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Sermon for Family Worship Service at Epiphany 2015

Reverend Canon Charles Royden

What is the best thing about Christmas ?
Presents, food and drink, visitors, family, entertaining - coming to church and singing carols

What is the worst thing about Christmas ?
Didn’t get the gifts you wanted, having to take things back, Ebay is full of people selling stuff they never wanted
Family - My brother was in Moscow in Russia so we had to talk on the phone - what is the dialling code for Moscow in Russia ? 007 - James Bond !

Well lots of these things surrounded Mary and Joseph and Jesus as they had the first Christmas when Jesus was born.
There were visitors, and they they brought presents and they also worshipped Jesus.

These visitors were unexpected and we don’t know a great deal about them. They were not Jewish people, they might have been Zoroastrian. We are told that they were Magi, mysterious magicians, pagan astrologers, sorcerers, perhaps from Persia or Babylon, a place in the East. Many rulers feared astrological signs of their demise. The Emperor Nero later reportedly slaughtered many nobles in the hope that their deaths rather than his own would fulfil the prediction of a comet. We call often call them 'The Wise Men'.

They were foreigners, they didn’t know hardly anything about Judaism, they had many questions but few answers, but their worship and tribute has remained and been celebrated by Christians ever since. They saw a star but they didn’t know about where Jesus would be born. The point that Matthew is making is that Jesus is for everyone.
They were on a journey of discovery and on that journey they sought out Jesus and God spoke to them. We are told that after seeing Jesus they were led home by a different way as a result of God leading them.

They fell down and worshipped in spite of their lack of knowledge, coming from the wrong country, dubious background

Now we stand at the start of a new year and we have a lot in common with the Magi.
We too are on the faith journey, a journey of discovery. We might not have all of the answers, but we too are led to worship Jesus
Like the Magi we face many challenges and we seek God’s guidance. At the start of a new year we ask God to guide us along the coming journey in 2015. This is a great time to resolve to commend ourselves to God for the next twelve months.

One of the features of Christmas which you may either love or hate is the Queen’s speech. Of course it was not always the Queens Speech, it was once the King’s Speech. There was a film of that title called ‘The King’s Speech.’ In 1939 in the dark days of the second world war, George VI made a Christmas Day broadcast in which he spoke to the nation on the threshold of another year. We think that we live in challenging times today and they are challenging times, with the worldwide problems of famine and war and diseases like Ebola we know that there will be difficult days ahead in 2015. But George VI too spoke at a challenging time to the nation and he knew that in the coming months there would be a need for the nation to be firmly grounded if it was to survive. He spoke at a time when nobody knew whether Britain would win the war or whether we would be engulfed in occupation like so many other countries, with people sent to concentration camps and all manner of horrific treatment.

He finished his nine minute speech with the words of a poem and they are the words written by Minnie Haskins

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
"Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown."
And he replied, "Go out into the darkness,
and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light,
and safer than a known way. Minnie Haskins

The words had been drawn to his attention by his wife, Queen Elizabeth, our current Queens Mother. They were words she remembered all of her life and some 63 years later they were recited at her own funeral. She had the words engraved on brass plaques and fixed to the gates of the King George VI Memorial chapel at Windsor Castle. The poem continues from those words as follows

So I went forth,
And finding the hand of God,
Trod gladly into the night.
He led me towards the hills
And the breaking of day in the lone east.

It was the words ‘and the breaking of the day in the lone East’ which reminded me of the Magi. They had faced dangerous times, Herod was a murderous king who was about to order a massacre. God guided them on the path which they were to tread to walk safely.

In the year ahead I encourage you to reach out also as you stand at the Gate of Your Year. All are called, like the Magi, and we are called from all kinds of backgrounds, but Jesus is for everyone. Reach out to the hand of God and ask him to lead you. In trusting him we find the very best path to follow. In drawing close to worship Jesus, like the Magi we are all engaged on a journey of discovery. It is a journey for which we do not have all of the answers but we know that we go safely if we go with him.