Prayer for the Unity of the Church

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Good Friday Tenebrae Service April 6, 7PM

Grace and Peace Presbyterian Church

Good Friday marks the death of Jesus Christ. It’s called ‘good’ because of what Jesus’ death means for the redemption of the world. Worship this evening focuses on three aims: (1) to narrate and remember the events of Jesus’ death, (2) to open up the meaning of these events for our understanding of God and the redemption accomplished by the cross, and (3) to invite worshipers to renewed prayer and dedication.

Please enter humbly, worship deeply, and leave quietly this evening with your heart centered on the suffering of Christ for you and for the salvation of the world. You will observe a diminishing of light through the service in the pattern of tenebrae worship. Tenebrae means shadows, and so our worship will include an experience of some of the shadows that Christ endured. At the close of the service the bell will toll seven times to represent the fullness of Christ’s sacrifice for us.

Cross draped with purple cloth

Lent

The word “Lent” is from middle English- length. It recognizes the lengthening of the days (northern hemisphere) moving toward the yearly remembrance of the ministry of Jesus leading to the cross.  For centuries Christians have used this period to reflect upon the sufferings and ultimately the saving works of God in Jesus Christ through his death on the cross.

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  — 2 Corinthians 4:5,6

The Bible - A LIght for our Path

Epiphany

Epiphany was first observed in second-century Egypt, as both the day of Jesus’ birth and baptism. December 25 wasn’t established as a separate celebration of the nativity until around A.D. 336 and has never been universally celebrated on that day. Today some Eastern churches still observe Christmas on January 6, the day of Epiphany.

The Wise Men, originally recognized at Epiphany, have gotten mixed up with the shepherds, the angels, the stable, and the manger of Christmas. It is time we reclaimed Epiphany as a separate celebration with a meaning and significance all its own.

Star of Bethlehem - wise men from the east

The word Epiphany means “manifestation,” “showing,” or, less literally, “a moment of recognition.” Epiphany celebrates God’s manifestation of Jesus in three ways.

First, Epiphany celebrates the fact that Jesus came to all people. The story most often associated with Epiphany is that of Wise Men from the East following the star as it led them to Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12). Foreigners bowing before the new king show that God offers the Messiah to the whole world, not to just one race or nation.

The second manifestation showed Jesus’ divinity. After his baptism by John in the Jordan River, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended like a dove and rested on Jesus. Then a voice came from heaven proclaiming him as God’s Son (Matt. 3:16-17).

Finally, Jesus’ power was manifested at the wedding feast in Cana. It was here that he performed his first public miracle, changing water into wine.

These three events–the Magi’s visit, Jesus’ baptism, and the miracle at Cana–are traditionally associated with January 6. Although all three moments of recognition are observed on Epiphany, the majority of customs associated with the holiday in the Western world relate to the “Three Kings.”

The biblical account does not offer many details about the foreigners or their visit. Much of what we think we know is based in tradition, not Scripture. Legend has fleshed out the visitors by giving them names, homelands, and even experiences on their journey, both before and after their encounter with Jesus.

If we are to reclaim Epiphany, the first step will be to get the facts straight as Matthew tells them. Reread the story with a careful eye and realize that the Gospel does not put the visit of the Wise Men at the stable but at a house. Most scholars attest that the visitors arrived in Bethlehem as much as two years after Jesus’ birth, according to the biblical account (Matt. 2:16).

Thanks be to God that Jesus was made manifest to us Gentiles!

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. (Romans 3:27-30 ESV)

Christmas Eve

A Festival of Lessons and Carols

The Christmas Eve Service will begin at 6:00 p.m.  The readings and songs of this service begin with the fall of Adam’s race in the Garden of Eden, through the prophetic promises of salvation made to Israel and lead into the gospel announcement of the Savior’s birth: The Ninth Lesson is the culmination of the service as it announces the coming of the Word made flesh. We will end with singing “Silent Night” and lighting individual candles as we spread the light.

Advent Candles