“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.” (Ephesians 1: 3 + 4)
The epistles, which are always the third set of readings in the Revised Common Lectionary (the Old Testament and the Psalm being the first and second respectfully) are filled with instruction and exhortation, a characteristic of the writer(s) of the epistles. It is always good to read them section by section so you do not miss what is being said. And since we are at the beginning of the book of Ephesians there is a invocation to the God that the writer(s) of the epistles is directing the reader to. In this invocation is teaching and instruction as to who the God is that the writer(s) believes in. And what this God means to us.
“He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 3:5-10)
The beginning of the letter to the Ephesians moves from the invocation into more intense teaching about God and Christ. The writer of the letter to the Ephesians freely shifts from talking about God to Christ because that writer felt they were one and the same, although each connects to different aspects of faith.
I would be remiss if I did not point out that this particular teaching is a reassurance that God and Jesus Christ always and continually invites and welcomes believers who are renewing their faith and recommitting their lives to God and Jesus Christ.
“In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 3:11-14)
The writer of Ephesians makes a very strong case indeed for realizing that once professing belief in God and Jesus Christ, one is accepted and love by the Divine. It is difficult to imagine why one would go astray from a love and caring that is so deep and intense. But we know it happens. We know this because we have all done it. But just because we turn away from God, that does not mean God turns away from us. Let us remember the words of the writer of Ephesians as we renew and recommit to the God who loves us so!
Sometimes the Revised Common Lectionary will highlight certain passages but make reference to a section before or after the highlighted passage. John chapter 1 verses ten to eighteen is the highlighted passage but the previous section of verses, one to ten is also noted.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (verses 1-9)
The Sunday we are journeying to is the second Sunday after Christmas day, and as such is less about Jesus’ birth then it is of Christ Messiah coming into the world. The gospel of John picks up Jesus’ life story at the point when Jesus was called to his ministry. John the Baptist has made his presence known both the people in the surrounding area and the religious officials. Everything was posed for adult Jesus’ arrival and what would follow.
“He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.”’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,] who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” (John 1: 10-18)
Much of Galilee, Nazareth and Bethlehem had probably forgotten, or never knew, about the birth of a baby in a manager in a stable. What happened then became connected to what was to come only through reflection after the fact.
We spent four weeks working up to and preparing for Christmas, and in one day it is gone. However the gifts of that last for a long time. Not as long though, beloved reader as the gift of the baby Jesus. This scripture passages of this week start to carry us forward into the new year and further into to the Christian year. There are one or two other events of Jesus’ early life yet to come, but we will take that up next week.
It is my hope and prayer beloved reader that your Christmas was filled with wonder, joy, love and light. And that your new year holds great promise. Selah!