Thursday, January 7, 2021

Evening Prayer for Epiphany


January 6, 2021

Evening Prayer (Vespers)

You may wish to light a candle and place it before you as you begin.


Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome.

Stay with us, Lord, for it is evening, and the day is almost over.

Let your light scatter the darkness and illumine your church.

HYMN: We three kings

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FIRST READING: Isaiah 60:1-6

A reading from: Isaiah

 Arise! Shine! Your light has come;
    the Lord’s glory has shone upon you.
Though darkness covers the earth
    and gloom the nations,
    the Lord will shine upon you;
    God’s glory will appear over you.
Nations will come to your light
    and kings to your dawning radiance.

Lift up your eyes and look all around:
    they are all gathered; they have come to you.
Your sons will come from far away,
    and your daughters on caregivers’ hips.
Then you will see and be radiant;
    your heart will tremble and open wide,
    because the sea’s abundance will be turned over to you;
    the nations’ wealth will come to you.
Countless camels will cover your land,
    young camels from Midian and Ephah.
They will all come from Sheba,
    carrying gold and incense,
    proclaiming the Lord’s praises.

Word of God, word of life. Thanks be to God.


PSALM:  Psalm 72:1-7

 God, give your judgments to the king.
Give your righteousness to the king’s son.
Let him judge your people with righteousness
and your poor ones with justice.
Let the mountains bring peace to the people;
let the hills bring righteousness.
Let the king bring justice to people who are poor;
let him save the children of those who are needy,
but let him crush oppressors!
Let the king live as long as the sun,
as long as the moon,
generation to generation.
Let him fall like rain upon fresh-cut grass,
like showers that water the earth.
Let the righteous flourish throughout their lives,
and let peace prosper until the moon is no more.


Gospel:  Matthew 2:1-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”

When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:

You, Bethlehem, land of Judah, by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah, because from you will come one who governs, who will shepherd my people Israel.

Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

Word of God, word of life. Thanks be to God.



Were they kings or astrologers or magicians or priests? Were there three magi? Or were there more? They checked in at the palace and alerted King Herod, they brought 3 gifts to the baby, and they left. This is a familiar story to us. There are other stories about people who tried to find the baby, and these other stories remind us of the reason for giving and for seeking the Christ Child.

Here is one of them: The story of Babushka  

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Or, here is one version of the text.

Once in a small Russian town there lived a woman called Babushka. Babushka always had work to do sweeping, polishing, dusting and cleaning. Her house was the best kept, most tidy house in the whole village. Her garden was also beautiful and her cooking was wonderful.

One evening she was busy dusting and cleaning, so busy that she didn’t hear the villagers outside in the square talking about and looking at the new star in sky. She had heard about the new star but thought, All this fuss about a star! I don’t even have the time to look because I’m so behind with my work. I must work all night!

So, Babushka missed the star as it shone brightly, high overhead. She also missed the little line of twinkling lights coming down towards the village at dawn. She didn’t hear the sounds of the pipes and drums. Babushka missed the voices and whispers of the villagers wondering whether the lights were an army or a procession of some sort. She missed the sudden quiet of the villagers and even the footsteps coming up the path to her door.

But the one thing that she couldn’t miss was the loud knocking on her front door.

Now what is that? she wondered, opening the door. Babushka gaped in amazement: There were three kings at her door with one of their servants.

“My masters need a place to rest,” the servant said, “Yours is the best house in the village.”
“You want to stay here?” asked Babushka.
“Yes, it would only be until night falls and the star appears again,” the servant replied. Babushka gulped.
“Come in, then,” she said.

The kings were very pleased when they saw all of the of the homemade bread, pies and cakes. She dashed about, serving them, asking lots of questions.

Have you come a long way?’

“A very long way,” sighed Caspar.
Where are you going?
“We’re following the new star,” said Melchior.
But where?
The kings did not know, but they believed that it would lead the to a new-born king.

“Why don’t you come with us?” asked Balthasar. “You could bring him a gift like we do. I bring gold, and my colleagues bring spices and perfumes.”
“Oh, I’m not sure that he would welcome me,” said Babushka. “And what could I bring for a gift? I know I could bring a toy, I have a cupboard full of toys. My baby son died when he was small,” she said sadly.

Balthasar stopped her as she went to tidy the kitchen up.
“This new king could be your king, too. Come with us when the star appears tonight,” he said.
“I’ll think about it,” sighed Babushka.

As the kings slept, Babushka tidied up as quietly as she could. What a lot of extra work there was, she thought. And this new king. What a funny idea, to go off with the kings to find him.

Babushka shook herself. There was no time for dreaming, all this washing-up and putting away had to be done.

Anyway, she thought, how long would she be away? What would she wear? What about the gift? She sighed. There is so much to do. The house will have to be cleaned when they’ve gone. I couldn’t just leave it.

Suddenly it was night again, and the star was in the sky.

“Are you ready, Babushka?” asked Balthasar.
“I’ll come tomorrow,” Babushka called, “I must just tidy here first and find a gift.”

The kings went away sadly. Babushka ran back into her house, keen to get on with her work. Finally, she went to the small cupboard, opened the door and gazed at all the toys. They were very dusty, they weren’t fit for a baby king. They would all need to be cleaned.

She cleaned all of the toys until each one shined. Babushka looked through the window, and it was morning. The star had came and gone. The kings would have also found somewhere else to rest by now. She could easily catch up with them, but she felt so tired she had to sleep.

The next thing she knew, she was awake and it was dark outside. She had slept all day. She quickly pulled on her cloak, packed the toys in a basket and ran down the path the kings had taken.

Everywhere she asked, “Have you seen the kings?”
“Oh yes,” everyone told her, “We saw them, they went that way.”

For days, Babushka followed the trail of the kings and the villages became larger. Babushka never stopped until she came to a city.

The palace, she thought. That’s where the royal baby would be born.

“No, there is no royal baby here,” said the palace guard when she asked him.
“What about three kings?” asked Babushka.
“Oh yes, they came here, but they didn’t stay long. They were soon on their journey.”
“But where to?” asked Babushka.
“Bethlehem, that was the place. I don’t imagine why. It’s a very poor place.” replied the guard.

She set off towards Bethlehem, and it was evening when Babushka arrived. She went into the local inn and asked about the kings.
“Oh yes,” said the landlord, “The kings were here two days ago. They were very excited, but they didn’t even stay the night.”

“And what about a baby?” Babushka cried.
“Yes there was also,” said the landlord. “The kings asked about a baby, too…” When he saw the disappointment in Babushka’s eyes, he stopped.
“If you’d like to see where the baby was,” he said quickly, “He was across the yard there. I couldn’t offer the couple anything better at the time. My inn was really full, so they had to stay in the stable.” Babushka followed him across the yard. He left her to be alone in the stable.

“Babushka?” Someone was calling her from the doorway.

He looked kindly at her, and she wondered if he knew where the family had gone. She knew now that the baby king was the most important thing in the world to her.

“They have gone to Egypt, and safety. The kings have returned to their countries, but one of them told me about you. I am sorry, but you are too late,” he told Babushka.

It is said that Babushka is still looking for Jesus today.


Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets,         

but in these last days, God has spoken to us by the Son.



In peace let us pray to the Lord, saying, “We pray to you, Lord.”


That this evening may be holy, good, and peaceful, We pray to you, Lord.


That the work we have done this day and the people we have met may bring us closer to you, We pray to you, Lord.


That we may be forgiven our sins and offences, We pray to you, Lord.


That we may hear and respond to your call to peace and justice, We pray to you, Lord.


That you will sustain the faith and hope of the weary, the lonely, and the oppressed, We pray to you, Lord.


That you will strengthen us in your service, and fill our hearts with longing for your kingdom, We pray to you, Lord.


Other prayer petitions may be offered here.

For all this and more, We pray to you, Lord. Amen.


Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.  Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory, are yours now and forever. Amen.

HYMN:  As with gladness men of old

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May the Lord of peace give us peace in all ways and at all times. Amen


Scripture from Common English Bible © 2012

Liturgy from ELW Annual Liturgy License 26504

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The light shines in the darkness

01 03 2021

John 1:1-18

This year, the way the calendar falls, we have a choice of observing the Second Sunday of Christmas or Epiphany Sunday. St Matthew’s has a history of observing Epiphany with a separate service, so today we read the Prologue from the Gospel of John, and on Wednesday evening, the service of Evening Prayer will focus on the visit of the Magi to Jesus and his family.

For today, then, the Prologue to John’s Gospel. You may remember in Advent that I stressed the importance of the opening sentence of Mark’s Gospel: the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark’s point is that Jesus is the Son of God and the long-expected messiah.

In John, the opening lines also tell us where the story will take us. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. John begins by telling us Jesus has been present within the Godhead from the very beginning of creation. More, through Jesus, everything that exists came into being.


So, Jesus is divine, powerful, God incarnated in human flesh. Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus will identify himself as I AM, the same name God uses with Moses – I AM WHO I AM. In John, Jesus frequently says “I and the Father are one.” Throughout the Gospel, it is clear that Jesus is God-with-skin-on.

John the Baptist shows up in all four gospels. For a time in the ancient world, John was at least as important as Jesus, even after they were both dead. John’s followers continued for decades to gather in his name, just as Jesus’ followers gathered in his name. But … all four gospels make it clear that John always points to Jesus as the more important one.

Jesus is the one who brings the light because he is from the light. He shines divine light into the world to bring life to all people. Where there is light, there is life and where there is life there is hope. Where there is hope, there is life and light. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome, overpower, the light.


Jesus’ light shines into our world this year as every year – amid the coronavirus; amid the reminders of racism and injustice; amid the antagonism of elections. Jesus sees it all, and he knows our pain, our grief, our anxiety, our frustration. Jesus came to remind us that God loves us and cares about the multiple traumas of this year.


Jesus’ light also shines into the dark corners, the dark corners we would rather not think about, the dark corners we regret, the dark corners we didn’t know existed. Jesus’ light shines into our grief and depression, reminding us that we are noticed and loved. Jesus’ light shines through our sadness and fear to fill us with hope, if we open our hearts to receive it.  

Jesus’ light shines into our COVID-19 world to remind us that there are many ways to connect, to worship, to serve our neighbors. Through the internet, Jesus’ light shines into our hearts in worship and learning.

Jesus’ light shines into the scientific world, guiding and giving wisdom to those seeking remedies and vaccines against the virus. It shines into the hearts of essential workers – from doctors and nurses to delivery drivers and store clerks.

We would rather see the light easily, shining brightly against the darkness of our days. But, sometimes the light is harder to see. It may feel totally dark to us.



But it only takes one candle, just a single candle to make a difference. A single candle can dispel a lot of darkness.

 Jesus’ light brings us hope and love along with the light. There are days when we need someone to be the light for us. There are days when we all, you and I, need someone to share Jesus’ light with us, days when all we can see is darkness.

When the light – Jesus’ light – shines in the darkness, the darkness cannot overcome his light. Let’s give thanks for those who have been Jesus’ light for us. … And, let’s be the ones who share some light, some of Jesus’ light, shining into someone else’s darkness. Amen