Canvey Methodist Church Worship Services 3rd January 2021

Canvey Island Methodist Church

3rd January 2021

Epiphany (January 6th) 

Preacher: Mrs Pamela Smith


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We are celebrating the Epiphany this Sunday, the realisation of who Christ is…

The celebration of Epiphany also used to include Jesus’ baptism and the wedding at Cana – when Jesus was recognised by John the Baptist and then, at his mother’s bidding, when he began to work in Galilee.

I have a bit of a thing about the kings/magi appearing at Christmas. It feels wrong in so many ways… if the star appeared when Jesus was born and there was a long journey from the east … 

So I’d like to put the magi back, after the nativity, after the dedication in the Temple (last week) to Epiphany.

We are celebrating the Epiphany this Sunday, the realisation of who Christ is…

Three Kings Day is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God in his Son as human in Jesus Christ. 

Back in medieval times this was the time - without calendars, diaries, electronic planners - when the priest would announce the date of Easter and the various celebrations for the year could be planned. 

The church would start to look forward and plan the celebrations of everything that Christ meant.


2021 is, as yet, a largely ‘unknown country’ (not least after the horrors and challenges of 2020)! 


A new year has begun.
Let us leave behind all that is past,
and walk together into the future.
Let us trust in the God of new beginnings,
and worship the God of fresh hopes.


Hymn     StF 190     Angels from the realms of glory


   1        Angels, from the realms of glory,
        wing your flight o'er all the earth;
        you who sang creation's story,
        now proclaim Messiah's birth:
            Come and worship,
            Christ the new-born King,
            come and worship,
            worship Christ, the new-born King.

   2        Shepherds in the field abiding,
        watching o'er your flocks by night,
        God with us is now residing,
        yonder shines the infant Light:

   3        Sages, leave your contemplations;
        brighter visions beam afar;
        seek the great Desire of nations;
        you have seen his natal star:

   4        Saints before the altar bending,
        watching long in hope and fear,
        suddenly the Lord, descending,
        in his temple shall appear:

   5        Though an infant now we view him,
        he shall fill his Father's throne,
        gather all the nations to him;
        every knee shall then bow down:

vv. 1-4 James Montgomery (1771–1854)
v. 5, unascribed text in The Christmas Box, 1825

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 190




Lord of our journeys,
help us this day to have
eyes to see your leading,
ears to hear your guidance,
and a heart of courage,
that we may journey faithfully and find your way –
even when the path may seem difficult and dark.



Reading Matthew 2.1-12 NRSVA (BibleGateway)

The Visit of the Wise Men

2 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,[b] and have come to pay him homage.’ 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

6 “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.”’

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 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.’ 9 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. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 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. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.


This is the word of the Lord

Thanks be to God


Hymn     StF 222     Who would think that what was needed


   1        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 might lead the way?
        God surprises earth with heaven,
        coming here on Christmas Day.

   2        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.

   3        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.

John L. Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 222
Words: From Heaven Shall Not Wait © 1987, WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow G2 3DH  Scotland.



A prayer of confession

God of grace,
who extends mercy to all who come,
we know that we have not always followed your star.
Forgive the wrong turnings we have taken;
the blind alleys we have gone up,
sometimes deliberately, usually just knowing no better.
Forgive the bad attitudes we can have,
to our circumstances or our fellow travellers.
But, much more than your forgiveness,
we crave your wholeness.
Father, shine your heavenly light on us,
guide us in your paths;
show us how to live better as individuals and as a Church;
by your Holy Spirit transform us day by day
into the likeness of Jesus;
and help us to keep saying,
'Yes, we will journey with you'.
For the sake of your kingdom.



A prayer of praise and thanksgiving

For all that has been, thanks.
For all that will be, yes!

(Dag Hammarskjold)

Hymn     StF 230     Riding out across the desert


  1. Riding out across the desert, 

travelling over sandy plains, 

comes a company of wise men, 

moving steadily along their way;

leaving all their friends behind them, 

guided by the star so bright, 

now they’ve got to keep on going 

must not let the star get out of sight. 


Riding through the desert, gently the wise men go, 

onwards to the king who was promised long ago;

but they don’t know where they’re going to find him

there’s many towns to search

so they’ll keep on following the star, 

for it will lead them to his place of birth.  


2. Wise men on their desert journey, 

travelled many miles so far 

though they’re getting tired and weary, 

town of Bethlehem is not too far: 

how they long to worship Jesus 

and honour him with royal gifts; 

hearts are full of joy and wonder 

as they’re searching for the new born king.


Peter Ratcliffe (1958)     Singing the Faith 222



Sermon / Reflection


Epiphany – a moment of sudden revelation/realisation. From the Greek for appearance.


I have a bit of a thing about the kings/magi appearing at Christmas – surely they were NOT there in the stable.


We used to celebrate and make much more of a thing of Epiphany

We lose a day of celebration, excitement, presents and special food! 


January 6th was kept as the celebration of the Manifestation of Christ - to the magi, at his Baptism AND at the wedding feast at Cana.

Which is why I got confused when looking for the Lectionary readings for today… all three popped up as possibilities.


So I’d like to put the magi back, after the nativity, after the Dedication in the Temple (last week) to Epiphany.


What might we discover if we look at an old ‘story’ in a ‘new’ place…


I like a plan … but often the plan has to be changed – that’s happened a lot this year!!

But so long as the end is achieved I discover there is often more than one way of ‘getting there’. My cooking is often like that – I plan to make something and discover a missing ingredient (I am sure it was in the cupboard last time I looked…) so I have to be ‘versatile’ and often what I end up with is equally edible and more fun.

Or sometimes there is nothing for it but to dive out to the shop and buy the essential ingredient but have the dish at a different time…

My ‘walks’ are often like that too – I may head off in one direction but get diverted by the mud or ‘something intriguing just over there’ and make discoveries or meet someone to chat to… 


Plans change and unlikely people play a part in our lives…


The magi were unlikely visitors to a Jewish baby in small town Bethlehem.

They were not Jews. Their religious views and practises were quite different! But they went a long way to find Jesus and worship him.


That journey - the gifts point to the wise men having come from the south of the Arabian Peninsula across the desert, a journey of 1,500 miles that would take around two months.

Ophir was probably in modern-day Yemen and the Bible suggests in several places that its gold is special. 

Frankincense resin is highly fragrant and is burnt in Jewish, Christian and Islamic worship; Oman and Yemen provide the best in the world. 

Myrrh, the primary ingredient of anointing and embalming oils, comes from trees in the Red Sea area. 


The magi were outsiders.

Where the Greek word translated here as ‘wise men’ occurs elsewhere in the Bible, it is translated ‘magicians’, ‘enchanters’, ‘sorcerers’ or ‘astrologers’ (Daniel 1.20 and 2.2 in the Septuagint; Acts 13.6,8) — involved in practices of which many Christians would disapprove. 

They are brought to the light by means of their ‘dark arts’… 

In Matthew’s account, these ‘outsiders’ are the first to pay homage, and their gifts are highly appropriate and fully accepted. 


They went to an unlikely place – not somewhere that kings were usually found. (They did go to Jerusalem – the obvious place - first.) 


While they might have expected the star to lead them directly to the child, the wise men ended up in Jerusalem and asked directions from there. 

Did the caravan overshoot in presumption or over-enthusiasm (Jerusalem being beyond Bethlehem from their direction of approach)? 

Whatever the reason they were back on the right path and got there in the end. 

They had been diverted but the star reappeared and they followed it, faithfully. 


I like the idea that if we try to follow Jesus but make a mistake, perhaps because of our enthusiasm or assumptions, if we play our part diligently but get it wrong, God will still get us there.


They worshipped something they barely understood.


The times we have all been through this year have been difficult – a trying journey

But we may be learning all sorts of things that will work out in the end…


Our ways of being church have changed – whoever would have believed us a few months ago if we had told them we would be going to church by YouTube!

Our ways of being family have changed – I didn’t expect to be regularly seeing our grandson on FaceTime to practise his spellings. (But then he didn’t expect to be getting 10/10 every week in his spelling test!)

Our ways of being friends have changed – I hate the telephone so I didn’t expect to be supporting my friend by daily telephone calls rather than visits, including assuring her of my love and prayers as she was dying, alone and without visitors... 


In the days and months ahead we may not understand where we should ‘go’, we may have to do things in a very different way, we may be surprised, we may have to think again about things we believed were certain, we may have to change our minds…

But if we keep looking out for the direction God is sending us, even if it is not what we expected, not with the people we understand, we will get ‘there’ in the end… 


So perhaps you would like to look out for the unexpected, unlikely people and events in the following days and look for the ways that you see God at work 

And remember how unlikely a happening it was that the magi found and recognised God, in a Jewish baby, in a small town, miles away from their home – and they worshipped him




TS Eliot’s Journey of the Magi shows one of the Magi reflecting on the experience of visiting Jesus. 

Nothing would be the same again: they were ‘no longer at ease in the old dispensation’. 


T. S. Eliot poem The Journey of the Magi (1927)


“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.


Hymn     StF 227     Brightest and best

   1        Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
        dawn on our darkness, and lend us your aid;
        star of the east, the horizon adorning,
        guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

   2        Cold on his cradle the dew-drops are shining;
        low lies his head with the beasts of the stall;
        angels adore him in slumber reclining,
        Maker, and Monarch, and Saviour of all.

   3        Say, shall we yield him, in costly devotion,
        odours of Edom, and offerings divine,
        gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
        myrrh from the forest or gold from the mine?

   4        Vainly we offer each ample oblation;
        vainly with gifts would his favour secure;
        richer by far is the heart's adoration;
        dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

   5        Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
        dawn on our darkness, and lend us your aid;
        star of the east, the horizon adorning,
        guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Reginald Heber (1783–1826)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 227


Prayers for others

The wise men made a long and difficult journey to find their king.
We pray for those facing difficult times in their life journeys today,
that you will give them assurance that your love surrounds them,
and the strength to persevere.
Give them hope, Lord.

We pray for asylum seekers who make difficult journeys
and then aren’t always made welcome when they arrive.
We pray for all who seek work and see only bleak times ahead.
Give them hope, Lord.

We pray for those who are ill,
especially those nearing the end of their earthly journey.
Give peace to them and their families,
and to those who care for them.
Give them hope, Lord.

We pray for those who have spent time
over Christmas with family and friends,
but are now back home alone, and perhaps lonely.
We pray that they will remember that they are loved, by others and by you;
and that we will remember them in the busyness of our lives.
Give them hope, Lord.

Be with us all on our journey, Lord,
and bless us as we grow daily closer to you.
Give us hope, Lord.



Prayer book  update 1.1.21.

  1. Please continue your prayers for our dear friend Sue.  She came home from hospital on Christmas Eve and is recovering at home and slowly getting some strength back.  Please keep Sue in your prayers.  May she feel much better very soon and may God continue to have her in His care.


  1. In our prayer update last week we asked for your prayers for Margaret’s 4 year old great grandson Brody.  We have heard that Naomi, Brody’s mum as caught COVID and is feeling very unwell.  Please pray for Naomi and that Brody and brother Teddy don’t catch it. 


  1. Pat Bailey has told us that her daughter has also caught COVID.  We pray for her to be safe and for her recovery and also for the rest of the family for their protection.


  1. We have an update on Roma’s sister-in-law and brother–in-law who have COVID.  Roma says –

Cathy's home with medication but John’s got lung infection on top of Covid, he will be in hospital approximately another three weeks. 


  1. Please remember John Bamford as he has an appointment for an eye op next week on the 6th Jan. We pray that will go well and be successful and that God will guide the surgeon and give wisdom. May God be with John and take away any anxiety. 


I send you all my best wishes for a very Happy, Healthy New Year, with many blessings. 


Here is a bible verse that I read this morning and I wanted to share it with you for the start of this new year. 


Psalm 143 v 8 


Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. 


God bless you all and keep you safe. 


Hymn     StF 224     As with gladness


   1        As with gladness men of old
        did the guiding star behold,
        as with joy they hailed its light,
        leading onward, beaming bright,
        so, most gracious Lord, may we
        evermore be led to thee.

   2        As with joyful steps they sped,
        Saviour, to thy lowly bed,
        there to bend the knee before
        thee, whom heaven and earth adore,
        so may we with willing feet
        ever seek thy mercy-seat.

   3        As they offered gifts most rare
        at thy cradle rude and bare,
        so may we with holy joy,
        pure, and free from sin's alloy,
        all our costliest treasures bring,
        Christ, to thee, our heavenly King.

   4        Holy Jesus, every day
        keep us in the narrow way;
        and, when earthly things are past,
        bring our ransomed souls at last
        where they need no star to guide,
        where no clouds thy glory hide.

   5        In the heavenly country bright
        need they no created light;
        thou its light, its joy, its crown,
        thou its sun which goes not down;
        there for ever may we sing
        alleluias to our King.

William Chatterton Dix (1837–1898)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 224 


Sending out prayers including the Lord’s Prayer


How does Spain celebrate Three Kings Day? Día de los Reyes

Spanish children write letters to the Three Kings, or Three Wise Men, who then bring the children gifts the night before, or on the morning of the Epiphany, January 6th. In some houses children leave their shoes outside the door so that the Three Kings will fill them with gifts, often leaving bigger presents alongside…


Our Father in Spanish (Lord's Prayer) 

Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos 

Santificado sea tu Nombre 

Venga tu reino 

Hágase tu voluntad 

En la tierra como en el cielo 

Danos hoy el pan de este día 

y perdona nuestras deudas 

como nosotros perdonamos nuestros deudores 

y no nos dejes caer en al tentación 

sino que líbranos del malo. Amen.



Lord, as we continue our journey with you this week,
as we seek to live out our faith every day,
be with us, surprise us with your love,
nudge us when you want us
to see or do something new –
for Jesus’ sake.
Amen.     (Roots)


I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'
And he replied, 'Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.'
May that Almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.


(From The Gate of the Year by Minnie Louise Haskins)