Sunday Service 1st January
Happy New Year
Call to worship
Hymn 39(MP): As with gladness men of old https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQNUo2k7TjE
Time for all
Hymn 197(MP): Good Christian men rejoice
Reading: Matthew 2: 13-23
Hymn 740(MP): We three kings of Orient are
Prayer of Dedication
Hymn 35(MP): Angels from the realms of glory
Welcome to 2023. This is the meditation for the first of January.(or intro for readings)
Often the start of a new year is a time of optimism, we are going to change, we are going to be different, we are going to have new year resolutions that will commit us to be a better person in a better new year.
The only trouble is that maybe we are a bit more apprehensive about this year.
No one knew at the end of 2019 and the very first COVID cases that 2020 was going to be so bad.
But 2021 would be better because we would get rid of COVID and everything would be normal, only we didn’t really get rid of it, but 2022 would be better because we would be over COVID for sure and everything would be great.
And a European war, three prime ministers and going into recession later it doesn’t feel like everything was better.
So when people say to us, 2023 will be better, we kind of hold our breath and cross our fingers. It has always been such, as we will see in our reading...
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
the same yesterday, today, and forever,
we come this day, as the old year passes and the new one has barely begun,
to worship you with word and song and what faith we have.
We come this day
conscious of the year that has gone by,
conscious of the joys conscious of the sorrows,
we hold them all in our hearts,
we take them all to you seeking your love, your comfort, and your care.
We come this day with hope shining in our lives for the year that is to come,
for the possibilities and the opportunities.
Guide us, as we step gently into the unknown,
help us to see your presence through the good times and the bad times that are to come,
and be with us always.
For those times we have failed to do what you want from or for us,
we ask for your forgiveness, and the hope that we can make amends in the life that we live.
the same yesterday, today, and forever,
as the old year passes and the new one has barely begun,
we go forward with and in the name of Jesus our Saviour.
And in his name we say the words he taught us to say;
Which 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 debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil;
For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever.
I could stand here and tell you that 2023 could not be worse than 2022.
But then I am sure that there were many that predicted that 2022 would be a brilliant year.
It had to be a great year as we would be recovering from the pandemic,
we would have an upsurgence of productivity,
we would be full of vigour and energy and that would show in the life that we lived,
the NHS, without the distractions of COVID would bounce back with new money to get rid of the backlog that had accumulated,
our government, now free from the responsibility of the pandemic would be firing on all cylinders to make sure that our economy grew and grew.
But it didn’t work out that way.
A war in Europe destabilised the fuel lines and prices went through the roof.
Inflation hit food prices as well.
That caused a run of strike action as years of austerity had allowed wages to stagnate.
And things weren’t that great in church circles either.
Many churches expected a bounce back once Covid stopped being a problem.
Only Covid continued to be a problem and numbers in congregations fell.
The latest census in England made Christianity a minority in the population.
Our own denomination has gone into a very rapid restructuring that will take years to get over.
So whatever you want me to say, what I can’t guarantee is that things will be better this year than they were last year.
Which seems to be a bit of a downer for the start of the year.
I was wondering if it was the same for those living through that first Christmas.
The wise men travelling great distances, risking a lot on the hope of a star that might mean something amazing happening.
They travelled through dangerous country because they believed a new king was coming, more than a new king, a new era.
And what did they find when they got to Israel?
A despotic king who was not worthy of any time.
A child born in a humble house in the backwater of a poor area.
If this was the sign of change then it would be a change that would be a long time coming.
How would you have felt if you had travelled all that way and realised that it might be thirty years before something significant happened?
What do you do then?
But then I imagine that it was the same for poor Mary and Joseph.
They have gotten through all the tough stuff.
Joseph getting his head round Mary’s pregnancy.
Having to travel with Mary to Bethlehem when she was pregnant.
The struggle with the pregnancy as well.
Then the shepherds and the wise men disturbing them.
Just one thing after another. Surely now everything would settle down and get better?
I was thinking about the conversation Mary and Joseph would have had.
Joseph, ‘Well that was some year.’
Mary, ‘Sure was. I was nearly divorced before I got married.’
Joseph, ‘How many times do I need to apologize for that? I saw the error of my ways and I have stuck by you.’
Mary, ‘Sticking by me would have been telling Augustus to stick his census, that we would go down after I had given birth. No you insisted that it is ok for me, fully pregnant, to travel down to Bethlehem.
Joseph, ‘And I have apologised for that too.’
Mary, ‘Took us so long to get down here that all the rooms were taken.’
Joseph, ‘That wasn’t my fault.’
Mary, ‘Stuck with the animals giving birth. Legs akimbo and a cow literally breathing down my neck.’
Joseph, ‘Yeah that could have gone down better.’
Mary, ’And just when we get the wee one asleep along come a flock of sheep to wake him up and mad shepherds ranting away as if they have see God himself.’
Joseph, ‘I’m sure that wasn’t my fault.’
Mary, ‘And just when he settles again those foreigners appear demanding, DEMANDING, to see “the new born king”.’
Joseph, ‘Maybe I should have made them wait outside.’
Mary, ‘I dread to think what tomorrow will bring.’
Joseph, ‘Look. Let’s just have some sleep. I am sure after we have had a good night’s sleep and had some rest that things will get better. Things couldn’t get any worse.’
And then things did get worse.
Soldiers after the infant.
Having to go into exile in Egypt.
Strangers in a strange land.
The truth is that it doesn’t matter the time or the era or the people.
We have no way of guessing what is ahead of us.
No way of predicting whether we will have good fortune or bad fortune.
A perfect example of that was after a squash match I was playing for Bridge of Allan.
Most of the players came from well off areas of Bridge of Allan and the team we were playing came from a very well off area. So the talk after the game when they were drinking was about bit coin. They had all invested heavily in bit coin and talking about how they had ploughed money into bit coin.
They were talking about how it had multiplied in value a hundred fold, a thousand fold. There was no limit to how it was expanding in worth..
Five pounds was worth 50,000 pounds...and then the next day it was worth 5p, everything lost.
But it is like that for every one of us.
Even people of great faith.
This time last year Michelle, our probationer, wouldn’t have been able to tell you how to get to Shetland, would never have guessed that she would have ended up settling there.
And it was a long and winding journey that took her up there.
What got her through the uncertainty and he doubts and the fears was the assurance that she wasn’t walking that journey alone, that God was with her and would use that journey for good. That every step of that journey could be used by God to develop her and grow her and give her insights and wisdom that she couldn’t have gotten any other way.
And that has always been the way of life for us.
What the wise men needed to see, what Mary and Joseph began to see, what we need to realise, is that life is just a journey.
What is important is not the fortune that we carry throughout the journey,
because we have no control over that, we will never know the good fortune or bad fortune that is ahead of us.
But we do, and always will have, control over who we journey with.
This is the year we can really listen for God’s whisperings to us.
We can decide to trust that no matter what we face, that we will face it with the assurance that God is with us.
I don’t know what is ahead for you or for myself, but I pray that it is a year when we grow closer to God and each other.
But that won’t happen by accident, it will only happen if we are open to God and to others.
So may our hearts be open.
Let us pray
We come at the start of a new year with all the expectations and hopes and fears that come with it.
In this new year help us to truly become your people, obedient to your will,
We realise we are at a crossroads; faced with the past and challenged by the future, and often uncertain how to react to both.
Year upon year we look for ways to be better than we have been and step forward in faith.
We stand on a precipice,
staring into the potential, and the pitfalls, that face us all in a brand-new year.
We seek ways to be renewed and ready or whatever is ahead for us.
Help us to see your will for us.
Show us the path we must follow.
Guide us as we try and fail and try again.
But may we never doubt that you will be with us loving God,
at the beginning of this New Year and all the days that follow.