Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Second Sunday after Christmas Day (or Epiphany of our Lord), Year A
January 5, 2020
Second Sunday after Christmas Day Lessons: Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 147:12-20, Ephesians 3:1-12, John 1:(1-9) 10-18
Epiphany of our Lord Lessons (1/6/20): Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 71:1-7; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people now turn their hearts, hands, and minds to the real work of Christmas, work that continues every day of the year.
Key Scriptures: 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 1:14 (Second Sunday after Christmas Day)
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. Isaiah 60:1(Epiphany of the Lord)
This Sunday is the twelfth day of Christmas and the second Sunday after Christmas Day. On Monday (1/6) we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord. Most of the world has returned to business as usual: Spent Christmas trees wait to be collected by townships or have been hauled to field or dump, the Valentine’s Day displays are filling store aisles, and damage assessments to bank accounts and body mass are in process. For Western Christians, however, it’s still Christmas, and there will be carols to sing and reminders of the incarnation this Sunday. Our Eastern Christian sisters and brothers will just begin their celebration of Christmas this week. What’s the big idea for worship this week? Keep celebrating Christmas and incarnation! Unless … you will choose to celebrate Epiphany a day early (especially in contexts where people will not readily gather on a Monday evening for worship). This is also the first Sunday of a new year AND a new decade—with lessons that offer so many rich possibilities for preaching and teaching.
Here are a few possible springboards:
Second Sunday after Christmas Day
Does your congregation need a dose of hope today? Is the world too much with the people with whom you minister? If so, perhaps focus on Jeremiah’s words of hope and promise delivered to a beleaguered people who knew what it was like to be ripped from their homeland, squelched under the iron fist of Empire, and well-acquainted with suffering and sorrow. The same God who returned the people of Israel to their homeland and restored their fortunes is present with us today, desiring good for humankind and all of creation, inviting us into the dance that will usher in a new day, the reign of God.
This song of lavish praise to the Lord is perfectly in tune with the liturgical season of Christmas, for praise is the appropriate response to God. Everything—human, animal, all creation—comes from and is beloved of God. As the lyrics to the hymn “My Life Flows on in Endless Song” remind: “How can I keep from singing”? How might we today update this psalm for the 21st century? What elements would we add? What comforts and reminders are needed for us to enter and embody this psalm of praise?
The introduction to this letter reminds us of the place we occupy in the grand and continuing metanarrative recounted in scripture. We are blessed by God in Christ and we bless God with our praise and others with our faithful lives and witness to the good news. We also hear echoes of John 1 and experience in the author’s words a divine or Kairos sense of time. This lesson forms a good bridge to cross from Christmastide into the world, to set about the “work of Christmas” that Howard Thurman so eloquently wrote in his poem, “The Work of Christmas.”
John 1(1-9), 10-18)
This week we hear John’s prologue to his gospel, setting the plot, the theme, the characters, and the historical and present contexts. From this passage we learn that Jesus (the Word made flesh) has always existed with the Father and indeed was God, the One who shines light in the dim and drear world, light that saves and incorporates believers as children of God. Through Christ, the Word incarnate in human flesh and bone, we receive “grace upon grace.” Perhaps a way to lean into this lesson is to remind folks that for generations upon generations this prologue has set the stage not only for the telling of Jesus’ story but also serves as an anchor and common ground for our own discipleship.
Epiphany of the Lord
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.” This first verse of the Old Testament lesson captures the essence of the Epiphany and points us to Jesus, the source of life and guiding light, whose coming among us was foretold to the people of Israel. Great hope shines in these verses, hope that is certainly appropriate as we enter a new year in a world that is full of shadows and dim, dreary places.
Psalm 77:1-7, 10-14
What constitutes a worthy leader, a king whose focus is on right rule, justice, and mercy? This psalm asks God to give these traits to the king for the flourishing of the people. Perhaps this psalm is a way to talk about wise and faithful leadership in an age of leaders whose motivations are a far cry from the this king who delivers the needy and the poor, whose reign is marked by righteousness and peace, and who judges wisely and crushes those who would oppress the people. How can we as people of faith embody these traits? How might we determine whether our elected leaders at all levels and offices will seek to embody these same traits? And, why does it matter?
Today, with the Feast of the Epiphany, we celebrate the wonder and mystery of the incarnation, of God among us. God’s plan to bring all of creation into right order and real life is revealed in Jesus. Often we miss the point, the gospel remains hidden in plain sight. Our job as people of faith is to make clear the mystery and reveal the wonder that through the incarnation God has come among us, continues to be among us, and will never forsake us. We know this amazing story, yet all too often we feel ill-equipped to retell it in ways that resonate with others. Life in Christian community gives us the practice we need to share the gospel through both our actions (primary) and words (secondary but quite necessary).
What a great story of civil disobedience in response to God’s leading. The wise men from the East come to pay homage to the king of the Jews and in the process set Herod into terrible action, fearing for the throne and his crown. Note their responses of joy, praise, and gifts. These were valuable and practical gifts, too, meant for medicine, healing, and sustaining the holy family. Indeed, these gifts must have proven valuable as they fled their homeland as refugees to Egypt with the infant Jesus. The wise men, warned in a dream, perform what amounts to an act of civil disobedience by refusing to return to Herod with the child’s location. Are we willing to participate in acts that may be considered civil disobedience for the sake of the gospel? I think of the many leaders and faithful folk who are participating in the Poor People’s Campaign, those who stand witness with oppressed siblings around the globe through the Christian Peacemaker Teams, and those who speak out and work to end injustice against both humans and creation. What in this 2000 year old story speaks to us about our current situation today?
Either way you can’t go wrong this Sunday with the gift that keeps on giving—Jesus, the Word made flesh, the Logos. Instead of “Lights, Camera, Action” that one might hear on a film set, we have “Light, Jesus, Action” for a story that is timeless, the very essence of love, mercy, and grace. Our challenge is to remember the “action” part of the equation, to put our hands, feet, mind, voices, and resources to work for the sake of the gospel. Blessings on this new year and on your ongoing work of ministry, proclamation, and the equipping God’s beloved people.
In Worship Whether you use the lessons for the Second Sunday after Christmas Day or the Epiphany of our Lord, you will find the themes of the enduring and cosmic nature and scope of Christ readily available in both options. Make sure to squeeze out the last joyful carols of Christmas and use this day as a bridge into a new year with fresh opportunities to be bearers of the Word to a weary world. We can be defiant in our joy and praise because we serve and love God who will not desert us, Jesus who saves and teaches us, and the Spirit who enlivens our faith and empowers us to be the people of God in our contexts.
With Youth Consider using the story of the wise men’s visit and disregard for Herod’s orders as a springboard for discussion about civil disobedience—breaking worldly laws in answer to God’s higher calling. When is civil disobedience called for by a Christian? What constitutes civil disobedience? How do we weigh the costs involved? What does our love of Christ and our faith compel us to do when we see injustice happening around us?
With Children Check out options for children’s time in the archives below. You’ll find interactive options for both the Second Sunday of Christmas and the Epiphany of the Lord.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert It’s the first week of a brand new year. How will you continue to grow as a faithful steward this year? Why not set at least one goal that will help you make better use of your God-given talents, gifts, and resources?
Stewardship at Home Spend some time this week learning about the Feast of the Epiphany and the various traditions around the world that are associated with this day. Ponder how the good news of Jesus’ incarnation was first revealed to you. What memories do you carry of that event? How might you be able to share this good news with others? Check out this website for information. Here’s a recipe for Rosca de Reyes (or three kings) bread from Mexico. Serve with Mexican hot chocolate (recipe here).
2015 Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/12/blessed-be/
2014 Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2014/01/light-action-incarnation/
Epiphany Reflection 2019: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2019/01/tell-me-do-you-see-jesus/
Images: SOLI archive; Mariah Michelle; and yevkusa, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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