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  • John T. Redman, CRE

January 10 Worship

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

Hello Union Church Presbyterians,

Worship this Sunday, January 10 will be hosted on Zoom. We will share prayers, songs, and reflections.


For computers:

(Or use )

For smartphones and tablets, download and install the Zoom app.

If prompted: Click “JOIN Meeting” and enter:

Meeting ID: 986 1440 7355 Passcode: 015937

The Zoom meeting will open at 10:15 am to allow folks to connect and greet each other. If you have a camera, you will have the option to share your face and smile—be prepared. You can also have a cup of your favorite morning beverage at hand.

The worship will include familiar elements (although recorded rather than live) as well as live leadership of prayers, scripture reading, and the sermon.


Union Church, Newburgh NY

January 10, 2021 10:30 am

Third Sunday after Christmas


We are glad that you are joining us today and hope you feel God’s blessings. If you do not have a church home, we sincerely invite you to be a part of the Union Church fellowship. For information visit


Food Pantry operates every other week. Next: Mon. Jan 18 and Wed. Jan 20 from 9:30-11:30 am. Serving LOTS of people! If you would like to help, contact Kathy or Debby.

ANNUAL MEETING: Sunday, Jan 31 following worship. Zoom information will be available at a later date.

Pledge Update: As of Dec. 27, we have received 33 pledges (4 new) for 2021 in the amount of $89,430. Last year at this time, we received 40 pledges in the amount of $87,859.

VIRTUAL Fellowship Time: Begins immediately after worship. If you have joined worship on Zoom you don’t need to do anything more. If you are joining us for fellowship time only use mobile phone or computer video. Check email for access instructions. Questions? Call James at (301) 335-8677

Choral Music will precede the worship service beginning at 9:45 as people ‘tune in’ to the zoom service.


PRELUDE Children of the Heavenly Father Sharon Mennonite Bible singers

CALL TO WORSHIP Adapted from Psalm 29 Mary Whidden Leader: Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. People: Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy splendor. Leader: The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders over mighty waters. People: The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. Leader: The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. People: He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. Leader: The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. People: The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, "Glory!"


Creator God, you call us to love and serve you with body, mind, and spirit through loving your creation and our sisters and brothers. Open our hearts in compassion and receive these petitions on behalf of the needs of the church and the world.

This we pray in Jesus name, Amen.


We are imperfect creatures who cannot help but fail despite our best intentions. Let us confess our sins together.


Heavenly Father, we lower our heads before you and we confess that we have too often forgotten that we are yours. Sometimes we carry on our lives as if there was no God and we fall short of being a credible witness to You. For these things we ask your forgiveness and we also ask for your strength. Hold us to You and build our relationship with You and with those You have given us here on earth.

(A moment for silent personal confession)


Brothers and Sisters believe in the Good News of the Gospel; in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. AMEN.



HYMN 136 (Red) On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry


Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the Scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen.



OLD TESTAMENT READING Isaiah 60:1- 6 Mary Whidden

NEW TESTAMENT READING Mark 1:4-11 Mary Whidden

SERMON “Do You Believe in Magi?” John Redman, CRE


Holy Father,

We gather in your sight to know you better and to better understand each other as we each go about our journeys with you. In your infinite love, knowledge and understanding, look at all of us as individuals and as this gathering and at those we name here, for healing and help in grief, for those we have named let us join together in asking


And Lord, may we watch and keep our own hearts for their own healing and relief, in your name and that of our Redeemer Jesus Christ, Amen.


Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

OFFERTORY ANTHEM Seeking the King Union Church Chancel Choir


You can support the work of Union Church by mailing donations to 44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh, NY 12550 or visit to donate online.





POSTLUDE Spirit Divine, Attend our Prayers

St. Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral Choir Warri, Nigeria



Do you belief in Magi? Not magic, but those mysterious visitors from the East, those practitioners of some arcane spiritual and what were then scientific pursuits? This last Wednesday January 6, is supposed to be their day, the day of the three kings. However, this was a day of infamy, where the very seed of our democracy was attacked and assaulted in a manner not seen in nearly 200 years. It was still a day of the Magi, which is the root of our word for magician, since these wise men were seen to have magical powers. In these days of unrest, and worry, of our weariness from the yoke of this pandemic, we wonder where and when we might find rest and rescue from it. Will the vaccines show us another way home just as we saw these wise men discover in the story from Matthew?

We have heard so much of these visitors from the East, the Magi, the three kings. But what do we really know about them? And how did Epiphany this past Wednesday, January 6, come to be called Three Kings Day or Twelfth night, other than falling the twelfth day after Christmas? Epiphany means manifestation of divinity, or revelation of truth. So as an Epiphany for us, the horrible events of this past Wednesday January 6 can only reveal the truth of how fragile our republic really is and how our combined vigilance and belief is what gives us the shell and the shield that protects us from enemies without and within.

In the early church, before Christmas was celebrated on December 25, the birth of Jesus and his baptism were both celebrated on January 6. That is the source for the Eastern Orthodox churches to still celebrate Christmas on the twelfth day after what was then known as the winter solstice, December 25. As the calendar became more accurate, the winter solstice was then observed on December 21, though certain pagan religions such as the Druids and the Vikings had always observed the solstice as December 21. After the two major churches split into the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, the birth celebration of Jesus took on a new significance in Christmas, and January 6 was named Epiphany for the day when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River.

Still later in the middle ages, Epiphany began to be observed as Three Kings’ Day, the supposed day when the three wise men, the Magi, had arrived to worship the baby Jesus. And by that time, the story had evolved, and these magi had somehow become kings. The theology of naming these ‘Three Kings of Orient Are’ held that they must have been true kings, one from each of the known continents, Europe, Asia, and Africa, not just some run of the mill magical wise men who had come with gifts to worship this newborn king.

And they must have been real curiosities in Judea at the time, since they were all from Persia, present day Iran, and even back then the Persians were as reviled by both the Arabs and the Jews as they are today, so unless you were a Persian with some real standing you wouldn’t be too welcome in Jerusalem. The Magi, by definition were priests of Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion that centered on the God of light in constant combat with Satan, the god of darkness. Where did Matthew hear that before?

And this god of light had a son, Mithras the Sun god, who was born on the winter solstice, which according to their calendar was December 25, and they celebrated this birth with a ritual feast of bread and wine.

And were there three of them? Matthew doesn’t say how many traveled west. Why not just two, since the prophesy from Isaiah mentions gifts of gold and frankincense? But wait there’s myrrh! And Matthew points some truly symbolic value here, since myrrh was used to anoint Jesus’s body at the tomb. So, we think that by three gifts that there were three wise men. Why not four or more? Well, if you were going to worship a king you wouldn’t be a very wise man to show up without any gift, now would you?

And that bright star that appeared and then guided them? The latter part of the year 5 BC coincides with a supernova, an exploding solar system, that was observed in Greece, in Egypt and even in China. And a supernova isn’t just observed as a big bright fireworks kind of thing and then gone, but will be seen in the night sky for some time. When they appeared before Herod the Great, who was not so great, but that’s a title he had given himself, the Magi said they were searching for this newborn king of the Jews. Herod was more than a little unnerved by this and he sent for his priests and scribes to find what this might mean. And Herod’s priests said that the prophecy would place the birth in Bethlehem, so that’s where Herod sent them, asking them to return and tell him about this new king so he could go and pay homage as well.

So the Magi follow the star, find the Christ child, and then in a dream are warned not to tell Herod about it, and the Magi go home by another way and disappear from history. But our story gets more complicated when Herod finds out he’s been tricked by the Magi, and his anger causes him to kill the innocents while Joseph and Mary have been warned to flee into Egypt. Now we all know the account of the three Magi is only found in the Gospel of Matthew, and the account of the shepherds and the angels heard on high is only in Luke, but we have melded them all into one Christmas narrative. By the way, in their Gospels, Mark and John have different ways of talking about the birth of Jesus. John, as we heard last week, told of the birth as Jesus the Word becoming flesh and blood and living among us. And Mark doesn’t really bother with a birth story and goes right into the baptism of Jesus which is what we mark here today.

And that star? Well maybe it wasn’t a supernova, it might have been the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, whose orbits line up so closely with each other that we see them as one bright star, just as we did this past Christmas, at least for those who had clear skies. And in the year 5 or 6 BC, that conjunction appeared not once but three times, the first being in late May, the second near the autumnal equinox in September and the third in December. So, these Magi could have observed it in May, then argued and fretted about it in the manner of academicians throughout history, until the autumnal equinox, and then they set out on their 1,200-mile journey, covering about 12 to 13 miles a day, arriving in Jerusalem about 92 days later, on or about December 24.

And when did they arrive in Bethlehem with their gifts for the newborn King? We have the usual 12 days in the medieval tradition, but Biblical scholars surmise that this could have been anytime from three months to two years or so since Jesus birth, but how do we really know?

Because then, these same scholars aren’t even sure what year this was, since the year 1 AD wasn’t established as the date of Jesus birth for almost 600 years, and that calculation is more than a little bit off course, since we know from Roman records that Herod the Great died in what we call the year 4 BC. So, Jesus was born sometime in 5 or 6 BC. And we do have that big exploding star late in the year 5 BC. And you can’t count on that census thing in Luke, where Joseph takes Mary to Bethlehem to be counted and taxed, because that didn’t actually occur until 10 years after Herod was dead.

But when Herod learns the wise men tricked him and went home some other way, he flies into a rage and orders the slaughter of all boys under two years old. Matthew has an interesting parallel in this slaughter of the innocents harking back to the Egyptian Pharaoh who slaughters all the Hebrew babies less than two years old, but drifting down the Nile in a basket has spared Moses. And isn’t it an ironic parallel that Joseph and Mary flee back INTO Egypt, even as the prophet Micah says “Out of Egypt I have called my Son.” Was the slaughter of the innocents a convenient parallel for Matthew to use, that didn’t actually happen? We know that Herod the Great was not so great. In fact, he was Herod, the Horrible. He killed two of his own sons that he claimed were plotting to take his throne. He killed his own brother so that he could have the brother’s wife. These are documented acts, so don’t you think that a mass killing on this scale would show up on Herod’s terrible record? But it does allow Joseph and Mary to return from Egypt and then we have a huge gap in the story of Jesus until Luke places Him in the temple at age 12 and everybody else leaves Jesus until his baptism.

Of course, we know that these aren’t accurate historical accounts, but they are spiritually significant accounts, written to help convey the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, in terms that people could relate to and understand. Matthew writes of powerful people kneeling to worship this humble child with gifts of great value, and Luke writes of simple shepherds and their flocks, reminding us that Jesus was coming as the shepherd to the flock of Israel, and also as the sacrificial lamb to be slaughtered to wash away our sins. John reminds us that Jesus has always been with us since the very beginning, and Mark shines the light of God’s pleasure on His beloved son and the journey for all of us that is about to begin.

On this Sunday, let’s not worry about when the three or however many Magi arrived, because Epiphany was originally a day celebrated as the day of Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan, where the descending dove and the voice of the Lord announced the true divinity of Jesus. If an Epiphany is a sudden revelation, then that moment ranks right up there on top of the list. In these times, our tradition says we celebrate that baptism of our Lord on the first Sunday after Twelfth Night, which is today, and here we are.

Over the centuries our worship traditions have been woven into a rich tapestry of customs, theologies, and celebrations. And the thread running through all of these divergent observances is the true message of Gospel. So, let’s observe our own Epiphany and rejoice in that Good News of not just the birth, but the life of Jesus and His ultimate sacrifice for us.

And as we all move forward together, as we liberate each other from the yoke of this global pandemic, let us remember that January 6 is not just the day of Epiphany, but now also will be marked as a day when we all recognize that our freedoms come with a price tag marked with vigilance and with care and concern.

As we come together this morning, know that I share these thoughts and words with you today in the Love of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the Healing power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


John Redman, CRE

Mobile: (914) 474-0722

Union Church

44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh NY 12550

Phone: (845) 562-0954 Fax: (845) 562-0955

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