URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion 11th January

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 11th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Mary Slessor
1848-1915 

Mary Slessor was born into a working-class, United Presbyterian Church, family in Aberdeen in 1848. As a child in Dundee, she was enthralled by stories of missions in Africa. For years, she read diligently as she worked in the mills, and eventually, in 1875, she was accepted as a teacher for the mission in Calabar, Nigeria. Her fluency in the local language, physical resilience and lack of pretension endeared her to those to whom she ministered. She adopted unwanted children, particularly twins who would otherwise, according to local superstition, have been put to death. She was influential in organising trade and in settling disputes, contributing much to the development of the Okoyong people with whom she later settled. She died, still in Africa, on this day in 1915.

Isaiah 61: 1-3 

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
  because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
  to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
  and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
  and the day of vengeance of our God;
  to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
  to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
  the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
  the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
Reflection My parents often entertained visiting preachers to our chapel and as a young, ardent Christian, I can remember being thrilled and excited when Missionaries from Abroad came to tell us wonderful stories about their ministry. They embodied the words of Isaiah. That’s where the work of the gospel needed to take place - abroad.

I can remember thinking: perhaps that’s what I should do?
I didn’t! I was too comfortable and scared.

Mary Slessor was no stranger to poverty and oppression: her father was an abusive alcoholic and she became the main breadwinner aged 11.  Her faith and church life upheld her; she determined to be a pioneer worker in the remote  African interior. From age 27 until  death she did just that and ‘with the spirit of the Lord upon her’ she fought cruel tribal customs and witchcraft. One custom that broke her heart was 'twin-murder'. Some tribes thought twins were a result of a curse caused by an evil spirit who fathered one of the children. Both babies were brutally murdered and the mother was shunned. Overwhelmed and depressed, she knelt and prayed, "Lord, the task is impossible for me but not for Thee. Lead the way and I will follow." Rising, she said, "Why should I fear? I am on a Royal Mission. I am in the service of the King of kings.”  Mary rescued many twins and ministered to their mothers.

Our work as missionaries today is much closer to home. We may not face some of the conditions that Mary  did and our stories may not have the romantic ring I remember from childhood, but the task is just as great as we follow Jesus more faithfully and involve ourselves in trying to make a real difference in our local communities.  Let us not be too comfortable and scared, but rise from prayer and say with Mary Slessor: “Why should I fear? I am on a Royal Mission. I am in the service of the King of kings”
 

Prayer

Holy God,
Help me to listen to your call
to go wherever you want me to be.
Whatever the challenge,
give me the bravery to respond.
Whatever the need,
give me the will to serve.
Where there are broken hearts,
help me find compassion.
Where there are imprisoned minds,
help me find wisdom.
Where there is oppression,
help me find courage.
Lord, the task is always too great for me,
but not for you.
Lead the way and I will follow.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Lis Mullen is a retired minister and member of Kendal URC

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 10th January

Wed, 10/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 10th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Amos 2: 6 - 16

Thus says the Lord:
For three transgressions of Israel,
   and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because they sell the righteous for silver,
   and the needy for a pair of sandals—
they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth,
   and push the afflicted out of the way;
father and son go in to the same girl,
   so that my holy name is profaned;
they lay themselves down beside every altar
   on garments taken in pledge;
and in the house of their God they drink
   wine bought with fines they imposed.
Yet I destroyed the Amorite before them,
   whose height was like the height of cedars,
   and who was as strong as oaks;
I destroyed his fruit above,
   and his roots beneath.
Also I brought you up out of the land of Egypt,
   and led you for forty years in the wilderness,
   to possess the land of the Amorite.
And I raised up some of your children to be prophets
   and some of your youths to be Nazirites.
   Is it not indeed so, O people of Israel?
says the Lord.
But you made the Nazirites drink wine,
   and commanded the prophets,
   saying, ‘You shall not prophesy.’
So, I will press you down in your place,
   just as a cart presses down
   when it is full of sheaves.
Flight shall perish from the swift,
   and the strong shall not retain their strength,
   nor shall the mighty save their lives;
those who handle the bow shall not stand,
   and those who are swift of foot shall not save themselves,
   nor shall those who ride horses save their lives;
and those who are stout of heart among the mighty
   shall flee away naked on that day, says the Lord.
Reflection One of the interesting things about contemporary society is that politicians often are tempted to talk about personal morality whilst church leaders often talk about politics.  Archbishop Desmond Tuto famously rebuked those who told him to stay out of politics that he didn’t know what Bible they read as his inspired him to enter political debate.

Amos clearly knew a thing or two about political protest; but for the ancient Jews there wasn’t an easy divide between personal morality and political ideas.  The Jews saw God as their King bound to the People by the Covenant.  Of course the Jews insisted on having a king like the surrounding nations but Kings proved to be a mixed blessing - and were often removed by the prophets acting in the name of God if they strayed too far from the Covenant.  In this passage oppression of the poor is condemned alongside sexual immorality - I wonder if the prophet had in mind the poor woman who had to satisfy both father and son with her body.  
Amos reminded the people of all that God had done for them in the past in the hope that this reminiscence would bring them back to a fruitful relationship with God but, again and again, Amos is driven to remind the people where they have gone wrong - and the coming consequence of that neglect.  

Prophets are in short supply in our own age.  Political might is happier for the Church to talk about personal morality - then it can portray as out of touch, insular, and old fashioned - than it is when we make political statements.  This isn’t new.  In the 1980s the Brazilian bishop Dom Helder Camara famously noted that when he gave food to the poor they called him a saint but when he asked why the poor had no food they called him a communist.  I suspect he was happier with the latter rather than the former description.  
 

Prayer

God of the poor,
remind us of our obligations
to care for those on the edge,
to feed the poor,
clothe the naked,
give succour to the hungry and thirsty,
and,
at the same time
to do more than bandage the wounded,
but to put a spoke in the machinery of evil,
that your Kingdom will come
and your people will be free.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston is the minister of Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs in the Synod of Scotland's Southside Cluster.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 9th January 2018

Tue, 09/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 9th January 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Amos 2:4-5 

Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they have rejected the law of the Lord, and have not kept his statutes, but they have been led astray by the same lies after which their ancestors walked.  So I will send a fire on Judah, and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem. Reflection The thought of the God of love sending fire and destroying a fortress may seem alien to our view of God today.  Amos had already spoken out against many of the surrounding pagan nations.  Now he turns to Judah and applies a very different standard.  The other nations had been judged according to a moral code, but Judah possessed the truth in God’s law and would be judged against this higher standard.  Amos has not used the term “The Law of The Lord” until this time and it is clear he  knows that those who know the law are judged by it.  Paul writes in a very similar way in Romans 2:11-12.  “For God does not show favouritism.  All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.”

As Christians we can rejoice that we “have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Romans 6:22).

We need to avoid being like Judah by following false gods.  In a series of radio broadcasts Martin Luther King, Jr suggested that we should avoid following false gods which he suggested include science, money and nationalism.  Each of us needs to be aware of the things that can come between us and the one true God.  We all know our weaknesses and it is through prayer and faithfulness to Jesus that we can avoid these pitfalls.  We can rejoice in the assurance that our relationship to God is secure and that we will not be destroyed but have eternal life.
 

Prayer

Loving God
we thank you for all that you do for us.
We thank you that you sent your son to set us free.
We ask that you guide us and protect us
and keep us from following false gods.
Keep us following the true path
that Jesus showed us
and let us rejoice in the knowledge
that we have eternal life with Jesus,
Amen.

Today's Writer

John Collings is a Lay Preacher in the Synod of Scotland and a member of Rutherglen URC.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 8th January

Mon, 08/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 8th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Amos 1:1 - 2-3

And he said:
The Lord roars from Zion,
  and utters his voice from Jerusalem;
the pastures of the shepherds wither,
  and the top of Carmel dries up.
Thus says the Lord:
For three transgressions of Damascus,
  and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because they have threshed Gilead
  with threshing-sledges of iron.
So I will send a fire on the house of Hazael,
  and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad.
I will break the gate-bars of Damascus,
  and cut off the inhabitants from the Valley of Aven,
and the one who holds the sceptre from Beth-eden;
  and the people of Aram shall go into exile to Kir,
says the Lord.
Thus says the Lord:
For three transgressions of Gaza,
  and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because they carried into exile entire communities,
  to hand them over to Edom.
So I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza,
  fire that shall devour its strongholds.
I will cut off the inhabitants from Ashdod,
  and the one who holds the sceptre from Ashkelon;
I will turn my hand against Ekron,
  and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish,
says the Lord God.
Thus says the Lord:
For three transgressions of Tyre,
  and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because they delivered entire communities over to Edom,
  and did not remember the covenant of kinship.
So I will send a fire on the wall of Tyre,
  fire that shall devour its strongholds.
Thus says the Lord:
For three transgressions of Edom,
  and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because he pursued his brother with the sword
  and cast off all pity;
he maintained his anger perpetually,
  and kept his wrath for ever.
So I will send a fire on Teman,
  and it shall devour the strongholds of Bozrah.
Thus says the Lord:
For three transgressions of the Ammonites,
  and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because they have ripped open pregnant women in Gilead
  in order to enlarge their territory.
So I will kindle a fire against the wall of Rabbah,
  fire that shall devour its strongholds,
with shouting on the day of battle,
  with a storm on the day of the whirlwind;
then their king shall go into exile,
  he and his officials together,
says the Lord.
Thus says the Lord:
For three transgressions of Moab,
  and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because he burned to lime
  the bones of the king of Edom.
So I will send a fire on Moab,
  and it shall devour the strongholds of Kerioth,
and Moab shall die amid uproar,
  amid shouting and the sound of the trumpet;
I will cut off the ruler from its midst,
  and will kill all its officials with him,
says the Lord.
Reflection Well this is the wrath of God, in all its plain and terrible fury. The opening of the book is an uncomfortable read  and it’s going to be like this for some while before we get to the more popular parts.

It’s hard to read these passages without picturing the places that carry these names as they are now. We’ve all seen Damascus broken by violence and Gaza ‘punished’ with fire. We know that with broken gates and walls of fire come death for human beings; for soldiers and civilians, adults and children. And it’s hard to hear such anger, whether it comes from God or from another human.

I could tell you that Amos plays a little trick on Judah and Israel in chapter two. He gets his readers cheering at the thought of God punishing the other nations, but then tells them that God has their own injustice in sight too. I could tell you that by the end of the book the tone is different and God is not just condemning, but also relenting and even promising restoration. But perhaps it is better if, for today, we try to stay in a place where we listen to God’s anger, really listen and allow it is to rock us and challenge us. Maybe there are days when we need a kind of righteous anger to be stirred in us; anger at the kind of exploitation, slavery and truly appalling violence that God names here, according to Amos, in these places and peoples. When we stop being so angry at these kinds of things we can sink into complacency. We may know that retributive violence is not the answer, but neither is any kind of meek tolerance and forgetting. On some days, and so let it be this day, we need to be reminded just how terrible injustice can be. But then, we need to wait, and see, what God will do, even in us, once anger can be tempered by reason.
 

Prayer

O God,
stir in me a truly righteous anger
at the sorrow and suffering of the world,
and so shape my anger
with your wisdom
that I may know what to pray for
and what to do
in response to what I see.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Dr Susan Durber is the minister of Taunton URC.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Our Next Daily Devotion series

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 18:45
96 Our Next Daily Devotion series View this email in your browser

Next Daily Devotions Series

Dear <<First Name>>

I hope you have enjoyed the Devotions between Christmas and Epiphany as we reflected on the songs of the season.  Now Christmas is fast becoming a memory and, in our Daily journey together, we turn to the book of Amos which will work through over the next few weeks.

Amos is portrayed as a shepherd from the north of Israel who preached, for a short time, with fine, rural imagery in the rich northern Kingdom of Israel against the corruptions of wealth, luxury, perversion of justice and external religion.  

The punishment of the “Day of the Lord” was already looming in the form of the threat of invasion by Assyria, in 721.  Amos is the first to teach that a faithful remnant will survive - the one ray of hope in his writing.  

Amos has much to teach us in an age where, in the West, many live in luxury, use religion for their own ends and neglect God and His commands to look after the poor.

I hope the series strengthens your knowledge of Amos and his message and, at the same time, inspires you to live as a closer disciple of the Lord Jesus.

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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URC Daily Devotion 7th January

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 7th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 29

You mighty ones, give to the LORD as his right,
Ascribe to the LORD God both glory and might.
To the LORD’s name due glory and honour accord;
In beauty of holiness worship the LORD.

The LORD’s voice is over the waters abroad,
And thunder proceeds from the glorious God.
Above all the waters God’s thunder is heard;
A powerful voice is the voice of the LORD.

The voice of the LORD is majestic and loud;
By the voice of the LORD the great cedars are bowed.
Yes, even the cedars of Lebanon tall,
The LORD breaks in pieces and shatters them all.

Like the leap of a calf he shakes Lebanon’s rocks,
And Sirion skips like a startled wild ox.
The voice of the LORD causes lightning to flash;
The voice of the LORD makes the wilderness crash.

The LORD makes the desert of Kadesh to shake;
The LORD causes oaks of the forest to quake.
The trees of the forest he strips of their leaves,
And he in his temple great glory receives.

The LORD over floods sits as monarch alone;
The LORD sits for ever as King on his throne.
The LORD makes the strength of his people increase;
The LORD gives his people the blessing of peace.


You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune St Denio (Immortal Invisible) here. Reflection Storm and strength

As I paused in the middle of writing this, the computer screen switched to a picture I had not expected nor seen before. It was a magnificent forked lightning, crackling with force and electricity, piercing and pleating the dark sky, yet reaching across the land with the touch of a tender light. That image, one fixed frame from a mighty tempest, carried in it much of the message of Psalm 29. For this is a tempestuous song, about a trustworthy God.

The Psalm’s big idea is simply told: if you want to see the strength of God, look into the face of a storm. Hear the thunder. Stagger against the wind. Hear great trees creak and bend. Sense the energy and animation that convulse the land. Feel the world shudder and strain.

Then give praise. Remember that all this force is not rootless or meaningless. It is testimony. It tells of the one who shaped and sustains the earth. It speaks of power and purpose, of a constant vigour and creative voice, of majesty and might, of an intense ruling presence. Here is a God worthy of worship, a God who is neither limited nor absent nor uninvolved. For God is not dull, nor dead nor detached. God is alive, alert and active – known in creation though not bound by it, at work within nature yet not inhibited by it. God stirs in the deserts and empty spaces, speaks into the world’s silences, and shakes its static landscapes from lethargy into life.

This is the Lord who beckons the praise of heaven, and blesses people on earth. This is the Lord who sits as King, and summons our faith, hope and love. This is a God before whom we tremble – and in whom we trust.
 

Prayer

God of strength,
when I sense the forces of nature,
help me to remember your majesty;
when I feel my weakness,
tell me of your strength;
when the world seems to lack purpose,
teach my heart to praise you;
and when days seem slow,
and hope is thin,
remind me of the energy that raised Jesus
from death to life. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d John Proctor is a member of Emmanuel URC, Cambridge and works as General Secretary of the URC.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 6th January

Sat, 06/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 6th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: We Three Kings of Orient Are
 

We three kings of orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star.

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
 Guide us to thy Perfect Light.


Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign.
 O Star of wonder……

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high.
O Star of wonder……

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breaths a life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
O Star of wonder…….

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav’n replies
 O Star of wonder…..

 
The Rev'd John Henry Hopkins wrote this in 1857 as a Christmas surprise for nieces and nephews.  You can hear it here.

St 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. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 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. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

 
Reflection The story and the carol were both written for a specific reason. John Hopkins wrote ‘We three Kings’ for a family pageant. Matthew wrote his gospel to a church that was breaking from the Jewish community of which it had once been a part and was now declaring its new mission to the Gentile world. The story about the ‘wise men from the East’ who ‘knelt down and paid [the baby] homage’, reflects the challenge the Church was experiencing in receiving Gentile worshippers, whilst at the same time retaining the rich heritage of the Hebrew Scriptures in the many quotations from them.  This story, around which so many myths – the carol being one of them – are woven, presents The Way as a radical departure from old ways.

The beauty of the pageantry in both story and song though, hides the brokenness of the world this baby came to save. We rarely hear in church the terrifying continuation of the narrative that the ‘(un)wise men’ set in motion – the slaughter of all baby boys so that the one who was such a threat could be eliminated. It reminds me not to wrap up the Christmas story in gold paper and scented candles but remember that whilst our children may dress in velvet robes and paper crowns to enact weird and wonderful versions of the nativity, there are many children who, like Jesus, are at great risk and need the wisdom and gifts of strangers. Can we be the wise visitors of today?

Prayer

Guiding Light,
give us the hope that invites us to journey,
however difficult and dark the road.
Guiding Light,
give us the wisdom to know the right questions
when we want to find The Way.
Guiding Light,
give us both strength and vulnerability
so that our hearts and minds are open to the unexpected.  
Guiding Light,
give us generous hearts to offer gifts for life
and the grace to receive forgiveness when we go wrong.
Guiding Light,
give us wisdom.
Bring us to the Light of life.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Lis Mullen is a retired minister and member of Kendal URC

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 5th January

Fri, 05/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 5th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: Hail to the Lord's Anointed
 

Hail to the Lord’s Anointed,
  Great David’s greater Son!
Hail, in the time appointed,
  His reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression,
  To set the captive free;
To take away transgression,
  And rule in equity.

He shall come down like showers
  Upon the fruitful earth;
And love, joy, hope, like flowers,
  Spring in His path to birth:
Before Him on the mountains
  Shall peace, the herald, go;
And righteousness, in fountains,
  From hill to valley flow.

Kings shall fall down before Him,
  And gold and incense bring;
All nations shall adore Him,
  His praise all people sing;
For He shall have dominion
  O’er river, sea, and shore,
Far as the eagle’s pinion,
  Or dove’s light wing can soar.

To Him shall prayer unceasing
  And daily vows ascend;
His kingdom still increasing,
  A kingdom without end.
The mountain dews shall nourish
  A seed in weakness sown,
Whose fruit shall spread and flourish,
  And shake like Lebanon.

O’er every foe victorious
  He on His throne shall rest,
From age to age more glorious,
  All-blessing and all-blest.
The tide of time shall never
  His covenant remove;
His Name shall stand forever,
  His changeless Name of Love.

The Moravian, James Montgomery* (1771-1854), wrote this in 1821 for a Moravian Christmas occasion.  It is a free paraphrase of Psalm 72, a psalm of righteousness and justice. 

This works particularly well to the tune Ellacombe.  You can hear it sung to this here.

Psalm 72

Give the king your justice, O God,
   and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
   and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
   and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
   give deliverance to the needy,
   and crush the oppressor.
May he live while the sun endures,
   and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
   like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish
   and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
May he have dominion from sea to sea,
   and from the River to the ends of the earth.
May his foes bow down before him,
   and his enemies lick the dust.
May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles
   render him tribute,
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
   bring gifts.
May all kings fall down before him,
   all nations give him service.
For he delivers the needy when they call,
   the poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
   and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
   and precious is their blood in his sight.
Long may he live!
   May gold of Sheba be given to him.
May prayer be made for him continually,
   and blessings invoked for him all day long.
May there be abundance of grain in the land;
   may it wave on the tops of the mountains;
   may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
   like the grass of the field.
May his name endure forever,
   his fame continue as long as the sun.
May all nations be blessed in him;
   may they pronounce him happy.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
   who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
   may his glory fill the whole earth.
Amen and Amen.
The prayers of David son of Jesse are ended.
 
Reflection Is this a prayer written for an anointed king?

There are a number of ways to interpret this Psalm and the impossible task of kingship which is represents.

It may have been written for the inauguration of a Davidic king in Jerusalem,  there is  some evidence to suggest that it is closely linked with King Solomon who prayed for wisdom to judge the people with justice. It is equally possible to read it as a prayer for anyone holding the office of king.  The lists of all those attributes of an ideal king - justice and righteousness, concern for the poor and needy, long life, dominion over his enemies and defence against oppression and violence - set a challenge and the goal for any monarch.

Surely this is about more than a human king, written at a time when Israel’s king was believed to be the one through whom God’s promise to Abraham would be worked out. This is a prayer which calls for divine government to be manifest in human rulers, which does rather have the potential to set them up to fail!

If we change the focus slightly it is not difficult to find that the prayer, and its expectations, fit precisely the example set by our Lord Jesus Christ.

We could leave it there – it’s about Jesus, it’s about some long-gone kings. We could wish that today’s leaders demonstrated more about justice and righteousness and certainly – in some cases - we hope they won’t ‘endure for ever’!

But that will not do – in the 21st century we do not vest such power in our leaders and each of us is called to a responsibility to help others to live in a way which enables them to glimpse the glory of God in their daily lives. The conduit for sharing God’s love is a responsibility for each one of us, leaders and people alike.

I leave you to decide on the answer to my initial question.

Prayer

God of righteousness and justice
we thank you for the challenge to our way of living,
demonstrated in the life of your Son Jesus Christ.
We pray for all in authority
that they may defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy
and crush the oppressors of this world
We pray for the courage to follow in the way of peace
which enables people to blossom.
And we offer our praise and thanks
for all your glorious works.
Amen

Today's Writer

Val Morrison Elder at Hall Gate URC Doncaster andformer Moderator of General Assembly.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 4th January

Thu, 04/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: Of the Father's Love Begotten
 

Of the Father’s love begotten
ere the worlds began to be,
he is Alpha and Omega,
he the source, the ending he,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see:
evermore and evermore.

By his word was all created;
he commanded, and ‘twas done;
earth and sky and boundless ocean,
universe of Three in One,
all that sees the moon’s soft radiance,
all that breathes beneath the sun:
evermore and evermore

O that birth forever blessed,
when the Virgin, full of grace,
by the Spirit’s power conceiving,
bore the Saviour of our race;
and the babe, the world’s Redeemer,
first revealed his sacred face:
evermore and evermore.

This is he whom seers in old time
chanted of with one accord,
whom the voices of the prophets
promised in their faithful word:
now he shines, the long expected;
let creation praise its Lord:
evermore and evermore.

Let the heights of heaven adore him;
angel hosts, his praises sing:
powers, dominions, bow before him
and extol our God and King;
let no tongue on earth be silent,
every voice in concert sing:
evermore and evermore.

 
You can hear the hymn here.

St John 1: 15-18 

John testified to him and cried out, ‘This is he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
 
 
Reflection This much-loved hymn is wonderfully expressive of the miracle of the Incarnation, and its origin goes way back into antiquity. The original, Latin, version of the hymn (“Corde natus ex parentis”) was written by one Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, a Christian poet living in Northern Spain during the latter half of the 4th century and the early part of the 5th century. Through the translation above, J. M. Neale’s, extended by H. W. Baker, it speaks to us all down the centuries.

Theology is an ancient and honourable discipline. It constrains us to keep our beliefs substantial and sound, and to eschew mere sentimentality and wishful thinking. Likewise, the law-giver’s task can well to impose some discipline into our spirituality - Moses, mentioned in our Bible passage, occupied an honoured place on the Mount of Transfiguration.

But spirituality transcends both these great disciplines. Both disciplines can analyse and offer their own frameworks of understanding. Yet neither must be allowed to incarcerate revelation within those frameworks - because neither is adequate to convey the great incarnational miracle. It is only to the heart with love, wonder, and humility that true understanding can be given.

Our passage is an excerpt from one of the great passages of the Bible. The hymn conveys with profound expressive eloquence this part of the greatest story ever told. It is for us to take this narrative to ourselves, marvel alike at its meaning and expression, in the prose of John’s Gospel and in the poetry of the hymn, and resolve to live in the light shed by this story.

Prayer

Lord, we know this story well
- too well for our response always
to be as fresh as it should be.
Save us from being bored by its annual repetition,
and enable us to find something ever new,
to marvel and ponder over.
We thank you for poets and poetry,
to keep these great truths ever fresh.
We thank you for the beauty and facility
of language to enhance our understanding.
We thank you for the expressiveness of music and musicians,
to deepen these great hymns for us in our worship.
But most of all we thank you for the gift of your Son.
He inspires our devotion, our wonder,
and our confidence of that fuller life to be experienced
in the full and glorious light
of that closer presence with you.

Amen.

Today's Writer

Ed Strachan is an Elder and Lay Preacher at Heald Green URC.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 3rd January

Wed, 03/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 3rd January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: Before the World Began / I Am For You
 

1.            Before the world began
               one Word was there;
               grounded in God he was,
               rooted in care;
               by him all things were made;
               in him was love displayed;
               through him God spoke and said
               'I AM FOR YOU.'

2.            Life found in him its source;
               death found its end;
               light found in him its course,
               darkness its friend,
               for neither death nor doubt
               nor darkness can put out
               the glow of God, the shout:
               'I AM FOR YOU.'

3.            The Word was in the world
               which from him came;
               unrecognized he was,
               unknown by name;
               one with all humankind,
               with the unloved aligned,
               convincing sight and mind:
               'I AM FOR YOU.'

4.            All who received the Word
               by God were blessed;
               sisters and brothers they
               of earth's fond guest.
               So did the Word of Grace
               proclaim in time and space
               and with a human face
               'I AM FOR YOU.'

 
John Bell (b.1949) and Graham Maule (b.1958) 'Before the world began' was included 'Wild Goose Songs' volume 1. A collection of hymns dedicated to the Iona Community on its fiftieth anniversary in 1987. The hymn can also been found in a couple of hymnbooks in common use in URC Churches namely 'Rejoice and Sing' (180) and 'Church Hymnary', 4th Edition (317). The author's note in 'Wild Goose Songs' says: 'The Prologue to St John's Gospel, of which this song is a paraphrase, celebrates that the world is not an accident. It's creation was and is rooted in the will and Word of God.

 

St John 1:1-14  

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being  in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.  He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,  who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Reflection It isn't hard to find parallels between the first five verses of John's Gospel and first four verses of Genesis, both are about creation and start with the words 'In the beginning' speaking of God's activity in the world. In John's Gospel  the Word is with God and in Genesis the Spirit of God hovers over the waters. John refers to the light shining in the darkness and in Genesis God speaks and there is light. The first two verses of the hymn cover those same four verse in John's Gospel.

The third verse of the hymn refers to the Word in the world, but at the same time unrecognised, and unknown by name for the hymn isn't only about creation. The theme of creation links with the theme of incarnation, a link there in the prologue of John's Gospel. The Word, unknown by name is also one with us and to use the words of the hymn is aligned with the unloved.

John writes that those who received the Word and believed in his name are given the power to become children of God. In the fourth verse of the hymn we sing about those who receive the Word being blessed and becoming sisters and brother of 'the earth's fond guest'.

John's Gospel (1:14) refers to the Word becoming flesh and living among us, we see the Word's glory, like a  father's only son, 'full of grace and truth'. The final three lines of the last verse of the hymn refers to the Word of grace, proclaimed in time and space, who has a human face.

In the final line of each verse is printed in upper-case 'I AM FOR YOU' which at least suggests that this is central to the hymn in the authors’ minds. 'I am' of course being key words in John's Gospel not only used by Jesus as self-identification but also linked with the divine 'I AM'.

The Word is present with God from the beginning creating this universe and all that is in it, but the Word also discloses God's love, is present with us and shows solidarity with us.

We are in the closing days of the Christmas season. Christmas is about God coming among us in Jesus Christ who is the living Word, we hear him saying 'I am for you'.

Prayer

Loving God,
you speak to us through your living Word,
one with you,
through whom we may become your children,
sisters and brothers of each other,
one with you.

We thank you that Christ comes among us,
and is for us and for the whole of creation.
We thank you that you are active among us
through your Word and your Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Dr, David Whiting Minister, Sunderland and Boldon URC Partnership

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 2nd January

Tue, 02/01/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 2nd January Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

In the Bleak Mid Winter

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom Angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and Archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His Mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —
Give my heart.



You can hear Christina Rossetti's hymn here

St Luke 2: 22 - 32 

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’),  and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law,  Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
   according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
   which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
   and for glory to your people Israel.’
Reflection Christina Rossetti wrote this hymn in 1872.  She describes the physical circumstances of Jesus’ birth in teh frist verse, contrasts his original and second coming in the second, and dwells again on the first coming in the third verse.  In verse 4 she contrasts the angels, without bodies, who attend Jesus birth with Mary’s body who worships him physically.  The last verse switches to our response to the Incarnation.

When we encounter Jesus we need to respond - everyone does.  Sometimes that response is simple indifference, sometimes it is hostility - after all Jesus makes demands on us - sometimes the response is to worship, sometimes to follow where he leads.  

Simeon’s response is to see his dreams fulfilled in this young baby; he sees in Jesus the hopes of Israel being fulfilled and responds with praise.  

At the start of this New Year how will you respond to Jesus?
 

Prayer


I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

(Covenant Prayer used in Methodist Churches in January)

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston is the minister of Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs in the Synod of Scotland’s Southside Cluster

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion - 1st January 2018

Mon, 01/01/2018 - 09:14
96 URC Daily Devotion - 1st January 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

O LIttle Town of Bethlehem 

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel
 

Micah 5.2 

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
   who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
   one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
   from ancient days.
Reflection There was darkness on the edge of town. Ahaz had spoken. Uncertain times. Successive rulers moved from serving God to serving self, corruption flourished, people suffered. Beyond the boundary, powerful and threatening forces were gathering for siege, yet God spoke into this darkness through Micah of hope and new life to emerge from the least.

There was darkness on the edge of town. Caesar Augustus had decreed. Uncertain times. The Romans were in charge, marshalling, counting, assessing. Amidst the melee, a couple carrying the hopes and fears of first-time parents to be, found inadequate shelter, and....God sang into the darkness through angels’ song and baby’s cry.

American minister Phillip Brooks was visiting Jerusalem and on Christmas Eve rode to Bethlehem, stopping at the field of the shepherds, before midnight mass. Three years on… God moved into the darkness, through Phillip’s heart and O little town of Bethlehem, was penned.

There is still darkness on the edge of our towns. The shadow of homelessness from bed and breakfast accommodation to sofa surfing, and doorway-lined rough sleeping. Some homes watch and wait for benefit to arrive, surviving with food bank meals, fearing encircling debt. In other homes the shadow of illness lurks; a worrying diagnosis, concern about a loved one. Other homes host empty chair and bereaved heart.

And it is into such dark streets and homes that light may still shine. Flickering, yet inextinguishable. Because of that one night 2000 years ago when the hopes and fears of all the years were met, for… God still speaks, sings, and moves in the darkness, through those whose resolution is to serve from soup run and welcoming hostel to food bank and advice centre, coupled with questioning and campaigning. God is still present and active through those whose resolution is to send cards, offer prayer, visit, proffer a listening ear or show loving care.

And thus the hopes and fears of this New Year are met in thee tonight, and each tomorrow, so the everlasting light shines.

 
 

Prayer

O God,
in this season of reflection,
help me to find the people
who are calling me to change my ways
and to search my heart.
As the Winter deepens,
may my heart be stripped bare,
so that when comes the Spring,
I can rise renewed
and flourish into life. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Revd Dr David Pickering, Moderator National Synod of Scotland, Member Rutherglen URC

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 31st December

Sun, 31/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 31st December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
 

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to all,
From heaven's all-gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

 
This hymn was written in the United States of America by the Unitarian Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876) and first published in 1849.  It made its way across the Atlantic in the 1870s, where it soon became a popular hymn, and in the UK is almost always sung to the tune Noel written by Arthur Sullivan.

You can hear a recording of it here

 

St  Luke 2:14 

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’
 
 
Reflection This hymn is not really based upon any particular passage of scripture, but reflects the song of the angels in Luke 2:14.  The Companion to Rejoice and Sing notes a number of classical allusions, which suggests an element of naivety.  

The Christmas story, of course, is full of naivety.  This may be the only Christmas carol we sing regularly which does not mention the birth of Christ.  Edmund Sears wrote this hymn after the Mexican-American War, and in the midst of the social strife that plagued the United States before the Civil War, and it is clearly a prayer for peace, which is needed today as much as ever.  

We are on a weary road, and there is much disparity of wealth, many prejudices, and our planet is damaged and in danger.  Although we do our best to counter the craziness, despair can sometimes get in the way.  But in this season of Christmas, the shepherds of our imaginations will again quake with astonishment, while we fear to suggest that angels and peace might be the whimsical stuff of plays for innocent children.  The last verse of this hymn turns the traditional nativity play upside-down with a dream of radical transformation. It not only conjures a vision of angels singing over our “Babel sounds,” but asks us to imagine a day when the people of earth will sing a song of peace back to the angels.

And on this day, midnight brings another resonance, as 2017 ends and 2018 begins.  May our prayers be for the earth to sing a song of peace in the New Year.

Prayer

God of peace,
we ask your forgiveness
for all that has gone wrong in this past year,
knowing that you are a God of love and mercy,
and that you are always ready to forgive
where regret is real, and offer a new start.  
May we be willing to begin a new year
with a clean slate,
and willing to forgive ourselves
and to forgive one another.  
Remind us of our truest values
and our deepest desires.  
Help us to live in the goodness
that comes from doing what you want us to do.  
Help us to put aside anxiety
about the future and the past,
so that we might live in peace.  
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Revd Michael Hopkins, Minister of Farnham and Elstead URCs, and Clerk of the General Assembly

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 30th December

Sat, 30/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 30th December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

John Wycliffe 

John was a member of the Wyclif family of Richmond in Yorkshire and was born in about the year 1330. He was a fellow of Merton College Oxford, and Master of Balliol, but his expulsion from the Wardenship of Canterbury Hall (later incorporated into Christ Church) in favour of a monastic foundation led to a lawsuit and a life-long hatred of things monastic. He was much in favour with members of the royal family and, when disputes arose owing to his attacks on the clergy of the day, he was protected by them from the otherwise inevitable consequence of deprivation of his posts. However, he went on to deny the Church's teaching of the presence of Christ at the Eucharist, the doctrine known as transubstantiation, and it was this that lost him his royal protection. His opinions were formally condemned in 1381 and he was forced out of office by the university the following year. John had already moved to Lutterworth in 1380 and from there he gave his support to such projects as the translation of the Bible into contemporary English. The anniversary of his death,  in 1384 whilst at Mass, falls tomorrow.

Ecclesiasticus 44. 1–15

Let us now sing the praises of famous men,
our ancestors in their generations.
The Lord apportioned to them great glory,
his majesty from the beginning.
There were those who ruled in their kingdoms,
and made a name for themselves by their valour;
those who gave counsel because they were intelligent;
those who spoke in prophetic oracles;
those who led the people by their counsels
and by their knowledge of the people&#39;s lore;
they were wise in their words of instruction;
those who composed musical tunes,
or put verses in writing;
rich men endowed with resources,
living peacefully in their homes-
all these were honoured in their generations,
and were the pride of their times.

Some of them have left behind a name,
so that others declare their praise.
But of others there is no memory;
they have perished as though they had never existed;
they have become as though they had never been born,
they and their children after them.
But these also were godly men,
whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;
their wealth will remain with their descendants,
and their inheritance with their children's children.
Their descendants stand by the covenants;
their children also, for their sake.
Their offspring will continue forever,
and their glory will never be blotted out.
Their bodies are buried in peace,
but their name lives on generation after generation.
The assembly declares their wisdom,
and the congregation proclaims their praise.
Reflection The author of these verses, Ben Sira the Scribe, distinguishes two categories of ‘godly people’ from the past. There are those who made a name for themselves, who were honoured in their time and still praised for their achievements. He goes on to list them in later chapters (44:16-49:16). But there are also those other pious, godly people who for whatever reason fell below the radar. Ben Sira blesses them and sings their praises. The wisdom of these ‘forgotten’ heroes of faith lives on in their descendants. In all the celebrations that have taken place this year to mark the work of Luther and Calvin, it is easy to overlook one distinguished grandfather of the Reformation – John Wycliffe. He upset the Church Establishment by his revolt against clericalism and by his insistence that the Word of God should be available to all. He was posthumously declared a heretic by the Council of Constance on 4 May 1415 and his bones and his books were burned in an attempt to destroy his memory. Yet, in revealing the Bible’s explosive power, he lives on in his descendants down to the present day and the Church today continues to bring Scripture alive for an age that desperately needs it.
 

Prayer

Gracious God,
We praise you for all those faithful
men and women
who have opened our eyes
to the truth,
inspired us by their witness,
and strengthened us by their devotion.
And today as we remember John Wycliffe,
we remember all those who seek
to bring the Bible alive
for every man, woman and child,
in the knowledge that it can change the world for good.
Grant us understanding minds,
faithful hearts,
and voices to sing your praises,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Dr Susan Durber is the minister of Taunton URC.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 29th December

Fri, 29/12/2017 - 09:54
96 URC Daily Devotion 29th December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: Who Would Think That What Was Needed
 

Who would think that what was needed
To transform and save the earth
Might not be a plan or army,
Proud in purpose, proved in worth?
Who would think, despite derision,
That a child should lead the way?
God surprises earth with heaven,
Coming here on Christmas Day.

Shepherds watch and wise men wonder,
Monarchs scorn and angels sing;
Such a place as none would reckon
Hosts a holy helpless thing;
Stable beasts and by-passed strangers
Watch a baby laid in hay:
God surprises earth with heaven
Coming here on Christmas Day.

Centuries of skill and science
Span the past from which we move,
Yet experience questions whether,
With such progress, we improve.
While the human lot we ponder,
Lest our hopes and humour fray,
God surprises earth with heaven
Coming here on Christmas Day.

 
©1987  WGRG, Iona Community, Govan, Glasgow G51 3UU, Scotland

John Lamberton Bell* (1949- ) and Graham Maule* (1958- ). This Christmas hymn was published in Heaven Shall Not Wait (Wild Goose Songs 1) (1987), under the title ‘God’s Surprise’. It was written for the American tune SCARLET RIBBONS by Evelyn Danzig written in 1949.


 

Titus 2:11-14 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
 
 
Reflection Paul’s Epistle to Titus is believed to be one of the last written before his departure to Rome, and so we find ourselves being given a blessing, a sending out by Paul as the early Church is established. “Bringing salvation to ALL”… Jesus Christ has appeared and brings salvation to every person on earth. A very sound grounding on which we can live our lives and share this news with others as we are sent out. This passage also teaches us how to be more Jesus-like, by being zealous for good deeds. And as disciples of Jesus we should always be striving to be more Christ-like, in return for salvation.

Prayer

Father God,
Help us to continue to strive to be more Christ-like
Help us to take Paul’s blessing and be that blessing to the world.
Send us out as your people, sharing our story, and your word.
Amen

Today's Writer

Dan Morrell is the URC Youth Assembly Moderator.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Devotion 28th December

Thu, 28/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Devotion 28th December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: The Coventry Carol 
 

Lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child.
By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters, too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day;
This poor Youngling for whom we sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Herod the King, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day;
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young, to slay.

Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For Thy parting, nor say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

 
This is an English Christmas carol dating from 1534. It was traditionally performed in Coventry as part of a mystery play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors. The play depicts the Christmas story from Matthew 2.  : The carol takes the form of a lullaby sung by mothers of the doomed children. The author is unknown; the oldest known setting of the melody dates from 1591.

You can hear Annie Lennox's version here.

St Matthew  2: 13 - 18

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
  wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
  she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’
 
 
Reflection Christmas is full of traditions; alongside time-honoured practices, newer traditions are emerging. Soap-operas now have particularly tragic seasonal storylines. I suspect that this is more than a cynical ploy for ratings: perhaps it serves as a kind of emotional safety-valve, recognising and tapping into a shadow-side of the season.

For some Christmas can be tough. Accident & Emergency departments face some of their busiest days and nights; there’s a ‘spike’ in incidents of assault and domestic violence; for those who have experienced a bereavement or a relationship breakdown during the year, feelings of loss and loneliness are inevitably heightened; a bitter pill to swallow when the prevailing mood-music all around is one of celebration and goodwill.

Today’s passage, and the hauntingly beautiful Coventry Carol, remind us that anguish and lament must always be allowed a place within the Christmas story. Listening to Annie Lennox’s rendition, I’m particularly struck by the way the refrain is sung: words of lullaby, yet with a dissonant rawness of tone that seems to echo and exemplify “Rachel’s refusal to be comforted”.

I imagine few local URCs make room for “Holy Innocents” in their schedule. Maybe that impoverishes our tradition instead of strengthening it; it’s something we’ve sidelined and lost in our quest to capitalise upon the prevailing mood of celebration.

The Medieval Mystery Plays didn’t airbrush sorrow out of the Christmas story.  Matthew’s Gospel does not shy away from acknowledging the heartbreak and suffering that surrounds Jesus’  infancy. He has come, and he will heal, but the mere fact of his arrival does not erase grief from the record.

Among the ‘newer’ Christmas traditions emerging in some places is “Blue Christmas”. This church service sets aside jollity and exuberance in favour of simplicity and peace – giving people space and ‘permission’ to bring all that they are feeling as they share the Christmas story. Perhaps this isn’t a new tradition at all but rather a helpful and necessary re-emergence of a strand that was there all along.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, born among us,
in the stories of this season we find you
welcomed by a few,
overlooked by many;
honoured by a few,
threatened by many.
The pattern of your birth and infancy
foreshadows the pattern of your life and ministry
- and sometimes it resonates in our own lives.
When we feel overlooked,
welcome us.
When we feel threatened,
honour us.
And bring us, by your grace,
to do the same for one another.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dominic Grant, Minister at Trinity URC Wimbledon.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 27th December

Wed, 27/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 27th December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: O Come All Ye Faithful
 

O Come, all ye faithful,
joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem:
come and behold him
born the King of angels:

O come, let us adore him (x3)
Christ the Lord.

God of God,
Light of light,
lo, he abhors not the virgin’s womb;
very God,
begotten, not created:

See how the shepherds,
summoned to the cradle,
leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;
we too will thither
bend our joyful footsteps:

Lo, star-led chieftains,
magi, Christ adoring,
offer him incense, gold and myrrh;
we to the Christ-child
bring our hearts’ oblations:

Sing, choirs of angels,
sing in exultation,
sing, all ye citizens of heaven above,
‘Glory to God
in the highest!’:

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
born this happy morning,
Jesus, to thee be glory given;
Word of the Father,
now in flesh appearing:


 
(John F Wade (Latin) 1711-1786.  Translated by  Frederick Oakeley 1802 -1880) 

This hymn is unusual among hymn texts in that it has no rhyme and an irregular metre, and its final verse is properly sung on Christmas morning only; but this has not prevented it from being one of the most popular of all Christmas hymns, found in books of every denomination and sung (often as the climax) at carol services everywhere. It has ensured Oakeley’s immortality.


You can hear it here.

St Luke 2: 8-19

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
  and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
 
 
Reflection How come we celebrate Christmas year after year, and miss the whole point time after time? Why do we in the Church see it as some kind of temporary “time out” from the horrors of the world, like the German and British soldiers playing football in the trenches on Christmas Eve in 1914, only to resume killing each other the next day?

Jesus’ birth, with angels announcing to humble shepherds “Good News of great joy for all people” and proclaiming “peace on earth” isn’t about a temporary lull in hostilities.  God is calling time on a world that works according to Roman diktat – that delivers joy and peace for a favoured few, but condemns the poor and unimportant people to the living hell of military occupation and slavery.

Caesar Augustus had established the Pax Romana – the “peace of Rome” that extended over the known world and would last for 200 years.  For this, he was given the titles, “Saviour” and “Prince of Peace”.  And he was worshipped as the Son of God.

The angel’s Good News is the announcement of regime change.  Jesus is the true Saviour who will establish peace on earth by servant-hood, not conquest.  The Kingdom of God will extend over the world and last forever, not Rome. And it comes to lowly shepherds in a field in Nowheresville first.

That is why God comes to earth in Jesus.  O come all ye faithful says this more clearly than any other carol: the baby in the manger is not just a man of God, but God as a man.  It’s a hymn that puts the Nicene Creed (R&S 760) into song.  I love it.  I believe it.  But unless “coming and beholding the King of angels” means that the world can never go back to the way it was, and that we can never go back to our lives and politics and economics as we’ve always done, we’ve missed the point of Christmas …

Prayer

Glory to you, Christmas God!
O what a mystery – meekness and majesty:
Lord of eternity dwelling in humanity;
indestructible love, present in the frailty of a new-born baby.
And what glorious news: you are claiming this world as your own!
Deliver us from the despair that things cannot be different;
that power and military might, greed and money have the Last Word;
that brokenness and death triumph over forgiveness and Life.
Fill us with Christmas joy!
May we bring good news to the poor, liberty to the captives,
sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and proclaim the year of God’s favour.
May we do it with our words and with our lives.
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord!
Amen.

Today's Writer

Lawrence Moore is a Mission & Discipleship consultant and member of Worsley Road URC, Salford.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion for Boxing Day

Tue, 26/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion for Boxing Day Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: Good King Wenceslas
 

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

 
John Mason Neale* (1818-1866). First printed in Neale’s Deeds of Faith (1849), a children’s book, and then in his Carols for Christmastide (1853). The words were written to fit the tune of the carol, ‘Tempus adest floridum’* (‘Spring has now unwrapped the flowers’) from Piae Cantiones (Greifswald, 1582). 

You can hear the hymn here.

Acts 7: 55-60

But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.
Reflection Forget comforting Christmas card scenes of Bohemian King and pageboy trudging through snow to bring alms to a poor man. That is good seasonal fare and a reminder to be generous on this Boxing Day.

However if you can stomach it at this festival time, this moment recorded in the Acts of the Apostles when the crowd’s anger boiled over and they picked up stones to hurl at Stephen, is worth a moment’s reflection. Luke tells us that, at the moment of greatest danger, Stephen is looking up and filled with the Holy Spirit, is overwhelmed with a vision of God’s glory. It is this which ignites the crowd’s fury. As they were stoning him, he was praying. Still giving all his attention to God. Still seeking to imitate Jesus in his prayer for the crowd to be forgiven.

Prayer

Today, in the midst of festivity,
Help us to see your glory, as infant and as suffering servant,
Fill our hearts and minds and spirits,
So that like Stephen we may offer your forgiveness,
To those near and far who would do us harm,
In the name of Jesus,
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Richard Church is Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship) and a member of Streatham URC.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion for Christmas Day

Mon, 25/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion for Christmas Day Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn:Hark the Herald Angels Sing
 

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”


Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

 
Charles Wesley 1739, altered by George Whitefield 1758.  Music by Mendelson in 1840.

You can hear the hymn here.

St Luke 2: 8 - 20

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them,

‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:  to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’  
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,
‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’  

So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. 
Reflection Some people do believe in angels - holding that pure white feathers lying on the ground are from angels’ wings; others say ‘don’t be ridiculous they are from the seagulls.’  Some believe that we are angels to one another – how often do we say ‘you’re an angel!’ when someone does us a kindness?

But of course we see angels all through both Luke and Matthew’s accounts of Jesus’ birth. In Luke the angel is named – Gabriel and he (or should that be she?) first appears to Zechariah in the temple.  Zechariah was terrified but Gabriel said DO NOT BE AFRAID and went on to say that his wife would conceive in her old age and have a son whom Zechariah will name John. Then Gabriel came to Mary when Elizabeth was six months pregnant and said to Mary DO NOT BE AFRAID she would bear a son, he will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  An angel (unnamed) appears in to Joseph and said to him DO NOT BE AFRAID to take Mary as your wife.

The angels are quiet then for a while, appearing to the shepherds telling them DO NOT BE AFRAID I am bringing Good News.  Here Wesley’s hymn reflects today’s passage.

All the people the angels appeared to were scared. The angels reassured them, saying to all of them DO NOT BE AFRAID.  Sometimes we feel afraid of all sorts of things and my own prayer this Christmas is a prayer for trust that I do not need to be afraid. It is also a prayer of thanksgiving.  My prayer is for remembrance of that time when angels sang and the newborn King was given glory. As you sing the hymns today, just as that host of angels sang Glory to God in the highest over two thousand years ago, I wish you all happiness, peace and love.

Prayer

Lord God as I waken this Christmas morn
I remember your Son, Mary’s baby was born
I remember the song the angels sing
and the message of peace and goodwill they bring.

The angel said ‘Do not be afraid!’
help me to trust these words that were said
to a priest, peasants and shepherds long ago
thank you Lord that this was so,

And at Christmas Day’s end as I go to sleep
I pray your love my soul will keep
and the joy and love of this Christmas day
with my family and friends will always stay.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Lena Talbot, Minister of Revidge Fold, Trinity Brownhill and Westbury Gardens Churches

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Christmas Eve

Sun, 24/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Christmas Eve Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: Silent Night
 

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Saviour is born,
Christ the Saviour is born!

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love's pure light;
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

 
You can hear the hymn here.

St Luke 2: 1-7

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Reflection I really love Silent Night, originally in German by Austrian Franz Xaver Gruber. For me, and I suspect many others, it evokes fond childhood memories of Christmas with its lullaby-like tune.

The opening verse depicts a positively serene picture of Christ’s birth. Silent, calm, bright? These adjectives, a joy to sing though they are, bear little resemblance to what I believe childbirth to be like. “Holy Infant so tender and mild” – words which paint a picture starkly unlike the usual shrieking screams of human birth (of both child and mother). But the point of this and subsequent verses is to pronounce that this is no ordinary birth. No, Silent Night tells us that this is the holiest of births, proclaiming Jesus’ deity; God incarnate – “Christ the Saviour is born”.

The Gospel reading is something quite different, ordinary by comparison. We get the backstory of why Mary and Joseph had travelled to Bethlehem and how while there, Mary gave birth in a stable and laid Jesus in a manger. That’s pretty much it.  

These two opposing depictions of Christ’s birth illustrate well a paradox the Gospel invites us to enter into. On the one hand, Christ’s birth as something regal, holy and otherworldly, and on the other, Christ’s birth as ordinarily human, in so many ways like every other human birth throughout the ages.

Church traditions throughout history have emphasised Jesus’ deity usually at the cost of recognising and fully embracing his humanity.  It’s probably easy to see why, no one alive since the first century has experienced Jesus as an actual flesh and blood person. But to see Jesus as exclusively Godly and otherworldly would be to miss the joy of what Christmas is all about. So this Christmas, let us rejoice that God is not a distant deity, but one who loved the world so much he came to live among us in the fullness and messiness of human vulnerability.

Prayer

Dear God,
This Christmas as we sing of Jesus’ deity,
Help us also to receive the gift,
Of knowing our saviour in the fullness of his humanity.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Jonnie Hill is a student at Northern College training for the ministry of Word and Sacraments.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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