Sunday Worship 7th January 2024 – Epiphany

(All our songs this morning are from Singing the Faith (StF) or Hymns & Psalms (H&P) numbers will be given where available)

Welcome to our Sunday Service, today shared on paper across our circuit and with the congregation at Thornton Methodist Church and led by Roy Lorrain-Smith one of our Circuit Local Preachers and Geoff Briggs a worship leader at Thornton.

Click on the blue links to follow them for bible readings and associated links

Song – H&P 484 or StF 39 – Angel Voices Ever Singing

Story: The mouse and the cowshed visitors

Once upon a time there was a nervous little mouse who lived in a hole in the ground near a cow-shed at the edge of a village.  He was a handsome mouse, as mice go, with black beady eyes which watched out for danger, so he could scuttle home if hawks hovered in the sky or cats came by.  And he had big grey ears, to listen for any harm.  His twitchy little nose helped him find morsels of food in places like the cow shed, and his fine whiskers helped him find his way there in the dark.  Oh, and he had a long tail to help him balance when he stood up on his hind legs to see better. 

Besides all those he had a furry little coat which fitted him perfectly and kept him warm.  It was grey-brown on his back and white on his tummy.  He was very proud of it.

One day he heard some news.  He was told by another mouse, who had heard it from a beetle, who lived in the cow shed and had overheard the cow talking to a new donkey – he was told that there were some very special visitors there.  So he thought he’d better go and see.

He was a nervous little mouse, so he took great care.  First of all he poked his nose out and sniffed… hmm, yes, all clear.  Then he peeped out… and he could see no danger.  But just to be sure he pushed a little farther out and listened… very carefully with his big grey sticky-up ears, and looking left and right as he did so (and being a mouse, he also looked up, just in case there were any hawks were about). 

All seemed well, so he crept out, and keeping close to the wall  scuttled quickly to the cow shed door.  It was shut, but being very small he could easily squeeze underneath.  Once inside, he hid in some straw till he could see what was what.

There was the cow, and there was the new donkey.  There was the other mouse and her friend the beetle.  And they were all looking at – he had to stretch up on his hind legs to see, his tail helping him balance – they were all looking at a human family: a Mum, a Dad and a baby boy who was very little.
(Well, actually, he was pretty big compared to the mouse, but very small for a human.)

They weren’t the only ones looking.  There were three other rather foreign-looking men there too, and they were talking to the Mum and Dad, and gazing at the little boy.  Gazing adoringly, they were.  And the mouse wondered why.  So very quietly he made his way round to where the little boy was lying in some hay.  And as he twitched his nose and whiskers, he could sense somehow that, yes, this baby was special.  He began to listen to what the men were saying to the Mum and Dad.

They had come a long way… following a guiding star…
… to find a new king…  A king!  My goodness, who was the king? 
Was it the Dad?  No, they were looking at the baby boy.
Was he going to be a king?  The mouse stretched up and looked, twitching his whiskers, and thought, Yes… and a very good one too.  What had the Mum said the baby’s name was?  Sees-us, or Jesus?

Then the mouse realised that all three of the human visitors had brought presents for the little king, and now he wondered if he should have too.  But what could a little mouse give?

He looked around.  And he noticed, on a stalk of straw, one single ear of corn, left by the farmer at threshing time.  And with his sharp little teeth he nipped the grain off the straw and carried it to where the little boy was lying.  Somehow being near him made him much braver, but he still kept out of sight behind the other presents.

And there he left his little gift, just in case the baby might be hungry when he woke up and need a little snack.  For he knew just how satisfying an ear of corn could be.  He felt a whole lot better for having done that.

Shyly he crept away and followed his nose safely home, wondering what would happen next, and what the baby would look like when he grew up, and whether he would give food to humble little mice, because his mousely wisdom told him that this great king would be very generous. 

But when he met his friend the next day, she said that the beetle had heard that all the people had gone – the Mum, the Dad, the boy, and all three of the visitors from far away, and the donkey too! 

According to the cow, suddenly in the middle of the night they’d all woken up, talking urgently about a danger they had to avoid.  And then they’d upped and left, just like that: the family with the donkey in one direction, and the three visitors on their camels in another. 

The mouse didn’t know what to make of it.  He knew all about the need to keep safe from danger: he had to do that all the time.  But how he kept himself safe was to hide in his hole in the ground, not go off on a long journey somewhere.  He couldn’t imagine ever doing that, but then perhaps human kings and their Mums and Dads were different. 

And his friend agreed that they probably were, as they nibbled together on some crumbs they had found.   

Imagined from Matthew 2:1-15

Song – H&P 635 or StF 136 – Morning has broken like the first morning


Matthew 2:1-12

On this first Sunday of a new year, it is not unfitting to consider the new things of God.  God had done something new in the midst of the old, as those wise men had perceived: the coming of a new king of huge significance.  They saw that he  was so great that it it was worth travelling a great distance to see and worship him, though he was only a child: Jesus, Mary and Joseph’s little boy.

But there already was a king, Herod, an evil man who was not for sharing his power.  Evilly, he plotted to rid himself of this potential rival, by subterfuge and deceit, and disgraceful murderous violence.  But the new King was from God, whose plans cannot be gainsaid.  And his new King Jesus was on a mission to save the world from the darkness of deceit and violent power like Herod’s. 

When full grown, Jesus would take on himself all the violent evil of the world and the falseness of human intrigue (yours and mine as well as Herod’s), and by his sheer goodness and love defeat its worst designs and set the world on a new course of freedom from enslavement to murder and lies – freedom to worship God and live for him, following his Son.

Jesus would shine into the darkness a beam of light that would never be extinguished.  A beam of loving care and practical concern, shining a hope of better lives for sufferers, in both this world and the next.  Light in the form or foundational truth and transparent honesty on which those new lives could be built securely.

Jesus does not force; he invites.  Rather than point, he beckons.  He does not drive, he leads – if only we will agree to follow on the path he chooses for us.  And always, as our leader, he will help us on the way: each step of every day.  As we will pray in his name, God will answer.

What does this require of us?  We are to give him, as our next hymn puts it, the incense of lowliness and gold of obedience.  That is, sufficient humility to believe that the Lord always knows best for us, and sufficient faith to do what he tells us.  If we, like those Magi of old, will give him these gifts, then he will give us a whole new everlasting life.


Heavenly Father, we thank you and praise you:

  • For Christmas: the arrival of your Son Jesus, by Mary, into our messy world. 
  • For the vast difference he offers to our lives: giving newness which never fades or grows old, for Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.
  • For his revolutionary approach to saving the world, tackling not the problems we think we’ve identified in our limited way, but the basic illness of mankind: rebellion against you.

Please, Lord, help us no longer to go our own way, but to obey you.

  • Give us the faith to believe that Jesus really is the Saviour of the world, who takes away all sin.
  • Give us the good sense to follow his leading along the paths he has individually tailored for us.
  • Give us the moral strength to resist all temptations to stray from the way he has chosen for us.

May we always give to you the incense of humility and the gold of obedience, turning always to you for help whenever we need it, as you have so graciously invited and encouraged.   In the name of Jesus, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.

Song – H&P 505 or StF 34 – O Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness

Intercessions [led by Geoff Briggs]

The worldly wise, incarnate God, found you away from the corridors of power and in the loving arms of a young mother. Hear us now as we pray for the world you created and the people you lived among.

In the stillness we pray for all those who exercise power and influence. (Silence)  May they work tirelessly for peace and justice. 

We pray for those who have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods in conflicts across the world. (Silence)  May they know your that your eternal love is surrounding them.

We pray for those who are desperately seeking sanctuary.  (Silence)  May they find an unconditional welcome

We pray for your creation as it groans under the weight of our greed. (Silence)  May we give up our domination of the planet and work for the renewal of your creation. 

We pray for those we know and love, and for those we ought to love, who are in need today.  (Silence)  May they know your love at this difficult time.  All these things we ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Song – H&P 552 or StF 526 – Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy


Genesis 1:1-5,

John 1:1-5

In the beginning, God did something quite new: he created.  And into his creation he shone good light.  From it came life: plant, animal, and human: a coordinated creation which was better than good.  It was very good.

It is such a shame that humans could not (and still cannot) accept the role of stewards of it all under God, as we were created to be (Gen 1:26-28).  It is such a shame that their bid for illicit power had the effect of knocking the whole creation permanently out of kilter.  For into this very good world came evil, and violence which filled the whole earth and never went away (Gen 6:5, 11-12).

Pain, sweat, toil, and discord spread – within us all, and between us all, into our environment.  God was distanced; squabbles, blame, and wars proliferated; fruitfulness was distorted into weeds and thorns (Gen 3:14-19); with disasters, both natural and manmade (Mt 24:6-7).

But God so loved his created world that he did something quite new.  He sent his own Son to put it all right again.  God in human form walked on the Planet Earth that he had made!  As Charles Wesley sang: Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man (H&P 109; StF 208).  Our Jesus slipped into this world as a newborn baby of humble birth.

Jesus is the new Word the world needs, but many do not want.  But though that Word may be disbelieved, or denied, or contradicted, it is more securely permanent and reliable than heaven and earth itself (Mt 24:35).  You can build your life on its rock-like stability, and, if we’re wise, we will.  The alternative is collapse!

Jesus is the new Light that exposes evil that hides in dark corners, for it drives darkness away.  Darkness can never extinguish the Light of Jesus.  In its powerful but gentle rays, tender shoots of goodness can flourish into sturdy oaks of righteousness (Is 61:1-3). 

Jesus is the new Life that pulsates with undying vigour, a life-giving force of goodness – indeed, of very-goodness – life as it should always have been (Gen 2:7).   Under the new Word, Light, and Leading of our Lord Jesus, new life will be given.

 It will be for all of us who will follow him, having accepted forgiveness from him for all the wrongs we have ever committed, and being set by him us on the right path of his choice.  We shall live in this world, but under Jesus we are not of this world (Jn 15:19; 17:14-16).


Let us dedicate ourselves anew to following the Lord faithfully, giving our incense of lowliness and gold of obedience. 

Lord’s Prayer

Song – H&P 29 or StF 106 – Thou, whose almighty word

The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.

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