Week of – First Sunday After Christmas / New Year’s Day / Holy Name of Jesus Day; A True Day of Rest

I will recount the gracious deeds of the LORD, the praiseworthy acts of the LORD, because of all that the LORD has done for us, and the great favor to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely”; and he became their savior
in all their distress. It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”  (Isaiah 63:7-9)

I feel like I am in a transition time tonight. The work week has ended early, a day early than I thought. And I will be having a 4 day weekend and then light duty next week. It feels strange to have so much “down time” coming, and I am having a hard time letting go of work concerns. But work concerns are also concerns for the caregiver who work for me and report to me, and the clients whose care I over see. It feels like a betrayal to them to not go to work for such a stretch of time. Yet I know I need the time off if I am going to do my best work for them.

So as I mulled over all these thoughts I looked through the scripture passages that were available this week, and found the passage from Isaiah 63. It’s not quite a praise passage, or at least not the way I am reading tonight. It seems more of a reflection on the the Lord and what the Lord has done. The Lord looking down on humanity and saying, “These are my people, my chosen beloveds. They love me and I love them. And because of this love I will act for them, in ways that only I the Almighty can.” I would like to think the Lord is looking down on me in that way, seeing me in my concern, care and worry for so many things.

And it occurs to me – if I could only let go of all the concerns and worries I have, pass them over to the Lord, the Divine could deal with it so much better than me. I am made numb with it, but the Lord can act in ways that I could not image or conceive of. So I will try very hard to stand back, lift up to the Lord my cares, and then recount the wondrous ways the Lord has acted and will act. And I am captured by the idea that it is the Lord who does this, the Divine, the God-self and not an emissary or appointee. Neither is it the Lord acting through me, but the Lord directly ministering to those I have concern for. I am not a conduit or a means. That is restful and soothing to me.

May you, beloved reader, feel the Lord directly in your life this season and in the year to come. Selah!

Week of – First Sunday After Christmas / New Year’s Day / Holy Name of Jesus Day; Decisions, decisions, decisions!

There seems to be a wide variety of celebratory days for the week following Christmas. I guess having Christmas on a weekend, and a Sunday no less, tends to bunch up the occasions. So I am left with the task of which to choose. Should it be a “normal” Sunday? That would mean we look at Isaiah 63, Psalm 148, Hebrews 2 and Matthew 2. If I choose Holy Name of Jesus day we would look at Numbers 6, Psalm 8, Galatians 4 and Luke 2. And if I choose New Year’s Day that would mean Ecclesiastes 3, Psalm 8 (again), Revelation 21 and Matthew 25. The different choices whirled around in my head!

What seemed evident beyond a doubt was that I was going to need more days! So, I decided I was just write a lot, filling days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, picking passages that seemed to fit well and carry us into the New Year.

Now after they [the Wise Men] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” (Matthew 2: 13-15)

I decided for today we would continue the story of Jesus’ birth. After my recent admission [see December 20, 2016 ] that prophecy from the Old Testament really can point toward happenings in the New Testament I am content to let stand that God’s son was called out of Egypt.

This was not the first time that Joseph was given guidance and direction. When he found out Mary was pregnant, and not by him, he thought to quietly just not marry. But a dream and an angel let him know to proceed with their plans. That Mary was pure and innocent, and being used by God for a fantastic purpose. Praise God that Joseph was open to receiving Divine guidance and direction.

“When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” (Verses 16 – 18)

Again, with this prophecy from the Old Testament being fulfilled in the New Testament! But what is a person to do? The Christmas season is filled with prophecy fulfilled. God’s plan is being carried forth. But . . . in a unique way!

“When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,
“Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.
But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.” (Verses 19 – 23)

And again, Joseph is instructed by a dream and an angel – seems to be quite a pattern. I have to wonder if that was a pattern and a blessing that Joseph had all of his life. That would be quite a benefit in parenting; especially a Son of the Divine. Or perhaps it was exactly Joseph’s being open to hearing God and angels of God that made him qualified to raise Jesus. Sounds like God was doing some prep work for the coming of baby Jesus, designing a family where Jesus would be nurtured from infancy on up.

What I take from all this is (besides prophecy does come true and what is spoken in one context can fit in another) that if we are unsure of what to do or if calamity surrounds us, or if there are many options and we are not sure what to do – all we need to do is look to God. And actually, on the day I sat down to write this, that was a message I needed to hear and take into my heart! How’s that for scripture from long ago informing our present!! Selah!

 

Christmas 2015 – Gospel Passage

The Gospel Passage – The First Sunday After Christmas:

Many years have passed since Jesus’ birth, although the gospel of Luke skips over those years. That is partly why I decided to wait until later in the morning to post this; although you may be reading it one after another.

In any case, Jesus has grown into a teenage boy – in his culture maybe closer to manhood, because the period of time being a child and being an adult was shorter than it is now. He and his parents have been going to Jerusalem and it was probably a familiar journey.

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival.” (Luke 2:41-42)

From what is written in the gospel of Luke we can assume that they traveled in a group, and that Jesus was with friends and relatives and not by his parents side.

When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.” (Verses 43-45)

Those of us who are parents can relate across the years and the cultural span to what Jesus’ parents must have been feeling. Danger is danger no matter the time and place. And while the journey to and from Jerusalem was familiar, there was good reason to travel in the safety of a group. And the city of Jerusalem was a large place with many dangers lurking in dark corners.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.” (Verses 45 – 51a)

This, I think, was the first phase of Jesus’ journey towards being our Lord and God. While earthly and human concerns were important to him, they did not bind him and hold him as they do us. Jesus came to earth with a purpose and mission. And nothing would dissuade him from it. We see that when Jesus starts his ministry.

His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.” (51b-52)

And again, Mary ponders these things. I can imagine her thinking, “My son is different from other children. His birth was heralded by angels; and many people came to see him from close by and at a distance. His life was in danger at a young age; but danger does not seem to phase him. How long will my son be just “my son”?”

As Christmas Day turns to the day after Christmas and then to the Sunday after Christmas, so we turn our attention from Jesus as a baby to Jesus our Lord. And we will, I hope and pray, discover for ourselves who Jesus is to us, and that means in our lives. Selah!

Christmas 2015 – The Epistles Passages

Today we are looking at the two Epistles Passages; the passage from Titus is part of Proper II, the portion of the lectionary for Christmas. The passage from Colossians is for the first Sunday after Christmas.

The Epistles – Week of Christmas: We need Jesus

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)

While it references the salvation we receive through Jesus Christ, it does not speak directly to the nativity. It does touch on the theme of confession, penance, and forgiveness, but I do not think Proper II (or any of the Propers) ties itself to any certain lectionary year. At least I am hoping not because I would dislike misrepresenting the lectionary cycles. But . . . I digress.

We need Jesus Christ’s birth in order to have all that the passage from Titus promises. It is because that is how God designed it; not that we would have a Messiah and Savior that comes complete and fully grown but having no connection to humanity. (By now I assume you have read my two postings for Dec 19th.) God designed and planned for a Savior who was well steeped in humanity but did not have the sinful and fallible nature of humanity. The writer of Titus (which is actually a letter to Titus, but apparently widely shared) talks about “the goodness and loving kindness” appearing, but it was not a sudden appearance; rather it was a growing realization of a different way to live and relate to one another and to God.

The Epistles – First Sunday After Christmas: Our actions in light of Jesus Christ’s birth

In the letter to the Colossians (which is the Epistles passage for the first Sunday after Christmas) the writer of the letter to the Colossians (who is thought to be the same writer of the letter to Titus) outlines how believers of both the baby Jesus and the risen Lord should act.

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:12-17)

This passage too has within it the theme of forgiveness – not surprising since it is a major theme. It will be interesting to see what how the passages during year C frame and highlight the themes of confession, penance, and forgiveness.

But for now, we are coming closer to Christmas. Think, beloved reader, of all the preparations and planning that go into a birthday celebration. For that is what Christmas is; God gave Jesus as a gift to the world. Jesus gave us the gift of . . . well, the gift of himself and the God-self. What gift will we give our Lord and each other to celebrate this?

May your coming time of celebration be filled with love, laughter, and joy! Selah!

Christmas 2015 – The Old Testament Passages

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!