The timing this year of Christmas, beloved reader, makes the passages of the Revised Common Lectionary, tumble one over the other. Friday of this week is Christmas, but Sunday is already the first Sunday after Christmas, and there are multiple sets of passages. Last year for this period of time I chose Proper I as the source of passages for Christmas; it was a “leisurely” stroll up to Christmas Day. This year I decided to move on to Proper II (and next year I will look at Proper III).
But what to do? Focus only on the scripture passages for Christmas and neglect the pattern and rhythm? Or gloss over (if one every could) the Christmas passages and pick up after Christmas but before Christmas ever happens? No, I thought, there must be a better way. And so there will be. I will look in turn at each set of passages from the four readings that are supplied. Today, is the Old Testament. And we will see what interesting contrasts and comparisons arise!
The Old Testament Passage – Week of Christmas: The Lord Comes
“Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have posted sentinels; all day and all night they shall never be silent.
You who remind the Lord, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it renowned throughout the earth.
The Lord has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: I will not again give your grain be food for your enemies, and foreigners shall not drink the wine for which you have labored; but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the Lord, and those who gather it shall drink it in my holy courts.
Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones, lift up an ensign over the peoples.
The Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to daughter Zion, “See, your salvation comes; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.”
They shall be called, “The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord”; and you shall be called, “Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.” (Isaiah 62:6-12)
Some of this passage calls to mind Jesus entering Jerusalem; some of it calls to mind what John the Baptist did and said in proclaiming Jesus. But not much of it calls to mind the birth of Jesus. So it is an interesting passage to use in Jesus’ nativity. The focus is on who Jesus will become and what he will do. But right now in our nativity story Mary and Joseph are still journeying to Bethlehem. What Jesus will be and what he will do is far ahead – farther ahead than the stable. And that seems to Mary and Joseph so far away. Long in the preparing and anticipating.
But God knew the plan, just as the writer Isaiah says that during his time God had planned renewal for Jerusalem. God knew how it would unfold, and that what had been lost by God’s people would be restored. And God knew what Jesus was ordained to do, and what Jesus life would mean to the world.
While we journey forth . . . to what we may not know, God knows and has laid out the journey before us. As the days unfold leading to Christmas, may you be blessed on your journey. Selah!
The Old Testament Passage – First Sunday After Christmas: The Lord has always been making preparations
“Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy wearing a linen ephod. His mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the Lord repay you with children by this woman for the gift that she made to the Lord”; and then they would return to their home.” (I Samuel 2:18-20 )
Can you imagine Samuel growing up in the temple? Can you picture him at ages 4, 5, 6 and 7 growing more each year? Surely no one knew what Samuel would become; yet by faith his mother gave him up to the temple. And by faith Samuel grew into the man he was ordained to be.
“Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.” (Verse 26)
The Lord plans, and the Lord’s plans grow to encompass more and more. What starts as small beginnings grow into missions and purposes that amaze humanity. Small Jesus grows into the Messiah. Small Samuel grows into the prophet Samuel that brings forth the nation of Israel.
We are being prepared, beloved reader. Each day . . . each week, month and year . . . . we grow in wisdom and understanding picking up more of the plan and mission that the Lord has for us. Let us rejoice that we are part of the Lord’s plan, and may the Lord bless us and empower us to complete the destiny that is laid before us. Selah!