Lectionary Reflection for the Second Sunday of Christmas, Year C
January 3, 2016
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. Ephesians 1:3-4
Read the two verses from Ephesians (1:3-4) again. Read them and let the words wash over you and through you. Let them surround you and enfold you. Dwell with them for a few minutes. Now read on through verse 14. And then read the other lessons appointed for this week in the Revised Common Lectionary (John 1:1-18, Jeremiah 31:7-14, and Psalm 147:12-20).
I don’t think we could hope for better lessons with which to begin a new calendar year in our world. Amid all the chaos, war, political posturing, and concern about the future, we have these marvelous cosmic and celebratory texts dumped right in our liturgical laps. This is good stuff, friends!
These selections provide powerful reminders that we are really in control of precious little–and in fact that is a very good thing. This recognition is highly counter-cultural in a world where we celebrate power, money, fame, reason, and all that appears rational. And yet … financial markets collapse under the decisions of a few, our world reels from natural disaster and freakish storms, and we still fail to provide enough for all people to live lives of basic dignity and hope. In short, despite all of our technological successes, our grand accomplishments and scientific advancements, we still fail and fall short.
What can certainly be cause for existential despair and a rising sense of angst in response to postmodernism (see the work of Fredric Jameson, for example), need not crush the follower of Christ. Instead, we can begin the new calendar year with a sense of counter-cultural hope if we will but allow ourselves to be stewards of the mysteries of faith and celebrants of the blessings God desires for all of creation. While this sense of blessing and possibility does not give us permission to sit idly by and watch the world “go to hell in a handbasket,” what it does do is infuse us with courage and hope to be about God’s work in our day and time.
When we proclaim the words “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” as part of the Eucharistic liturgy, we acknowledge not only divine control and provision, but also a joyful and defiant hope in our adoption through baptism into a different reality. We celebrate that God loved creation so much that Jesus came among us in flesh and bone and breath and that we are “marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph. 1:13b). We have all the reasons in the world to celebrate our lack of control and mastery when the God of the cosmos, the LOGOS, the creator, redeemer, and sanctifier of all creation, is spinning this great web of life and good. We are woven into this divine fabric,held fast in the Creator’s grip. No matter the storms, no matter the pain, no matter our seeming paltry fate, we are held fast in God’s love. So yes, let’s celebrate this day. Let’s acknowledge the blessings we have received in Christ. And let’s give God’s people a sense of holy mystery and divine possibility to share with this beautiful yet broken world.
Here’s a thought: Why not let 2016 be a year of celebrating, stewarding, and sharing the mysteries of faith and the blessings of God? In praise, prayer, and purpose let God’s people proclaim boldly an alternative reality, a hopeful future, and a divine promise for all people. Happy New Year, Church! Happy New Year, world! Blessed be God who is with us and chooses to bless–even in spite of us.
And this is how we see God: JESUS
Consider using the gospel lesson from John 1 to help people “see” Jesus in image and word. If you have projection capabilities you might want to use images to accompany the reading of the gospel lesson (John 1:1-18). Some questions you might explore either in a sermon or discussion setting include: Where do you most often “see” Jesus? Where do you not see Jesus? If you had to describe Jesus using a game of “charades” how would you do it? How might you share Jesus with others this year?
Challenge congregants to look for sightings of God in the world each week and to share them via social media, a bulletin board, or other means.
Use the Old Testament lesson (Jeremiah 31:7-14) as the basis for a multimedia project or short film with your youth. Invite them into the story, providing historical context, and then challenge them to find a way to express this passage of great hope and promise for those who need a such a word today. Find a way to share the results with the congregation and/or a wider audience.
Consider teaching the children how to bless one another. Use Ephesians 3:3-4 as a model for showing children how to bless one another in the name of Christ. Encourage them to bless their parents each night, and to make the sign of the cross on their foreheads as a reminder of their baptism and belonging to God. If you are using “Sent Forth by God’s Blessing” (Omer Westendorf, Welsh folk tune) as a sending hymn, invite the children to come stand at the doors and offer blessings as congregants depart.
Photos: Luiz Filipe Carnelro Machado, Lizard10979, and Matt Dempsey, Creative Commons. Thanks!