Lectionary Reflection for the First Sunday of Christmas, Year B
December 28, 2014
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. Galatians 4:4-5
This Sunday we celebrate the good news of the Christmas story afresh. Even as stores have slashed their price points on Christmas decorations and related goods to 50% or even 75% off retail and as Valentine chocolates supplant peppermint candy canes, the Church continues to ring out songs of Christmas and keep the tree lit until Epiphany. Many congregations choose to mark this Sunday with a festival of Lessons and Carols, a lovely tradition that provides a different experience of worship after the festal joy and pomp of the Christmas Eve liturgy and the holy calm that so often accompanies Christmas morning services. Other worship leaders and preachers will choose to use the lessons for this First Sunday of Christmas, highlighting one of the few glimpses we have into Jesus’ early family life and continued joy and praise for God’s incarnation and entrance into our human condition.
No matter how you structure worship today, be sure to continue the Christmas celebration with an emphasis on God’s great gift of God’s own self in Jesus. In the epistle snippet appointed for this Sunday, Paul reminds the faithful in Galatia of this great gift of salvation, inclusion, and unending love. Even as Jesus was born into the human family of Joseph and Mary, so we too become part of God’s family through Jesus. We bear the gift of the Spirit in our hearts and are clothed with the garments of salvation; we are intimately woven into the fabric of this great narrative of faith–all in God’s family.
The good news of this message echoes throughout the lessons this week, so be sure to let it ring out in your worship. The story of Jesus’ life moves forward with the ordinary expectation of presentation to the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem. Even in this expected and traditional act, the good news breaks through and Jesus’ family is reminded of the incredible gift of God they come bearing quite literally in their arms. After this extraordinary yet ordinary event happens, they return to their home in Nazareth, and we hear that “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40).
We are already moving on from the joy and glow of Christmas to the daily rhythms of our lives. It will be easy to become lost in the routines and rigmarole that mark our days. Perhaps this ordinary story from the scant reporting of Jesus’ childhood is a reminder to us that even in the midst of the ordinary, as Christians we are marked by the extraordinary love and mercy of the Creator of the Cosmos. We dare not forget this fact, even as we work, play, love, eat, and grow. May our prayer be that all of us will become strong in our faith, be filled with the Spirit’s wisdom, and be always aware of God’s favor upon us through Christ our Lord.
So today, dear friends, praise the Lord! Let the sound of your Christmas hymns ring true. The Lord has come, comes again, and is always breaking into our world in new ways and in unexpected places. Blessings on your worship, your preaching and teaching, and on your experience of these wonderful days of Christmas.
This is traditionally one of those “low Sundays” of the church year where attendance may be down a bit as people travel and rest. Regardless, the day does not have to be less than wonderful for the faithful who gather. This is a day of praise and rejoicing, so be sure to fill the liturgy with expressions of joy, hope, light, and peace. The gift of Christmas keeps on giving every day of our lives. Why not give all worshipers a gift of praise and joy today? Use small boxes or colored envelopes. Do a scripture word search for verses about praise, rejoicing, joy, hope, etc. Find 52 that you like, print them on small pieces of paper, and place them in the container or envelope. You can simply put the verse reference, or you can print the verses if they are short passages.
Provide instructions like these: Merry Christmas! Today we celebrate and praise God for the gift of Jesus coming into our world. As our gift to you we bring you 52 verses to remind you to give praise and thanksgiving, to have hope and joy, and to engage scripture during the coming year. Feast on one of these passages each week of 2015. Give thanks to God for all of the many blessings that mark the days of our lives. We at Trinity Church give thanks for you each week as an integral part of the Body of Christ that gathers here. Blessings!
This may be a week where you don’t have very many youth present for your faith formation or youth group events. Consider hosting a 12 Days of Christmas Party with games, hot cocoa, caroling, and a movie. Challenge youth to write down all of the many things for which they are thankful and in which they rejoice. Share this list via social media or make a short video to show during worship next week.
Why not challenge children to grow a little joy today? Consider giving each child a small pot with prepared potting mix and some seeded paper cut into the shape of a heart, a cross, or the word “joy.” Tie the seeded paper with a ribbon to a small dowel or kitchen skewer and put it in the pot. Provide instructions for planting. Make a reference to this week’s Psalm 148 or Isaiah 61:10-62:3 either by decorating the pot with these verses or by including them on the instructions. If you have children with you for a lengthy faith formation time, you can have them make some seeded paper. Click here for instructions. Seeded paper is easy to make, but it does take some prep time and effort. If not, you can easily do a web search for premade seeded paper to purchase. In your time with the children remind them that even as the gospel lesson tells us that Jesus “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him,” they also are growing strong in God’s favor. They can grow plants with great joy, too, and watch their plants grow strong and tall and healthy. Finish with a simple prayer.
(Photo: Derry Oates, Brian Jeffery Beggerly, and Lawrence OP, Creative Commons License. Thanks!)