worship format and original content: (c) 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber
As the Living God guides us through these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise, we offer free worship content. We’re exploring format shifts. Bear with us! Take Care!
Time for Children of All Ages
Out of the Bag: “Carol of the Brown King” Epiphany poem by Langston Hughes illustrated by Ashley Bryan
Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.
Call to Worship
That STAR! That brilliant star! Let us follow Holy Light!
That KING! That frightened king! Let us follow Holy Light!
That BABE! That royal babe! Let us follow Holy Light!
That DREAM! That guiding dream! Let us follow Holy Light! Amen.
Light the Christ Candle
Gathering Song “We Three Kings” Words and music: J H Hopkins. Arranged, recorded, and performed by Nathan Drake.
We Rest in God’s Grace
Releasing and Receiving
How is it with your soul? Check in with God however your spirit and body wish. It’s okay, too, just to say “Hi!” to God. God’s delighted you are here.
We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:
Be still and know that I am God. (pause)
Be still and know that I am. (pause)
Be still and know. (pause)
Be still. (pause)
Rest in God’s loving presence for as long as you wish. When you’re ready to move on, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”
Sometimes, God wonderfully interrupts our plans! God offers us new opportunities to realign and change course, something the Magi (Wise Men) knew first hand. Sometimes, God’s grace pours out as a calling to make a significant shift. Maybe God is inviting you to take another road, too? Amen.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 2:1-12 (NRSV)
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.
May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.
Reflection “Paying Homage”
The Wise Ones knew what was true and good and what was not. God spoke to them through their experiences and dreams. They had the wisdom to disobey a dishonest and evil king. They practiced “discernment” – the careful, thoughtful, and spiritual evaluation of circumstances.
As this crazy year 2020 concludes and 2021 arrives with its own challenges the ability to “discern” is even more important. Taking time to deeply reflect on next steps and checking in with God before forging on is critical. Two thousand years ago, three traveling scholars practiced discernment and chose not to tell a corrupt leader where the Messiah was. They protected the life of one who embodied divine presence. Would Christianity exist today if the Magi had informed King Herod of Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem?
As the calendar year turns, now is a very good time to look back mindfully and to enter the new year prepared to practice discernment. Please consider setting aside time in early January, maybe during this week, to observe a reflective home-retreat. (see video link below)
God is inviting us to listen carefully to attend the wisdom of our souls and minds, to honor the realities of our bodies and hearts, and to enter the future as Jesus himself might say, “Wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.”
May God bless you as you discern how to honor God – what God has done for you and what God is calling you and yours into in 2021. Amen. Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)
Spiritual Practice: Mindfully Turning the Year
This virtual retreat guides us through intentionally shifting from the old year to the new one. Video may be stopped to expand exercises at any time. Setup home retreat space: quiet and uninterrupted, wear layers, soothing drink, notebook or device for writing, spiritual items of comfort, items for release ritual — small paper to safely burn or two bowls, one with small object like pebbles. Practice includes: • Grounding Prayer • Reflection: What to leave behind? • Ritual: Physical Release • Reflection: What to carry forward? • Ritual: Being Open • Closing Prayer.
Special Music “Do You Hear What I Hear” Words by Noël Regney and music by Gloria Shayne. Performed by Gentri.
Prayers of the People, The Lord’s Prayer
We Give Thanks
The Magi arrived in Bethlehem bearing three gifts – gold (economic wealth), frankincense (religious devotion), and myrrh (royal anointing) – all extremely valuable items reserved for presentation to royal deities – humans of divine standing. To give an infant this trio of gifts represents the highest value of honor international dignitaries would show a being who embodied God’s presence on earth. Imagine those gifts being given to a child being born in a stable?
On the Feast of Epiphany, (January 6th), we remember the Three Magi’s trip to pay homage to Jesus Christ. They remind us to honor Jesus Christ and to give God the very best and to present our gifts where most needed. (Scholars believe these valuable gifts were used by the Holy Family to purchase their escape to Egypt when King Herod mandated the deaths of all young male children in his cruel efforts to protect his reign as king.) How might we honor God by sharing our gifts this year? (also see donation footnote)
We Continue in Hope
Song of Hope “Let There Be Peace on Earth” Music and Lyrics by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson. Arranged by Keith Christopher. Adapted and directed by Sarah Grandpre. Performed by Voices of Hope Children’s Choir. (Chalice #677)
Let us take off our crowns and bow down.
Let us freely offer our very best gifts.
Let us praise the Holy One wherever we find him.
Let our souls rejoice with joy and hope!
And may we travel on in peace. Amen.
(the service is concluded)
“Nativity explained: the gifts from the Magi,” Michael Trimmer. ©2013. https://www.christiantoday.com/article/nativity-explained-the-gifts-from-the-magi/35146.htm
Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995
Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995
HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.
YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results
All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source.
(Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, suspended copyright restrictions early during the coronavirus pandemic. Permission may shift as conditions change. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms publishing requirements.
Online Publishing Date: December 30, 2020.
Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms publishing requirements for all created content.
Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However, you may express your gratitude financially by supporting a local non-profit that uplifts brown and black children and their families. If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!
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