Revised Common Lectionary: Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Psalm 148; Luke 2:22-40; Galatians 4:4-7

When Christmas falls on a Sunday as it does this year, the following Sunday ends up being a crunch Sunday, in where there would normally be two Sundays to fit in the Sunday after Christmas readings and Epiphany Sunday, it is all in one. Some churches may celebrate the Epiphany (January 6) on January 8 instead.

All of Advent has prepared us for waiting for Christ’s return. The Scriptures have prepared us for Christ’s birth by preparing us for Christ to come again. We have watched and waited, actively participating in the building of the reign of God on earth as we wait for Christ to enter our lives again and in a new way. Now that Christmas has arrived, we read Scriptures of great joy, sharing the promise of the Good News to the faithful, to those who have actively waited for Christ and for God’s deliverance.

The passage from Isaiah shares the good news of God’s deliverance and restoration, even though it has not occurred yet for the people coming out of exile. Isaiah shares the message of the promise of redemption and the hope of salvation through God. Isaiah uses the images of springtime, the renewal of life, as a sign of God’s renewed covenant. As we read these passages in the Northern Hemisphere, as winter has officially begun and we’ve just passed Solstice, spring seems a long way off. For the ancient Israelites, though the exile was ending, the rebuilding of the city and the restoration of the temple seemed a long way off. Isaiah encourages them not to lose heart. As Christians, we have the promise of redemption and the hope of salvation in Christ, and we know this, yet we are still waiting for the sign of Christ’s coming again.

Psalm 148 is a song of praise, reminding us that all of creation praises God. All of creation is in tune with what God is doing to bring forth new life in this world, and that we, last of creation, are joining in the great chorus and celebration.

Luke 2:22-40 shares with us the story of Jesus and Mary being brought forth for purification, which would have been thirty-three days after Jesus’ birth according to Leviticus 12. The lectionary skips verse 21, which takes place eight days after Jesus’ birth, and moves right into this time of purification, when they would be at the temple in Jerusalem. Luke’s Gospel has more mention of women than any other gospel, and in the temple, both Simeon and Anna witness Jesus. While Simeon proclaims a revelation of who Jesus is as a light to the Gentiles and salvation to Israel, Anna’s words are not recorded by the writer. However, she is called a prophet, whereas Simeon was not. Both Simeon and Anna share the Good News of Jesus, revealing who this babe is to the world as the Messiah, the Anointed One. As we celebrate Epiphany, we often read Matthew 2:1-12, the story of the Wise Men or Magi visiting Jesus. This reading from Luke is also a reading of Epiphany, of the revelation of Christ to the world.

Paul writes to the Galatians that all, Jews and Gentiles, are children of God through Jesus the Christ. In this particular passage, Paul is writing in the midst of conflict where many of the Jewish Christians are insisting that the Gentile Christians become circumcised and take on many of the Jewish practices, and the Galatians are caught in the conflict, not sure what to believe, where to turn, or what to do. Paul assures them that they belong to God, that they are children of God, and that their background, Jew or Gentile, does not matter for all have become heirs through Christ.

Our Scripture passages show us that God’s promises can be trusted, even though we are still waiting for the fulfillment of all things. Our role is to continue revealing Christ to the world, continue to share the Good News of the promise of redemption and the hope of salvation through Jesus the Christ, and to trust that God will bring all things to fulfillment, as our ancestors in the faith trusted God, and as all of creation is in tune with God’s desire to continue to bring forth new life, and eternal life.

Call to Worship:
Leader: The people were walking in darkness; now the light has come!
People (singing): Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee O Israel.
Leader: Christ has been born! Christ has come!
People (singing): Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee O Israel.
Leader: Jesus has been revealed to the world as the Messiah, the living Christ.
People (singing): Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee O Israel.
Leader: We must continue to share the Good News of Jesus, as we wait for Christ to come in a new way.
People (singing): Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee O Israel.

Prayer of Confession:
Loving Christ, we confess that we do not always share the Good News. We have heard the message time and again and have let it grow stale. We know we need You, but we don’t know how we need You. We want to turn away from empty phrases and worn-out platitudes, but we know in our heart that we need You. We need Your salvation, redemption and healing in our lives from where we have gone astray and where we have been hurt. Help us to live into Your full embrace, so that we can fully share Your grace, healing and love with those who are hurt, those who have gone astray, those who feel so far gone from Your love. Forgive us when we have closed off our hearts instead of allowing them to break. Forgive us when we have said nothing in order to avoid saying the wrong thing. Forgive us when we have been too afraid of being looked down upon instead of sharing the story of our faith. Guide us with the wisdom of Anna and Simeon, who were unafraid to praise You and to share the Good News of Your Son, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon:
From Luke 1:78-79 “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Go forth, knowing that you are forgiven, that you are loved, and that God’s light is shining on you, bringing you out of darkness into God’s marvelous light. Amen.

Prayer:
God of Light, You brought forth light as Your first act of creation. You brought forth light and darkness did not overcome it and You brought forth light in the form of Your Son, Jesus the Christ, who continues to shine the light of hope in a world of darkness and despair. You have called us to shine with Your light, and You have called us to bring Your light to the world. As we prepare for this New Year, help us to shine Your light more brilliantly and bright in our lives. Call us into the ways of Your Son’s love, peace, mercy and justice, so that we might share the light of hope with this world in this New Year. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

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One Response to Worship Resources for January 1 2012–First Sunday after Christmas, New Year’s Day and Epiphany Sunday

  1. Kimberly says:

    I just love this! i am using all of it for a service tonight–i have been sick and did not have time to come up with my own liturgy–and why should I? This is EXACTLY what I am looking for. thank you, my dear friend!

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