04 January 2015

Depending on whether you celebrate the Epiphany on 6 January or not, you may choose whether to use these resources for Christmas 2B this Sunday, or to celebrate this as Epiphany Sunday, and use the resources for Epiphany. If you follow the readings for Christmas 2B, you will note the attitude of celebration and hope which springs from God’s restoration and salvation of God’s people, God’s presence with God’s people especially through Christ’s incarnation, and God’s promise of a world made whole. In addition, you will note the call to live out of this hope and celebration now, even as we proclaim the dream of a world of love and justice.

May our worship this week feel us with hope, turn us away from cynicism and despair, and lead us to live as little incarnations in our corner of the world.

READINGS:
Jeremiah 31:7-14: A prophecy of restoration and salvation in which god promises to gather a faithful remnant from the ends of earth and bring them to Zion where they will enjoy peace, abundance, laughter and salvation.
OR Sirach 24:1-12: Wisdom sings in praise of herself, and celebrates how she has been with God since creation, and has sought a resting place among people. She sings of how God instructed her to make her home with the people of Israel, and she obeyed, making Zion her dwelling.

Psalm 147:12-20: A call for the people of Israel to praise God for God’s blessing, for the peace and security God has provided, for the commands and statutes God has given to God’s people, and for the fact that God has not done these things for any other nation.
OR Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21: A celebration of how Wisdom rescued God’s people from their oppressors, and enabled them to stand against kings with great signs and wonders. Also a celebration for how God led God’s people, became shelter for them, and enabled them to over come their enemies.

Ephesians 1:3-14: God is to be blessed because of God’s great blessing and grace in Christ in which God has adopted us as God’s children, has forgiven us, poured out wisdom on us, revealed God’s plan to us, and given us the Holy Spirit as a down payment on our eternal inheritance.

John 1:(1-9), 10-18: The prologue of John’s Gospel in which he declares that the divine, Creator Word has become flesh, shining the light of life into the world, and enabling all who receive him to become children of God.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
All of the readings for this Sunday call us to great celebration for the grace and blessing of God, and for our adoption as children of God. What a wonderful way to conclude the season of Christmas as we celebrate not just God’s incarnation in the baby Jesus, but God’s incarnation in us as daughters and sons of God. Both Jeremiah and Sirach speak of God’s restoration of God’s people, and of how God promises to dwell among the faithful. The Psalm and Wisdom of Solomon readings also celebrate God’s love and grace for God’s people, and how God provides peace, security, abundance, and deliverance. In Ephesians we are reminded of all that God has done for us, and given us, in Christ, and of our eternal inheritance which we already experience through God’s Spirit. Finally, in the Gospel, which is also always set for Christmas Day, the incarnation is proclaimed along with God’s gift of adoption for those who believe in Christ. Theme that stands out this week is one of great joy and celebration for God’s care and love for us, and for God’s gracious adoption of us as God’s children who receive great blessing in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
Global Application:
In a world of great suffering and trauma, of religious extremism, of racial conflict and injustice, of corruption, poverty, gender and sexual violence, and inequality it may seem naïve and callous to speak of celebration. It may also seem somewhat delusional to speak of God providing peace, security, and abundance for God’s people when we know that faith is no guarantee of these things. But without a dream for a world-made-whole in Christ, we have nothing to offer. And, if our work for justice and compassion has no room for joy we will never find the strength, faith, hope and love to sustain us in the long run. This week’s theme calls us to remember our hope and to keep it real and alive in our hearts. It calls us to remember God’s presence among us in Christ, and God’s presence within us by God’s Spirit. And it calls us to allow our experience of God to keep us connected to our vision of restoration and hope. Then, as we live from the inspiration and wisdom that our faith and hope bring us, we are able to address the great struggles of our world with love and service. Our hope, then, is not just a future dream of restoration, but is a lived reality that we seek to embody and incarnate in our own lives, even as Christ incarnated it for us.

Local Application:
It is easy to get caught up in the cynicism, negativity, futility, and despair that is so often reflected in the media and echoed in conversations between friends, families, and even communities of faith. It is easy to embrace a faith that speaks only of the ultiamte destruction of the world and the evacuation of a small remnant of believers. But, neither of these attitudes are acceptable for us if we take the readings of this week’s Lectionary to heart. This week we are called to live as people of hope, as people who know and experience the presence and wisdom of God in our daily lives, and as people who know that God’s Spirit is both our current strength the guarantee of the future we long for. This means that we are called to replace cynicism with optimism, negatibity with possibility, and despair with joy and hope. It means that we live in the faith that what we see and experience is not the only – or even the primary – reality, but that God’s Reign is at work within and among us. This means that in every interaction, every moment, and every situation we can be bearers of God’s joy, peaxe, love, and hope and in so doing be the emobdiment of God’s light as little Christs.

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
God Of Presence And Light
Darkness And Light
We Celebrate Your Life
Come Again
You Have Come To Us

Hymn Suggestions:
Fairest Lord Jesus
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
Blessed Assurance
It Is Well With My Soul
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
O Little Town Of Bethlehem
It Came Upon The Midnight Clear
Blessed Be Your Name

Mighty To Save
I Shall Not Want
You Are God

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet
A Liturgy for Advent and Christmas

Video Suggestions:
The Word Became Flesh

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