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Sunday, 4 January 2015

Bring blessing to be a blessing

My sermon today was based on an assembly about Epiphany:

The Feast of the Epiphany sees Jesus is portrayed as the hope of the world by his ‘epiphany’ or ‘showing forth’ to these wise men from distant lands. Epiphany celebrates the showing of the new king, Jesus, to the world.

In a European custom at Epiphany, chalk is used to mark houses and acts as a symbol of the Christian story of God becoming human, taking on flesh as part of the earth. As part of this custom children bless others and support projects for disadvantaged children. There is also support and publicity for the United Nations’ ‘Rights of the Child’ and the responsibilities which accompany them (see

The custom at Epiphany in Germany, and several other European countries, is a children’s festival - Three Kings’ Day. After a service at church, children go from house to house to gather offerings for children in need in developing countries. They are dressed as the three kings and carry sticks with stars on the top. At the homes they sing songs and remember the birth of Jesus. They are known as ‘sternsinger’ or star-singers and they aim to bring blessing to be a blessing.

This year at each house they visit they will paint this code: 20*C+M+B+15. The numbers stand for the year: 2015. The crosses are not ‘pluses’ but reminders of Jesus Christ and his cross. The letters are the first letters of the traditional names of the wise men: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar; but more importantly they stand for the Latin Christus Mansionem Benedicat (May Christ bless this house).

All around the world people would like their homes to be filled with joy and blessing and Jesus came to bring joy and blessing to all people everywhere. That’s why Christians like to re-enact the story of the wise men being led to Jesus, visiting him at his own house. Finding Jesus brought them joy and blessing; they returned to their homes with new hope. In what ways have we received and responded to the joy and blessing that he brings?

In countries where children become sternsingers, Epiphany is a time to celebrate the possibility of new hope through children. As sternsingers, children ‘bless’ others with their resourcefulness, cheerfulness and energy. The bring blessing to be a blessing particularly by encouraging others to support projects which aim to improve the living conditions and educational chances of children all around the world irrespective of their religion, origin or colour. Like them we can become people who bring blessing to be a blessing both by celebrating our festivals and supporting disadvantaged children around the world.

Seeing at Epiphany that God becomes a child and that children bless us as well as having many needs can lead us to a recognition for the ‘Rights of Children’ and the responsibilities which accompany these rights. In Jesus, God was born as a child with a name, nationality and family ties. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child stresses, in Article 8, that Governments should respect children’s right to a name, a nationality and family ties. It also emphasises the rights of children to good quality health care, to clean water, nutritious food, and a clean environment, so that they will stay healthy (Article 24) and to an education including free primary education (Article 28). Jesus had these things in his childhood but they were put at risk by the visit of the Magi.

As the story of the visit of the Magi progresses it leads to the horrific ‘Massacre of the Innocents’ and the holy family escaping from Palestine to live in Egypt as refugees. Several other ‘Rights of Children’ deal with refugee issues, loss of country, language and so on. Eventually, Jesus’ family return to Nazareth and Jesus experiences the healthy and educative environment which should the right of all children. No doubt the expensive gifts which the Magi gave, helped in supporting Jesus’ family as a whole. Just as the wealthy Magi brought gifts to the Christ-child born into poverty, so wealthier countries should help poorer countries achieve these basic rights for disadvantaged children throughout the world.

Prayer: Maybe you would like God to bless your home and the homes of others. Copy the inscription (20 + etc) onto your hand, drawing with your finger as you listen to this prayer:

The world’s children are the victims of exploitation and abuse. They are street children. They are the children of war. They are the victims and orphans of HIV/AIDS. They are often denied good-quality education and health care. They are victims of political, economic, cultural, religious and environmental discrimination. They are children whose voices are not being heard. So, we pray for a world fit for children, because a world fit for us is a world fit for everyone. We pray for respect for the rights of the child. We pray for governments and adults having a real and effective commitment to the principle of children’s rights and applying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to all children. We pray for safe, secure and healthy environments for children in families, communities and nations. Bless, O Lord God almighty, our homes and all homes, this year, that in them there may be health and friendship, kindness and goodness, love and forgiveness, through Jesus the King, we pray, Amen.


The Staple Singers - God Bless The Children.

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