Happy New Year!
Last Sunday we celebrated Epiphany; the journey and arrival of the wise men / 3 kings at the scene of the nativity. I think it is probably my favourite part of the Christmas story. It brings into the narrative a new dimension which serves to add an even deeper sense of wonder and mystery, and joy, to what is already a deeply awesome story. And it all happens after the traditional celebrations are over…
As if it wasn’t enough to have God born to us on earth, as a newborn vulnerable baby, to parents in very temporary accommodation (if an outhouse is accommodation at all), with the local shepherds summoned by the heavenly host to be the witnesses; now it changes volume. 3 unknown travellers arrive from an unknown land, into what is to them an unknown place, in search of something… unknown. They seek a child born as king of the Jews and, understandably, turn up first at King Herod’s palace, presumably surprised to see the old king alive and well. No new king here! Herod gets frightened and, as it is discerned that the Messiah might be in Bethlehem, sends the men off to find the child and then report back to let him know. And so they do, and they find Jesus in Bethlehem and give him those familiar gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.
All this is set out in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 2. Matthew ends his telling of the story with this verse at 2:12, “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road”.
For me, this is the crucial bit. They are transformed by what they discover in Bethlehem. In the midst of their vulnerability, and God’s, they literally find God has given himself to humanity. What a gift! Given how incompetent humanity has proven itself to be over millennia after millennia, why, if you are the all-powerful creator God, would you incarnate yourself as a baby utterly reliant on humanity’s goodness? There is no logical answer, only the most illogical one – love. It only makes sense if it is an act of self-giving that risks all for no required return that comes from nowhere else but love. And in recognising that, there is only one response that even comes close to adequate. Giving our all for God. Those three strangers are transformed, and it seems given the wisdom to understand that the way home was not by retracing their steps – but by finding a new way.
As we pack up our decorations, re-populate our lofts and stores with the baubles, tinsel and lights of Christmas past, how will we let the presence of God speak to us to show us a different way to go home? How will you embark on the journey of 2024 having been transformed by the love of God? Because you have!
SERVICES IN THE BENEFICE FOR THE COMING FORTNIGHT:
Sunday 14th January
8am – BCP Holy Communion; St Stephen’s, Winsham
10am – Morning Worship; St Mary’s, Thorncombe
1030am – Holy Communion; St Michael & All Angels, Chaffcombe
Sunday 21 January
1030am – Holy Communion with Sunday School; St John’s, Tatworth
1030am – Joint service with Winsham URC; St Stephen’s, Winsham
Tuesday 16th January – 9:30am Morning Prayer, St John’s, Tatworth
Wednesday 17th January – 9:30am Holy Communion, St Mary’s, Thorncombe
I am delighted to announce that we have appointed Claire Brown as our new, and first, Benefice Administrator! Claire has started with us this week and will be working 8 hours / week supporting the administrative tasks for the Benefice. In particular she will play an important role in collating and communicating what is happening across the Benefice and keeping our online presence up to date. The Benefice Administration email is email@example.com
Epiphany Open House – Saturday 20 January; 10am – 12pm
Michelle and I would like to extend an invitation to all to pop into the vicarage on the morning of Saturday 20 January (10-12) for coffee and cake. It is an opportunity for us to say thank you to you all for your support of our churches. ALL WELCOME!
I am recommencing our public prayer list for those who are ill, and therefore would be grateful if you could let me know of anyone who would like to be included. It is very important that if you are nominating someone other than yourself that they are aware and have given consent.
We remember in our prayers all those whom we love but see no longer. Particularly at this time we remember Sylvia Massey, who passed away on 6th January and whose funeral is in St Mary’s Thorncombe on Friday 19th January at 1230pm.
The collect for Epiphany:
O God,who by the leading of a star manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: mercifully grant that we, who know you now by faith, may at last behold your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Philip & Michelle
The Reverend Philip Butcher
Rector – Two Shires Benefice (Tatworth, Thorncombe, Winsham, Chaffcombe & Cricket Malherbie)
3 Home Farm
PASTORAL EMAILS – please to: firstname.lastname@example.org
HOME PRAYER & WORSHIP: https://twoshires.wordpress.com
Rest Days – Mondays (Tuesdays where following a bank holiday)
For non-urgent enquiries please allow up to a week for responses.
Mornings are best times for phone contact!