and dreams of the future
O Lord, keep us in Your ways and on Your path
We enter this new year with hope and excitement
Lead us and guide us, as we worship with all our heart.
Carol 322 – Good Christians all rejoice
Lord of the passing years, in you all time and space are perfectly at one: we lift up our hearts to you, with gratitude for your faithfulness to us. We look back over a year that is gone and celebrate that you have been with us each step of the way: the times you were closer than breath, nearer than hands or feet; the times when your love carried us through the darkest of deep valleys and your light shone brightly; the times when we were not so conscious, but deep in our hearts knew you were there.
We confess we have not always walked with you: we have turned aside and found other paths. We confess we have not always listened to you: we have tuned our hearing to other sounds. We confess we have not always been faithful: we have not shown your love for your world. We ask forgiveness. So hear our prayers, asked and offered in the name of him who stands at the door of the New Year: even Jesus Christ our Lord.
In Jesus Christ, God makes all things new. The former things have disappeared. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Sisters and Brothers, your sins are forgiven; be at peace.
All age Talk
Hymn 530 – One more step
Readings – Isaiah 63: 7-9
Matthew 2; 13-23
Carol 324 – Angels from the realms of glory
Heavenly Father as we rejoice in the gift of this new day and this new year, may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you. As we enter 2023 grant us all the wisdom to follow the Star of Bethlehem until we find Jesus for ourselves. Amen.
Do you like a happy ending? When we watch films like ‘It’s a wonderful life’ or ‘Love Actually’ over Christmas, we are always glad that there is a happy ending or at least some kind of resolution. Same with books. We don’t want to finish on a depressing note. But what about the Christmas story? I think for most people they see the stable scene, with baby in the manger and proud parents behind with shepherds and animals and even some exotically robes strangers from the east as the climax of the story. But of course it isn’t, and we read the aftermath in Matthew’s Gospel, and it makes hard reading, dark reading. It upsets the cosy feeling we have at Christmas, for it talks of the massacre of the innocents and how the holy family had to flee for their lives and ended up as refugees in Egypt. As such, it speaks to our world today.
We will be looking at the Wise men next week for Epiphany, and they were wise. Wise enough to know something was happening in the heavens and see the star and to know something momentous was happening. Wise enough to follow it. Wise enough to know after finding the stable that they should return by another route away from Herod. But inbetween, they lost the star and asked for directions at Herod’s palace. Every Christmas story needs a bad guy, and Herod was the archetypal bad guy, and Herod was fuming when he learnt that another king would be born. Such was his rage that he despatched his crack troop of soldiers to slaughter any rival to his power. You can hear the cries of anguish of parents whose children have dies; you can hear their grief. Truly Rachel was weeping for her children, as she does where there is ethnic cleansing, as she does where there is war and mothers grieve their children who don’t return. We still have Herods in the world today, intent to hold on to power; we need to confront them with Christ’s message of love.
Every action has consequences, and the innocent asking for directions by the Magi had inadvertently set off this trail of jealousy and tragedy. Fortunately Mary and Joseph had taken the child and fled to Egypt, always a place of refuge, and the Egyptian Church goes to town with all the stories of miracles performed by the infant Jesus, none of which have any foundation in Scripture. Though as refugees would they have been welcome? It must have been difficult, away from the familiar, seeking to cope in another culture.
But then if everything had gone well, this perfect child born in a perfect family would only speak to perfect people. But rather this child came to love and serve and save everyone. People like the Magi in their ivory towers but also to the parents of Bethlehem lamenting their children. He has come to love and serve and save people who suffer from violence and hatred and discrimination and to those who have to flee their homelands. He comes to love and serve and save those whose dreams are snatched from them, but also to teach us how to love and serve and care for others.
In Isaiah, we read of the exiles returning to Jerusalem. Over the generations in Babylon they had dreaned of returning to Zion, but but they quickly realised their dreams of a Golden age were not to be realised. They had to get down to the hard graft of living. So it is for us as we enter another year; it will be a year of ups and downs like any other, but we know that God is in the beautiful, but also is there with us in the dark times too. I ever hold onto the simple words from Desmond Tutu that Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love stronger than hate, light stronger than darkness and life stronger than death. That is at the heart of our faith. We pray that 2023 will be a good year for all.
I am a child of God, made in your image and likeness,
I am included in the heart of your love.
You know me completely,
My faults and weaknesses,
My gifts and my strengths.
You call me to live in the fullness of your love,
Abundantly, generously, inclusively.
You call me to empty myself, to serve as Jesus served, willingly, humbly, selflessly.
You call me to bear witness to your presence
Boldly, courageously, gently.
You are the potter: I am the clay.
Shape me, reshape me,
Give me purpose and meaning, energy and vision.
May your covenant be written on my heart.
May my life reflect your promises.
What is true in heaven, may it be seen in me
Within the dance of the Trinity of Love, father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
Carol 319 – Of the Father’s love begotten
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
On this edge of years
the crossroads between past and future
we come as who we have been
and offer you who we might yet be
Take this offering of ourselves
a new promise to be your people here
holding a renewed vision of your reign here
We thank you for the year that has passed and for the many ways you touched our lives, in moments of great happiness and in times of deep distress. You have been present in Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
We thank you for people who matter to us, those who have given themselves to us and through whom you have been present. We thank you for your church, the community of faith in whose company we have journeyed, whose challenge we welcome and whose wide boundaries are not defined by time or space or by death.
God of the past, the present and the future, we bring our prayers of concern to you at the beginning of this new year, recognising that you are the God of endings and new beginnings. We remember those who are glad to leave the old year behind - those individuals for whom 2022 was a difficult year: perhaps a year of loss or bereavement perhaps a year of illness perhaps a year of broken relationships perhaps a year of distance from loved ones perhaps a year when dreams did not become reality.
We pray for the coming year. We give thanks for those who use their influence for good: those who work for peace; those who challenge our lack of care for the planet; those who challenge the status quo; those willing to risk their own lives and livelihoods for the good of others; those who campaign for a fairer world. We pray for those who have influence, but do not always use it wisely: politicians who put short term popularity before the common good business leaders who put profit before all other concerns those who are powerful in the media and online; those whose celebrity status can be used for good or evil. We pray for those who feel powerless: those who have lost home, work, family, dignity... those struggling with addictions; those suffering from chronic illness, mental or physical; those whose only way of being heard is to withdraw their labour; those who feel that there is no point in continuing to live. those for whom Christmas and New Year is a particularly painful time. Those who are refugees; all children and especially those at risk. God of endings and new beginnings, of death and resurrection, as we begin this new year, we bring both ourselves our prayers to you, asking that in some small way, we might be a sign of your kingdom. Amen
Hymn 237 – Look forward in faith
Go forward in faith; go forward in hopefulness; walk in the light of God. And the blessing of God Almighty Father, Son and Holy Spirit be amongst us and remain with us this day and for evermore. Amen.