May I speak in the name of the father, the Son, and the holy spirit. Amen.
Today is the 2nd of January, the day that as a church we celebrate the coming of the wise men, kings or magi – if we look at our crib scenes, we will see that the kings have finally arrived! In the liturgical year, Epiphany is the 6th January, 12 days after Christmas – but as we are not in Church on Thursday, we mark the occasion today. The story of the magi is good news for us, they were gentile astronomers- who had been studying the night sky and when they spotted something different, it moved them into action. Unlike the shepherds who had angels appear to them and instruct them to go to worship the baby. The Magi, knew the prophecies and recognised what has happening, they were ready, watching and waiting. When they saw the star in the sky, they recognised it as a sign from God (a God that they did not worship) yet, they left all that they had and followed. It is good news, as the magi were not Jews, they represent Jesus coming for the whole world. I find it amazing, that the Jews had been waiting for this moment, yet when it comes it is not the chief priests and the pharisees that recognise it and rush to worship and adore Jesus, it is instead these men from the east that come. They set out on a journey, guided by a Christ’s star. We see in the Gospel reading that although they followed, they didn’t immediately get it right. They first went to Jerusalem, the place they expected to find the one born king of the Jews and set about asking where he could be found. Verse 7 tells us that Herod asked them when exactly the star first appeared in the sky. It is most likely that Jesus was around 2 years old by the time the magi arrived. As when they failed to return to Herod, he ordered that all the boys aged 2 years and under to be killed, in the hope and expectation that the problem of this new king would be solved for him! The start of a new year touches each of us in a different way, for many it is a time to pause and look back on the year that has passed, ponder, reflect, perhaps grieve, or celebrate. It is a time where we may look at what has been achieved, or indeed, what has been lost or those opportunities that have been gained or missed. It can be a time of drawing lines under experiences and situations, to start looking forward with hope and expectation that in the coming year everything will change or be different. Last year as we stepped into 2021, we had the hope of the vaccine, we thought we could see the end of the pandemic that had gripped us for most of 2020. Yet here we are, still living in the uncertainty of everchanging guidance as Covid continues to change our lives and indeed the world. I want to take some time today to reflect together as a Church family on what we have collectively journeyed through over these last 2 years.
Back in March 2020 we were entering a completely new, unknown world, I am not sure many of us realised the enormity of the situation at the time – I know for certain that I did not and as I look back, I can see that I was rather naïve. Life as we knew it was changing and so much was uncertain.
We stand here today, the old is gone, normal is never going to be what it was, we are forever changed. We can’t go back to how everything was before because we can’t pretend to forget everything that has happened. Life is different, we might need to grieve that – I hope that together we can find a way to do just that, in a way that is both healthy but does not just skim the surface. I pray we each have times to just sit, feel, process, lament and where possible grow. Something to hold onto though, is Just because things are different now, it doesn’t mean they can’t be fulfilling, significant and glorifying to God. As the pandemic started and we entered lockdown, so many were praying and asking God, how we could look after one another, worship and function as church, a body of believers – when our buildings were closed, and we were being told to stay at Home. Well, we have a great, glorious and faithful God, who answered those prayers who showed and helped us to love and care for one another from afar. I am sure there are times where we have fallen short and not quite got it right, but for today we will recognise and celebrate when things did go well and how that glorified God. We already had the vine in place, but it really came into its own at the start of the first lockdown. We saw doorstep visits, bars of chocolate and flowers delivered, telephone calls made and received, worship livestreamed from the vicarage, then later as guidelines changed from St Andrews, let us never forget Pentecost 2020 – when Jane experienced more than the fire of the Holy spirit! Sermons and prayers were printed on the news sheet, that was and still is hand delivered to those who could not access is online. We now also have the option to dial a sermon, a dedicated telephone number to hear the message from the previous Sunday. Bags and boxes of activities where prepared, packed and delivered, trails appeared around local parks, stones were painted, and angels were lovingly knitted and hidden around the parish. God enabled us, each part of the body of Christ functioning differently, to support and love the rest in a time of upheaval, grief, pandemic, fear and a whole jumble of other feelings and situations that many were and still are experiencing. What a great God we have! Those of you who are on Facebook will know that we have a group called St Andrew with Holy Cross – Together at Home. At a time when so many of us were struggling mentally we began a post each day, sharing what we were each thankful for. Each day at 6am the question was asked, what are we giving thanks for today? From that first day, these posts took on a life of their own.
As each of us added our prayers of thanks we were aware that the full church family were not able to see these, so Jackie Stubberfield began writing each one down – one slip of paper at a time, until 608 days later there was a box full of 3,261 prayers of thankfulness. For some, on the days that seemed hard to get through, it was the prayers of thanks from others that gave hope, lifted the spirit and turned our eyes back towards God.
Hold up a vase – so here are some of those prayers – filling these 4 vases, and here we have some more, laid out to visually show the difference each of us can make. This patchwork of prayer shows us that even in the darkness, there is always hope, it shows us that we are better and stronger together and it shows us, that what may seem like a really small step or thing to do, with persistence, dedication and most importantly Christ at the centre, we can each make a difference. This is a blanket of hope, love and thanks – our voices brought together as one, united by Christ and powered by His holy spirit. Each of us were put on earth for such a time as this. It is not a coincidence that it is us who are here right now. God will take what we have and make something of it, it’s one of His specialities. We are each a part of His patchwork, His tapestry you, me all of us, are each a thread woven through into His good and perfect plan. Just like the magi, who saw the star and came bearing gifts. We too are called to follow and worship Christ, if we come as we are – then He will use us and together we can be beacons of light, guiding stars in this community – leading others to come and see.
The amazing thing is that we no longer find the Christ child in the manger, we live in the light of his death and resurrection. We have His holy spirit to guide us. Christ came into this world for all, His invitation is open to everyone – all we
need do is say yes! So here we are, standing on the on the edge of 2022 some of us may
be hurting and broken, some may be looking for fresh and new starts, to others today is just another day – but wherever we stand, whatever we are feeling there is still purpose – we live in the certainty and hope of His second coming – let us too be like the magi, knowing the gifts that we carry, given by Him and let us use them for His glory. I would like to finish by sharing a poem with you by Gerard Kelly.
Fit me in Somewhere
Fit me in somewhere, In this giant jigsaw, God,
Somewhere in this work of art. You’re working,
Select a space my shape can fill, And with a puzzle maker’s skill
Let my contours find their fit without contortion.
Teach me which patch I am, God, In the cosmic quilt you’re quilting.
Show me where my square of selfhood is of use.
Let the colourful complexities, Of the pattern that is me
Find their purpose in the placement that you choose.
Show me my position, God, in this group photograph.
Stand me where you want me to stand. Put me next to whom you will.
Make me stand, for good or ill. Precisely in the place your plan demands.
Tell me what I am, God, in this body you are building:
a tongue to taste, a nerve to serve, an ear to hear.
Give me grace to not be, gracefully, the parts I am not called to be
and to play with elegance the roles I’m given.
Fit me in somewhere. In the giant jigsaw, God,
Somewhere in this work of art you’re working.
Weave your wondrous tapestry Until the twisted, tangled threads of me,
Surrendered to your artistry. Form an image that is beautiful to see.