Epiphany, the season of the star, or the manifestation of God’s light, begins our calendar year. The Epiphany story we know is not only about the star, but also about the pilgrims who follow its shining. These pilgrims, better known as the magi, were on a journey whose end was to greet the new King who was said to have been born in Bethlehem. Their very role, in Matthew’s gospel, was to be the “stranger, the foreigner” from away who enters the story to ask the question the insiders never thought to ask. Up until the moment of the arrival of the Magi in this gospel, only Joseph, Mary and Gabriel knew that Mary’s baby was not Joseph’s son. But as Matthew reveals, “after his birth, astrologers came from the east to Jerusalem and the first question was, “Where is the child who is born to be king of the Jews?”
That question begins a series of investigations into the prophecies that foretold this child king, into the opinions of the chief priests, the lawyers about such prophecies and into the route, timing and true purpose of the pilgrims’ journey. This single question perturbed the whole city of Jerusalem, especially the reigning king, Herod. He sends them along to Bethlehem but their question has so threatened him
that he sets to planning infanticide – so no one might succeed in discovering the child King.
There are many in our culture whom we might imagine as foreigners, or strangers to the Christian faith and to this child we name a King. They step across the threshold or into the circle of Bible study asking difficult questions such as, “Do you really care about the homeless? Where’s the evidence of that?” “Why does your God let such terrible atrocities occur in this world?” “Do you really believe all that stuff about virgins being overshadowed or lepers healed? And if you believe it, so what? What difference does it make in your life?”
These questions often cause us to respond immediately by wanting to interrogate the questioner, as Herod did. We want to say, “Who’s asking and why do you want to know?” We become defensive when the stranger invites us to deeply reflect on whether what we say with our lips does/does not match how we lay down our lives. Such questions ought to perturb us in healthy ways. Especially if we say with our
lips that Jesus is the center of our being and then we live lives that look nothing like the determined march of the magi across continents, toward the discovery of the Holy infant.
True, our faith should make us feel as if we have found a home, a sanctuary, a “sonstar” at the center of the world’s meaning. But we must not make social comfort, like-mindedness, common culture or even abiding friendships be the main reasons we worship. We should be able, at the end of a stranger’s inquiry to want to grow more in our love of other and of God than we want to erase the discomfort the
stranger’s question has invited. In other words, we should not want the homeless one to continue her weary exile, just so we don’t have to ask ourselves the disquieting question, “So how much do I really care whether or not there is shelter for all God’s children?”
Coming to worship as a pilgrim means coming open-mindedly, always on the journey of continual study and prayer; seeking and asking in our hearts for God’s light to mark the path before us because we believe that to do otherwise, to walk elsewhere, would lead us to death, not life. As followers of the Shepherd’s joy, our privilege, our next step as Christ’s disciples when strangers ask, “So where is your
God?” is to say, “Ah, so you want to know where the Christ Child lives? I am walking in that direction, too. Let me walk with you. We will go, unafraid. I’ll tell you a star story along the way. You can ask questions, and we’ll speak and listen until we discover, together, the place where the star comes to rest –over the House of Bread.” May the star guide us into this New year.
Love, Rev. Debbie
Lectionary Readings and Sermons for January 2018
January 7 – The Baptism of Jesus/Sacrament of Communion
Genesis 1:1-and Mark 1:4-11
January 14 – 2nd Sunday in Epiphany/New Member Class
Psalm 139:1-6 & 13-18 and John 1:43-51
“Known and Loved”
January 21 – 3rd Sunday in Epiphany
Psalm 62:5-12 & Mark 1:14-20
January 28 – 4th Sunday in Epiphany/New Members Join
Psalm 111 & Mark 1:21-28
“The Power to Do”
Ecumenical Epiphany Service at Stratham Community Church – January 7 at 3PM
Would you like a memorable way to close the 12 days of Christmas? Do you enjoy beautiful Advent and Christmas music? Is it fun visiting other faith communities and sharing with them in worship? If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions then you will greatly enjoy this wonderful service of shared anthems, poetry and scripture. You will be glad you put it in your schedule!
Other Worship Opportunities:
Partridge House worship – January 16th @ 2:30PM
Sing-a-long with the theme of “Freedom” at Mark Wentworth Home, January 15 at 2:15PM.
New Member Class on January 14 at 11:30AM
Periodically throughout the year, we offer a class for anyone who might be interested in knowing more about the church. You might be interested in its history, the music program, the Christian Education or Adult Study and you might want to know how to become a member and where you can offer your gift or talent. Join
us in the library on this Sunday after you’ve picked up your coffee and we’ll learn more about each other – since we ARE the church! Child care can be offered if Rev. Deb knows ahead.
Annual Reports are Due by January 21 – so if you are a chair or a scribe of one of the boards or committees in the church, please remit your annual report to the church office – either in person as a paper copy or as an electronic document. THANK YOU for your promptness in responding to this request.
Cooking for Cross Roads House will happen on Sunday, January 21 after worship unless another group takes on this month’s meal. We can always use people of all ages who can chop, slice, sauté and whip among other talents.
Talent Night at Winnacunnet – January 13, 7-9PM
Heifer International – January through March our Church School collects for Heifer International. Through this mission, we are able to support a family or several families through our purchase of a variety of animals. Start collecting your pocket change and thinking about the “bakeless bake sale.” Or perhaps the “Famous” Heifer Talent Show that has brought us time and again to our feet with cheers for our own amazing children and adults. You won’t want to miss the fun of this mission adventure.
2018 Offering Envelopes for those who requested them are available in the Narthex.
The Steps Toward Greater Generosity in our Giving is the theme for this year’s stewardship program. All are invited to stop and take a look at the graphic that depicts last year’s increase and what a further increase in generous giving might result in as we ponder our 2018 giving program as a faith community. Members of the Stewardship Committee will be on hand to help answer questions and point out our progress. Charts will be in the Narthex and Fellowship Hall.
Winter Bible Study
Does the uncertainty and chaos of life keep y0u up at night? Is irrational worry your constant companion? Could you use some calm?
Our FCC Winter Bible, Anxious for Nothing, by Max Lucado, invites us to delve into Philippians 4:6-7. After all, it is the most highlighted passage of any book on the planet, according to Amazon: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Stop letting anxiety rule the day. Join us on the journey to true freedom and experience more joy, clarity, physical renewal, and contentment by the power of the Holy Spirit. Anxiety comes with life. But it doesn’t
have to dominate your life. Mondays, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. or Wednesdays, Noon –
1:00 p.m. (5 sessions: January 8 – February 7)
From the Music Director – Chancel Choir, our middle school through adult choir rehearses Sunday mornings from 8:30-9:30 and sings during worship. We welcome any interested singers of any ability, from grade 6 through adult, to join us. You don’t have to commit to every week and you don’t have to read music. All you need is a desire to sing and worship God through music. If you would like further information, please contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 603-770-8736.
Do you knit, crochet or want to learn or refresh your skills?
Join us on January 8th – 2:30 to 4pm in the Chapel
Our Knitting/Crocheting Team will begin working on the Jingle Bell Fair, prayer shawls, etc. All are welcome.
Do you have knitting needles, crochet hooks or accessories no longer in use? If so, please donate them as we are always looking for special sizes.
YOGA CLASSES – Yoga by donation classes continue on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30 am in the Chapel. Everyone is welcome!
BOOK CLUBS will meet on Tuesday, January 16th at 7PMThe women are reading “Marrying the Mistress” by Joanna Trolliope and the men have selected “Billionaire at the Barricades” by Laura Ingraham. Please join us and bring a friend. All are welcome!!
OH the places you will CE-January 2018
Strawbery Banke Puddle Dock Pond Ice Skating,- Call 603-422-0600 or visit strawberybanke.org for pricing and hours.
Lane Memorial Library, Hampton-Senior bingo sponsored by the Rec Dept every Friday at 12:30pm.
Firehouse Center for the Arts Newburyport-Karen K and the Jitterbugs- “Best kids band in greater Boston” January 13 @ 10:30 am. Tom Chapin January 12 @ 8pm. Call 978-499-9931 or visit firehouse.org for pricing.
Seacoast Science Center- Saturday-Monday 10am-5pm. Call 603-436-8043 or visit seacoastsciencecenter.org for pricing and hours of programs.
Barnes and Noble Newington-Storytime, Saturdays at 11am. Educator appreciation day, January 7.
First Congregational Church movie night January 19 @ 6:30pm.
Blue Ocean Music Hall Salisbury-Satisfaction-The International Rolling Stones Show. January 20 @ 8pm. Call 978-462-5888 or visit blueoceanhall.com for pricing.
Electronic giving is a convenient, easy option for making your regular or occasional contributions. In just seconds, you can make a weekly offering, give your regular pledge, respond to an appeal or pay for events, programs and other activities. Give anytime, anywhere using your computer, tablet or mobile device. Make regular church offerings without writing a check or preparing envelopes. Schedule recurring contributions so they arrive even when you can’t attend services. FCC has
partnered with Vanco Payment Services, the most highly recommended electronic
company for churches, to offer secure e-Giving. Giving options are available through the church website, fcchampton.org, or by downloading the free app for your mobile device. “See How It Works” demonstrations and info during Coffee Hour!
If you are feeling chilly and need to adjust the heat in the church – just press the up arrow button to the desired temperature and you’re done. All thermostats are programmed and will default back to the original settings – no need to adjust heat back down. It’s that simple!!