Lectionary Readings
(from the Revised Common Lectionary)

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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper I Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Summary

At Christmas Eve, the preacher must be vigilant not to ease into a comforting exposition of the well-known Christmas story. As the last Christian feast our society bends around, the temptation will be to preside over the palpable sensations of hearth and home like the merry Spirit of Christmas Present. But the feast is too foundational, the Scriptures too portentous, to cover over with gauzy sentiment.

It is probably a good idea to let the Isaiah passage lead the themes and exhortations, because it gives meaning to Luke’s moment. The Lectionary gives us no room to shy away from the Christological target of the millennia-old prophecy. It is about the gladsome arrival of Jesus Christ, the promised child, surely more (and more wonderful) than anyone bargained for. The new birth is the realized hope of Israel and a light to the nations. The congregation would be well exhorted to imitate Mary as they go home to their dinners, presents, and families—to treasure these things quietly in the midst of the hubbub, that their faith may not burn off with the moment, but be confirmed by prayerful contemplation.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper II Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Summary

In this first of the two Christmas day services (traditionally at dawn), the Gospel reading from Christmas Eve is (largely) repeated, however a new Isaiah reading takes center stage. God’s vow to restore Jerusalem ends with an encouragement that the “Daughter of Zion” recognize her salvation is arriving. The preacher should not be timid to draw the Marian parallel here since she is a type of the church. Salvation is indeed “with her,” literally to be found inside of her, and from her womb springs the firstborn of a redeemed, holy people. Titus spells out the terms of that salvation hinted at in the Isaiah passage: Entrance through the baptismal waters of new birth in the Spirit, justification by Christ, one great movement leading to the hope of eternal life.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper III Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Summary

The principle text for the feast of Christmas is undoubtedly John 1. Each of the Gospels, in the sequence in which they were written, begin Jesus’ story earlier than the last. Mark begins at Jesus’s baptism, Luke at the Nativity, Matthew’s genealogy extends back to Adam himself. John, astoundingly, begins before all beginnings.

From this dizzying vantage point before and above all creation, the preacher may feel vertigo, since there is literally nothing in all the universe that is irrelevant to this text, and therefore an infinite number of possible themes to be explored, so it will helpful to follow the text of the Gospel itself to properly relate these cosmic mysteries to the church to whom they have been revealed.

John 1:14 grounds the mystery of the eternally begotten logos and the incarnation, not in an appeal to philosophical categories, but in concrete experience. “We saw his glory” (NASB) ought to be taken straightforwardly as an eyewitness report, not some sense of spiritual or intellectual “seeing.” Though Christ is above and before all things, the main message here is that he was directly experienced, and may still be today through his Holy Spirit and in prayer.

Ordinary human contact with the divine is what our faith is built upon, not clever philosophical ideas. Hebrews drives this point home, declaring that Jesus is the “perfect imprint” of the Father. The un-seeable God is made perceptible, which brings theology into simplicity, eternity into time.

Preachers ought to craft their messages with this “downward” movement in mind, not staying in the clouds of cosmic mystery, but proclaiming the gospel that the highest God has made himself fully knowable to limited beings, even little children. Our sermons ought to be just as knowable!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper I Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Friday, December 25, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper II Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Friday, December 25, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper III Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper I Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Summary

At Christmas Eve, the preacher must be vigilant not to ease into a comforting exposition of the well-known Christmas story. As the last Christian feast our society bends around, the temptation will be to preside over the palpable sensations of hearth and home like the merry Spirit of Christmas Present. But the feast is too foundational, the Scriptures too portentous, to cover over with gauzy sentiment.

It is probably a good idea to let the Isaiah passage lead the themes and exhortations, because it gives meaning to Luke’s moment. The Lectionary gives us no room to shy away from the Christological target of the millennia-old prophecy. It is about the gladsome arrival of Jesus Christ, the promised child, surely more (and more wonderful) than anyone bargained for. The new birth is the realized hope of Israel and a light to the nations. The congregation would be well exhorted to imitate Mary as they go home to their dinners, presents, and families—to treasure these things quietly in the midst of the hubbub, that their faith may not burn off with the moment, but be confirmed by prayerful contemplation.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper II Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Summary

In this first of the two Christmas day services (traditionally at dawn), the Gospel reading from Christmas Eve is (largely) repeated, however a new Isaiah reading takes center stage. God’s vow to restore Jerusalem ends with an encouragement that the “Daughter of Zion” recognize her salvation is arriving. The preacher should not be timid to draw the Marian parallel here since she is a type of the church. Salvation is indeed “with her,” literally to be found inside of her, and from her womb springs the firstborn of a redeemed, holy people. Titus spells out the terms of that salvation hinted at in the Isaiah passage: Entrance through the baptismal waters of new birth in the Spirit, justification by Christ, one great movement leading to the hope of eternal life.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper III Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Summary

The principle text for the feast of Christmas is undoubtedly John 1. Each of the Gospels, in the sequence in which they were written, begin Jesus’ story earlier than the last. Mark begins at Jesus’s baptism, Luke at the Nativity, Matthew’s genealogy extends back to Adam himself. John, astoundingly, begins before all beginnings.

From this dizzying vantage point before and above all creation, the preacher may feel vertigo, since there is literally nothing in all the universe that is irrelevant to this text, and therefore an infinite number of possible themes to be explored, so it will helpful to follow the text of the Gospel itself to properly relate these cosmic mysteries to the church to whom they have been revealed.

John 1:14 grounds the mystery of the eternally begotten logos and the incarnation, not in an appeal to philosophical categories, but in concrete experience. “We saw his glory” (NASB) ought to be taken straightforwardly as an eyewitness report, not some sense of spiritual or intellectual “seeing.” Though Christ is above and before all things, the main message here is that he was directly experienced, and may still be today through his Holy Spirit and in prayer.

Ordinary human contact with the divine is what our faith is built upon, not clever philosophical ideas. Hebrews drives this point home, declaring that Jesus is the “perfect imprint” of the Father. The un-seeable God is made perceptible, which brings theology into simplicity, eternity into time.

Preachers ought to craft their messages with this “downward” movement in mind, not staying in the clouds of cosmic mystery, but proclaiming the gospel that the highest God has made himself fully knowable to limited beings, even little children. Our sermons ought to be just as knowable!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper I Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Friday, December 25, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper II Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Friday, December 25, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper III Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper I Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Summary

At Christmas Eve, the preacher must be vigilant not to ease into a comforting exposition of the well-known Christmas story. As the last Christian feast our society bends around, the temptation will be to preside over the palpable sensations of hearth and home like the merry Spirit of Christmas Present. But the feast is too foundational, the Scriptures too portentous, to cover over with gauzy sentiment.

It is probably a good idea to let the Isaiah passage lead the themes and exhortations, because it gives meaning to Luke’s moment. The Lectionary gives us no room to shy away from the Christological target of the millennia-old prophecy. It is about the gladsome arrival of Jesus Christ, the promised child, surely more (and more wonderful) than anyone bargained for. The new birth is the realized hope of Israel and a light to the nations. The congregation would be well exhorted to imitate Mary as they go home to their dinners, presents, and families—to treasure these things quietly in the midst of the hubbub, that their faith may not burn off with the moment, but be confirmed by prayerful contemplation.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper II Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Summary

In this first of the two Christmas day services (traditionally at dawn), the Gospel reading from Christmas Eve is (largely) repeated, however a new Isaiah reading takes center stage. God’s vow to restore Jerusalem ends with an encouragement that the “Daughter of Zion” recognize her salvation is arriving. The preacher should not be timid to draw the Marian parallel here since she is a type of the church. Salvation is indeed “with her,” literally to be found inside of her, and from her womb springs the firstborn of a redeemed, holy people. Titus spells out the terms of that salvation hinted at in the Isaiah passage: Entrance through the baptismal waters of new birth in the Spirit, justification by Christ, one great movement leading to the hope of eternal life.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper III Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Summary

The principle text for the feast of Christmas is undoubtedly John 1. Each of the Gospels, in the sequence in which they were written, begin Jesus’ story earlier than the last. Mark begins at Jesus’s baptism, Luke at the Nativity, Matthew’s genealogy extends back to Adam himself. John, astoundingly, begins before all beginnings.

From this dizzying vantage point before and above all creation, the preacher may feel vertigo, since there is literally nothing in all the universe that is irrelevant to this text, and therefore an infinite number of possible themes to be explored, so it will helpful to follow the text of the Gospel itself to properly relate these cosmic mysteries to the church to whom they have been revealed.

John 1:14 grounds the mystery of the eternally begotten logos and the incarnation, not in an appeal to philosophical categories, but in concrete experience. “We saw his glory” (NASB) ought to be taken straightforwardly as an eyewitness report, not some sense of spiritual or intellectual “seeing.” Though Christ is above and before all things, the main message here is that he was directly experienced, and may still be today through his Holy Spirit and in prayer.

Ordinary human contact with the divine is what our faith is built upon, not clever philosophical ideas. Hebrews drives this point home, declaring that Jesus is the “perfect imprint” of the Father. The un-seeable God is made perceptible, which brings theology into simplicity, eternity into time.

Preachers ought to craft their messages with this “downward” movement in mind, not staying in the clouds of cosmic mystery, but proclaiming the gospel that the highest God has made himself fully knowable to limited beings, even little children. Our sermons ought to be just as knowable!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper I Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Friday, December 25, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper II Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Friday, December 25, 2020

Nativity of the Lord - Proper III Christmas Eve & Day—Christmas, Year B

Sunday, December 27, 2020

First Sunday after Christmas Day—Christmas, Year B

Summary

Jesus’ purpose was also the purpose of the creation of Israel from the very beginning. Isaiah’s declaration that “the nations will see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory” was not new. God promised Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed by his offspring.

The faithful Simeon is granted the special vocation to declare that this promise has been fulfilled in the child Jesus—“a light of revelation to the Gentiles.” These words are so precious to the church that she sings them often in the Nunc Dimittis (perhaps a good tip to your worship leaders for this Sunday!). Likewise, the holy woman Anna is given that same recognition and becomes an early evangelist to a larger group of faithful Messiah-watchers.

Paul, in Galatians, spells out the mechanics of this promise: the astounding truth that the Messiah has not just brought a shining example to the non-Jewish peoples, but comes to them as an adopting father!

The preacher would do well to bring the hidden theme of the Holy Spirit forward: that the Spirit who spoke through the prophet Isaiah and revealed Jesus’ Messiahship to the prophets at the Temple, is the very same Spirit that inspires our own hearts to cry out to God the Father! This is just one of many more avenues to take through these three interlocking texts.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Holy Name of Jesus (Mary, Mother of God)—Christmas, Year B

Friday, January 1, 2021

Holy Name of Jesus (Mary, Mother of God)—Christmas, Year B

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Second Sunday after Christmas Day—Christmas, Year B

Summary

It is traditional to read John 1 more than once throughout the Christmas octave in order to ensure the congregation does not miss it! Such foundational truths at the beginning of the Christian year bear repeating. What differs is the supporting texts that garnish John’s declaration of the incarnation.

If the congregation has ears to hear a reading from the Apocrypha, the preacher will find special illumination in the Sirach passage. The Hebrew notion of wisdom had much in common with the logos—a connection the early church benefited from, and was fond of making. Human wisdom may be able to take the measure of a few limited things, but in God’s wisdom resides the whole architecture of all creation. The first few verses of Sirach 24 has wisdom dwelling in the highest heavens and covering the earth like a mist. But then this universal force on which everything depends somehow finds a resting place in Israel.

In John, we see God’s wisdom come to dwell, not only in a nation, but in human flesh. The mystery of how universal salvation comes through a particular place and person is a theme worth excavating, as it uncovers much about God’s character—his closeness and intimacy with his creation, and especially us. It also leaves no doubts as to the divinity of Christ, whose teachings are trustworthy for the reason that they come from the mouth of wisdom itself.