Surprise! I’m posting resources a bit early as I know some may be planning ahead.
Revised Common Lectionary: 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26; Psalm 148; Colossians 3:12-17; Luke 2:41-52
Narrative Lectionary: A Voice in the Wilderness, John 1:19-34 (Psalm 32:1-2)
The Hebrew scripture lesson for this first Sunday after Christmas contains a few verses about the prophet Samuel, when he was a boy serving God in the temple at Shiloh under the priest Eli. The priest blessed Elkanah and Hannah, Samuel’s parents, and the boy grew in wisdom and in favor with God and the people. These remarks on Samuel’s upbringing are similar to the remarks Luke makes about Jesus at the end of Luke 2.
Psalm 148 is a song of praise, in which all of creation, all the heavens and earth and everything God has made is a participant in the act of worship. Among humanity, all people, no matter their privilege or gender or age, are called into the responsibility to worship God. God’s name alone is above all names. For the people of Israel, God encouraged them, and they have remained faithful and close to God.
The writer of Colossians encourages the church in Colossae to live as the body of Christ in community with one another. Like clothing, they put on kindness, compassion, and forgiveness for one another. All these things fall under the love of Christ in which they are clothed in. The church is called to a way of life of gratitude, with the peace of Christ ruling in their hearts. They show their faith and love by teaching one another through their songs of praise to God. Their whole lives are to be centered in Christ, shedding selfishness, and everything they do ought to be in Christ’s name.
The Gospel lesson is from Jesus’ childhood, the only story in our canonical Gospels of what happened between Jesus’ infancy and adulthood. Luke 2:41-52 contains a story of when Jesus and his family went to Jerusalem for Passover, and he stayed behind in the temple to talk with the teachers, though his parents did not know it. They had forgotten whose Son he was, and were frantic when they couldn’t find him. Jesus reminds them that he is in his Father’s house. Mary and Joseph didn’t understand, but Jesus returned with them to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents. Repeating verse 19, Mary once again treasures the words and experiences of her child that she doesn’t understand and ponders them in her heart. She knows there is something greater for Jesus than what she can perceive. Jesus grows in wisdom and favor, similar to the prophet Samuel, in his maturing years.
The Narrative Lectionary continues in the Gospel according to John. In 1:19-34, the middle part of this first chapter, John the Baptist was questioned as to who he was. He declared he was not the Messiah, nor was he the prophet or Elijah, whom many believed would come before the Messiah. However, he quoted Isaiah 40:3, which the other Gospels also use to place John as the voice crying out in the wilderness. The religious leaders questioned why John was baptizing if he was not the Messiah or Elijah or the prophet. John shared that his baptism is only of water, and the one coming after him he was not worthy to untie the thongs of his sandals. The next day, Jesus came to him, and John declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, an account is shared of John baptizing Jesus, but in this account, John the Baptizer shares that he already baptized Jesus. John testifies to the religious leaders that Jesus is the Son of God.
The first two verses of Psalm 32 blesses those whose sins are forgiven, for those in whom there is no deceit. This is not to say there is no sin, but the one who confesses and is forgiven is blessed and truly happy.
The First Sunday after Christmas is a time when one can be creative. It is the end of the calendar year, it is a time when we explore the childhood of Jesus, the wonder and awe of the Christmas season. It is a time to take stock and look back on the year that was, to look forward to a future with hope. The readings today remind us that we may not fully understand, as Mary and Joseph didn’t, all who Christ is for us and for the world, but that in service to God, we increase in wisdom and in favor.
Call to Worship (Psalm 148:1-3, 13b)
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
Praise God in the heights!
Praise God, all the angels;
Praise God, all the heavenly host!
Praise God, sun and moon;
Praise God, all you shining stars!
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
For God’s name alone is exalted.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Almighty God, we confess that sometimes we speak the first answer that comes to our mind as if it is the truth, the only right way. We confess we are quick to speak and slow to listen and ponder. Remind us to slow down from the busy-ness of the world’s ways, to take in other views, to listen for Your word in our hearts and minds before responding. Call us into Your path of wisdom and insight, to take notice of creation around us and what You are speaking. Guide us into Your ways of speaking truth in love, to not judge one another but to extend kindness and compassion, to be gentle in correction and open to Your way of forgiveness and healing. May we grow in wisdom and in Your favor. Amen.
For God so loved the world that God sent the only Son, so whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. You have that life now. You have God’s unconditional love now. Because God loves you and loves all of us so much that God made the beautiful earth for us and sent Christ to us to show us the way, the truth, and the life. Embrace the love of Christ. Forgive one another, and know you are forgiven. Seek restoration and reparation and may God’s peace be with you. Amen.
God of All Times, may we sit in Your time, Kairos time, for a while. May we not be worried about chronology, the turning of pages on a calendar and years in our lives. For a moment in this in-between time, this last week of 2021, may we sit with You and grow in Your wisdom. May we know that You have plans for us, plans for a future with hope as you spoke to Jeremiah all those years ago, though our plans and futures are far different. It is the hope we cling to, that somehow things will turn out better than they have been. But may we sit in this Kairos time, O God, and remember Your faithfulness to us in all times, in all days and months and years and seasons, and know You are present with us, now and always. Amen.