Lectionary Reflection for the First Sunday of Christmas, Year C
December 27, 2015
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of our Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
This Sunday we’ll be only two days out from celebrating Christmas Day in all its wonder, worship, or perhaps for more than a few folks, its weariness. For some it will have been a day of excess, for many it will have been a day of want, and for others it will have been a day to give thanks, to worship, and appreciate the gift of a Savior. And although the stores will already be making space for the Valentine’s candy, it’s still Christmas and will be for 10 more days, when the Day of Epiphany ushers in a new church season. What an opportunity we have as preachers and teachers–and congregants!
What if we took this time to let the season grow on us? What if, instead of rushing to pack away the decorations and move on to the next big thing, we savored the reality that Jesus comes again in surprising and unexpected ways? How about we use this final Sunday of 2015 to talk about growing in faith and wisdom both individually and as a community of God’s beloved?
Congregants heard the birth narrative read and preached on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day; now they will hear what little scripture reveals to us about Jesus’ days of formation for ministry. Perhaps an equivalent of that for us would be how we form the faith of new followers of Christ. Whether they be infants brought to the font or adults new to any faith, our hope for them is that they increase “…in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor” just as Luke tells us that our Lord did.
Luke’s gospel recounts a story of Jesus scaring the living daylights out of his parents; it’s a tale to which most adults can relate. A lost child and the panic that results is no small thing be it first century Palestine or 21st century North America. When Mary and Joseph find Jesus, however, we learn that they are astonished. He has not run away. He has not been carried off into slavery. He is where he is supposed to be: He is in his Father’s house giving us a model for faith formation.
Those Lectionary guys place this gospel story alongside the story of the boy Samuel serving in the temple under Eli the high priest. The letter to the Colossians outlines helpful behavior for God’s chosen ones of all ages: support, forgiveness, compassion, thankfulness, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and above all else, love. These are the clothes we Christians are called to put on. These are the behaviors that mark the beloved community. These traits are also the result of faith well-formed, and this faith happens in the gathered community with teaching, worship, and praise.
If the church is going to reach out, to go out, to meet the world outside of our comfort zone in the coming year, a commitment (or re-commitment) to forming faith and helping people be more like Jesus is essential. Our world faces myriad difficulties, and more and more people are turning up saying they’re “done” with organized religion. Why not name and claim 2016, Year C, not only as a time for Jubilee (thanks for our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers!) but also as a year of forming and strengthening the faith so that we can indeed grow in wisdom and in favor with God and our neighbor? Blessings on your faithful, fruitful, and fearless teaching and preaching.
Today is a good day to introduce your congregation’s faith formation opportunities for the New Year. Share with congregants the many ways in which they can nurture, nourish, and continue to form and grow their faith. Talk a little about our stewardship of the faith, and how to be good stewards of the Message of Jesus Christ we must be intentional about forming our faith and that of those in our communities.
Alternate Suggestion: Celebrate Refugee Sunday
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” — Fred Rogers
With the escalating refugee situation around our world, and with the increased and polarizing political rhetoric that is accompanying it in many places, why not use the Year A Lectionary lessons for the First Sunday of Christmas (Matthew 2:13-23), which tells the story of Herod’s violence against the innocents and the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt. Click here to see what the synod in which I serve is encouraging congregations to do to mark this day as “Refugee Sunday.” You’ll also find some worship tools and study helps provided by SOLI webmaster, The Rev. Robert Blezard.
If you have time with your youth today, you can remind them of their value in the Body of Christ. Sometimes youth do not feel valued or an integral part of the congregation, but scripture points out that young people belong in the assembly and can rightly take leadership roles. If you don’t have time with the youth today, be sure to thank them for the work they do–readers, ushers, acolytes, crucifers, helpers in the nursery or with VBS. Acknowledge their work and witness and thank them for their faithfulness.
Psalm 148 is a great interactive psalm to use with children. Talk to them about the word “praise” and what it means. Then invite the entire congregation to read the psalm. You could play with one side reading odd verses and the other even, and you can even invite the congregation to “play” along. Have the children stand up and raise their hands over their heads each time they hear the word “praise” being said. They’ll get to catch their breath from verses 8-12, and then they’ll be standing again.
Remind the children that praising God is not just something they say but rather something they DO every day in thought, word, and deed. Finish with a simple prayer.
Photos: Brandon Atkinson, Lars Plougmann, and Caleb Roenigk, Creative Commons. Thanks!