Worship at Home for Sunday, January 7, 2024

Dear Friends,

Wishing you a blessed New Year. This Sunday we will celebrate both Epiphany and the Baptism of Christ.

If you would like a home visit, conversation, or home communion, please call me at 573-437-2779 (church).

  • Annual Reports are due this week.
  • Putting away Christmas Decorations after worship today.
  • Church Council meeting on Monday, January 8 at 6:00pm
  • Bell Choir on Wednesday at 4:15pm
  • The Congregational Annual Meeting will be on Sunday, January 21 after worship.
  • Games and Potluck on Sunday, January 21 after the meeting.

Pastor Stephanie DeLong

Scripture: Genesis 1:1-5 * Matthew 2:1-12 * Mark 1:4-11

Sermon: It Begins with Light

During the darkest days of the year, light offers direction, hope and promise. When God began to create the heavens and the earth, God began with light. The Magi followed the light of a star that appeared when Jesus was born. Isaiah 60:1 proclaims, “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” In the chaos, in the darkness there is God’s light.

Human beings need light, but we need night too. It is easier to sleep in a room that is dark or dimly lit. We are biologically set to sleep during the night and to awaken when the light streams into our rooms in the morning. We need the rest that night offers, but we need light to guide our way.

For generations people have studied the night sky. They have charted the stars. They have followed the phases of the moon. They have noted changes in the night sky and pondered their meaning. The Magi followed this tradition when they noticed the new star shining in the East. They surmised that this star signified the birth of King and followed it to Judea.

Once in Judea, they called upon King Herod who was disturbed by the news which the Magi shared about the light in the sky. In the political circle of King Herod the news of the Messiah begins with the recognition of the light of a star. Unlike the shepherds who were amazed by a bright light in the sky on the night of Jesus’ birth, Herod felt threatened.

The Magi continued their journey towards Bethlehem bringing gifts of significance. The cartoon below explains the symbolism of each gift. Gold because Jesus is a King. Frankincense because he is God. Myrrh because Jesus is a mortal being. The Magi in Matthew’s Gospel proclaim with their gifts who Jesus is to the world.

The light of the Messiah is too much for the corrupt powers of this world. Herod lashes out and kills the infants much like Pharoah did. Matthew portrays Jesus as the new Moses when Mary and Joseph flee with him to Egypt. Later the family returns and moves to Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth where he spends his childhood and youth.

A powerful light in the night sky signifies that something major is happening. On December 28 around 8pm, we stood by the lake at our resort and looked East. NASA had announced that there would be a night launch of a powerful rocket. We stood with several other families staring across the lake towards the Kennedy Space Center seeking signs of the rocket launch. Launch began with a rosy light in the distance that looked like a miniature dawn. Then we saw distant flames of the engines as the rocket rose over the trees. The booster rockets flared and tumbled away. The spacecraft gave off a smaller light on its way into earth’s orbit. When the light faded, we returned to our rooms.

God’s light shone brightly when Jesus was born. For a while everything was quiet as the infant grew into a man. The Gospel of Mark begins with the light of John the Baptist. John admitted that he was not the great light. John’s baptism was that of water and confession. The One who comes after John will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus arrived at the Jordan and was baptized by John. When Jesus rose from the baptismal water the Holy Spirit ripped apart the heavens to descend like a dove upon Jesus. A voice proclaims Jesus’ to be God’s son. What began with light in the sky has now entered a trajectory that will travel to the cross, the resurrection and the ascension.

The carol “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright” extols the beauty of the heavenly light. We will sing this after the sermon. The words invite us to ponder the light of truth and light and to let that divine light shine within our hearts. Yes, it begins with light.

Prayer: God may your light shine to guide me. May your light shine within me and through me. Amen.

Prayer list: All who have been on our list for a while, Mark’ s brother Billy, Delores W., Tyra, Freya, Vicki B., Barb Z., Jesse, Tammy. Jennifer, Richard, Tamara, John, Dixon’s great granddaughter, Ashlely and Cody, Garth, Linda, Tessa, Carl, Kimbra, Liz’s father, Dannie, Lathe, Marilyn, Kris, Lee Ann, Bob, Diane, Louise, Janet, Linda, Keetha, Lori’s mom Judy, Bryson, Tanner, Coleton, Carly, Mia, Brenda, earthquake victims in Japan, places where there is war and all who are in need about which we do not know. If you know of anyone who would like a prayer shawl, please let us know.