Readings: Isaiah 63:7-9; Psalm 148; Hebrews 2:10-18; Matthew 2:13-23
It may be worth exploring the resources for New Years Day as well.
Holy Family, Refugee Family
Because of the relevance of the story of the “Holy Innocents” in this moment of history, Rev Susan Blain has prepared this service as a resource for use in the Christmas season. This story from Matthew’s gospel often strikes a dissonant note in the midst of Christmas celebrations, but it offers an opportunity to reflect on the similarities of the world and the times Jesus was born into, and our own. Where do we seek the Christ Child today?
Call to Worship (Psalm 148; translation adapted from Common English Bible)
Praise God from heaven! Praise God on the heights!
Praise God, all you messengers! Praise God, all you heavenly forces!
Sun and moon, praise God!
All of you bright stars, praise God!
God set them in place always and forever.
God made a law that will not be broken.
Praise God from the earth, you sea monsters and all you ocean depths!
Do the same, you animals – wild or tame –
you creatures that creep along and you birds that fly!
Do the same, you rulers and every single person,
you princes and every single ruler on earth!
Do the same, you young ones!
– and you who are old together with you who are young!
Let all of these praise God’s name
because only God’s name is high over earth and heaven.
God raised the strength of the people,
the praise of all the faithful ones….
Invocation (Psalm 148; Hebrews 2: 10-18)
The world you have made
is powerful and dangerous,
diverse and beautiful.
By praising your goodness in all creation,
we creatures learn our place and know our strength.
Open us here to recognize the One you sent
into this complicated world,
Jesus–Holy One, Human One, Vulnerable Child—
At home wherever
there is rejoicing, or struggle, or anguish, or hope.
Teach us to follow Jesus
along the paths of praise and service
which lead to You.
Call to Confession (Matthew 2: 13-23)
You sent Jesus into a world where
children are at risk;
where they, Holy Innocents, suffer,
And their parents, like Rachel, weep for them.
When we forget that
The Holy Family was a poor family:
Lord, have mercy.
When we forget that
The Holy Family was a refugee family:
Christ, have mercy.
When we forget that
The Holy Family was an immigrant family:
Lord, have mercy.
(a moment of silent prayer)
Forgive us, O God,
and lead us to recognize your Holy Child in the places of greatest need.
Song Suggestion: Star Child
Assurance of Pardon
Hear the good news: Jesus, saviour from sin, is present with us
in the painstaking work of the Reign of God
opening our hearts and our eyes, rebuilding our relationships,
restoring our joy.
Let us celebrate this great grace by offering to one another a sign of Christ’s peace.
Passing the Peace
Call to Offering (Isaiah 63:7)
God is all about abundance:
love that never wavers,
mercy that never fails.
Let us offer our gifts generously,
and in abundant love,
as a thanksgiving to God.
Prayer of Dedication
With these gifts, dear God:
accept the praise and thanksgiving of our hearts,
which rejoice in your goodness and love.
Let our gifts point to your presence in the world:
and do your transforming work
among all who are vulnerable and in need. Amen.
Let us go forth with eyes to see and ears to hear and voices to proclaim:
In the work of justice: Christ!
In the practice of mercy: Christ!
In good news for the poor: Christ!
In the vision of peace: Christ!
Amen! Thanks be to God!
(Source: Rev. Susan A. Blain, Minister for Faith Formation; Curator for Worship and Liturgical Arts, Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ).
Mike Frost reflection on the Flight to Egypt
This isn’t a very well known Christmas painting, but I really like it.
During their escape from the murderous King Herod, the holy family rests in what looks like a derelict building. Their donkey waits on the other side of a broken wall as Joseph takes a nap and Mary feeds her child. There are dark, foreboding clouds on the horizon.
The setting reinforces the appalling situation they find themselves in. Destitute, alone, and taking brief shelter in a ruin.
Orazio Gentileschi’s picture is a strange composition. But it beautifully portrays the utter exhaustion of the holy family’s hurried escape from Bethlehem. They look like a modern day refugee family fleeing Aleppo.
Joseph has collapsed in sheer exhaustion.
Mary’s feet are dirty and she appears too tired to even cradle her hungry child, who looks furtively in our direction.
Gentileschi obviously related to the refugee status of the holy family. He painted five versions of this picture. As a young painter he had become caught up in the licentious and violent world of fellow painter Caravaggio, who not only influenced his work, but led him into scandal. Gentileschi was sued, imprisoned, and disgraced. But the last straw was when one of Caravaggio’s circle of painter friends raped Gentileschi’s daughter, Artemisia.
Gentileschi fled to England where he relaunched his career, including painting this picture.
I can’t help but see his own world-weariness depicted in it.
It reminds us that Jesus was indeed a refugee, an important truth when we consider that we are living in a time with the highest levels of human displacement on record.
An unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from their homeland. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.
There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.
Jesus’ own displacement results in the fulfillment of prophecy, whereby the Messiah would be born in David’s city but also come out of Egypt.
But it also reminds us the church must be on the side of the poor, because God himself had chosen to side with the poor and defenseless. Indeed God became one of them! Since it is clear that God had always favored the poor, it should also be clear that commitment to their relief and welfare should be our priority as well.
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
A New Father, Awe-Struck
Tune: MUELLER 184.108.40.206 (“Away in a Manger”)
A new father, awe-struck; a mother so mild;
A stable; a manger; a dear, newborn child—
God, as we imagine that family so blessed,
We sometimes forget they were poor and oppressed.
A woman—considered to have no real worth—
Said, yes! She would bear your own Son here on earth.
We hear her bold singing! Her faithful words soar:
“God humbles the rich and God lifts up the poor.”
As Joseph and Mary began a new home,
They suffered oppression from rulers in Rome.
Then, fleeing from Herod to save their son’s life,
They looked for a land free from violence and strife.
We hear in our own day the cries of the poor;
We see in Aleppo the terror of war.
In women and children and men who must flee,
We glimpse, Lord, your life as a young refugee.
When some say that only the wealthy have worth,
O God, we recall where you lived here on earth.
May we in your church serve the poor and distressed;
For, working for justice, we give you our best.
Biblical references: Luke 2:1-20; 22-24; Leviticus 12:6; Matthew 2:13-18; Luke 1:46-55; Matthew 25:31-46 and Micah 6:8.
Tune: James Ramsey Murray, 1887.
Text: Copyright © 2016 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org New Hymns: www.carolynshymns.com