Tonight's Epiphany Carols at St Martin-in-the-Fields included the Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields singing Here is the little door Herbert Howells, The Three Kings Jonathan Dove, Nativity Carol John Rutter, and The Deer's Cry Arvo Part. The theme of the Service was 'The Road Less Travelled' as explored in poetry (The Journey Of The Magi T.S. Eliot, The Road Not Taken Robert Frost, and Extract from 'Little Gidding' T.S. Eliot) and some wonderful reflections by Alastair McKay on the journeys made by the Magi to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and home.
This poem, from my Alternative Nine Lessons sequence, was also read:
Star following Magi look for the Prince of Peace
in the heart of power and opulence
only to find him in obscurity and humility.
Gifts given prefigure his divinity and sacrifice, the servant King
who, in birth and death, gives his life for others
Here are the Bidding Prayer and Intercessions that I used (the intercessions are based on Alastair's reflections):
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. God, who is both light and love, we would be a people walking in darkness still if you had not gifted us with your presence through the birth of your Son at Bethlehem. Forgive us for the countless times when we have failed to recognize you, forgotten the wonders of your love, or neglected to serve you with our whole hearts.
Just as the Magi long ago sought your presence in the world, let us do the same. As you reveal yourself in and among us, show us all the places where we get in the way of your transforming love. You have brought us through to another year and given us the choice of roads to follow from here. All that we need for the deepest of joy, you freely offer us. Hear our gratitude now and, accept our gifts, not gold, frankincense or myrrh, but hearts and voices raised in praise of Jesus Christ, our light and our salvation. May our gratitude lead us to your light and love.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this great festival of Epiphany, let us prepare our hearts so that we may be shown its true meaning. Let us pray for the world that God so loves; for peace and unity all over the earth; for the poor, the hungry, the cold, the helpless, and the oppressed; the sick and those who mourn; the aged and the little children; and all who rejoice with us but on another shore and in a greater light, that multitude which none can number, whose hope was in the Word Made Flesh, and with whom, in our Lord Jesus Christ, we forever more are one.
We find God in our journeys to Jerusalem, in the midst of our mistaken hopes and misplaced expectations, as we listen for the revelation that God has for us. So, we pray for all who are in a place where they thought their deepest needs would be met only for the reality to prove a disappointment, and find they were mistaken. God of the brightest noonday and the darkest night, no pain is too great for you to bear and no loss can remove your love from us. Pain and brokenness touch us all, holding some more firmly than others. Remove the obstacles of fear and ignorance that we may bring the light of your love to those who for whom physical illnesses are a struggle, those who live with mental distress, those who grapple with addiction, and those who seem lost. Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.
We find God in our journeys to Bethlehem, in those special places of meeting with God, that we’d not expected, but God had always planned for us. So we pray that, just as the Magi long ago sought your presence in the world, we may do the same. As you reveal yourself in and among us, let us linger at the manger long enough to see you in the world, in friends and strangers, and in ourselves. Remove our fear and our arrogance so that the light we share is your light and the ministry we engage in is truly in service to you. Be with those who lead us, those who challenge us, and those who have not yet come through our doors. Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.
We find God as we travel back to the place where we started, to the people and places we call family and home, learning to know them for the first time. Almighty and ever-living God, your Son shared the life of his home and family at Nazareth. Protect in your love our neighbours, our families and this community of which we are a part; allow all of us to find in our homes a shelter of peace and health. Make our homes a haven for us all, and a place of warmth and caring for all who come to visit us. Enlighten us with the brilliance of your Epiphany star, so that, as we go into the world, we might clearly see our way to You and discover You in our work and play. Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.
We find God as we discover what George found and what the sage expressed, that all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. Wise and transforming God, how long you have waited for all your people to live in peace. We see difference where you see your children. We resort to violence and war where you would have equity and justice. Many claim you on their side, when in reality you are always on the side of mercy, compassion, and justice. Your wisdom still calls out in the world, waiting for an answer that is more than human foolishness. May all the leaders of the world hear her cry. Show us the way of peace and grant us the strength to pursue it with unflagging passion. We pray for an end to the divisions and inequalities that scar your creation; that all who have been formed in your image might have equality in pursuit of the blessings of creation. Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.
We find God because the Christ child has come, and we are overwhelmed with joy. Loving God, as we enter into this New Year, grant that we may walk with the one born in Bethlehem and that our worship and our praise may bring to him, to you and to the Holy Spirit, the glory and honour due your most Holy Name. By his coming, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light, that our feet may be strengthened for your service, and our path may be brightened for the work of justice and reconciliation in our broken world. Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.
Almighty and most merciful God, you took on human flesh not in the palace of a king but in the throes of poverty and need: Grant that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart; that, following in the steps of your blessed Son, we may give of ourselves in the service of others until poverty and hunger cease in all the world, and all things are reconciled in the reign of Christ. Amen.