Christmas and Sunday Readings & Comments

DECEMBER 24, 2020 CHRISTMAS EVE/SUNDAY SERVICE

Dear Beloved in Christ,

A brief overview of texts for the first service for Christmas, read on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, giving you a choice of Eve or Day you want to watch – (or both – no extra charges). We have recorded one service.

The first Collect of the Christmas Day Propers links Christmas with our anticipation of the Second Coming. The judgment — not to be considered as a final disposition to heaven or hell — takes grace seriously. It is freely given love of God, in human flesh and life, the Child at Christmas. Christ is the gift who guides us to shape our lives by divine love, for living in the divine kingdom of heaven even now.

The Old Testament Lesson from Isaiah echoes this theme. The prophets look ahead, anticipating what God will do. The coming of one is announced, but also anticipates the nature of divine rule. The text from Isaiah and the Psalm are closely related to the political ideology of the Davidic monarch in Israel, and how it functioned in a political sense. Later the Jews began to understand it’s preparing them for life in a different kind – God’s.

Paul’s words to Titus, and Luke’s story of the birth of Jesus, clarify the juxtaposition of the two kingdoms. As in Isaiah, the birth of a new king is heralded with the fanfare of the birth of a political, national monarch. But then these texts point not to armies and wars – power and victory — but a different definition of power and victory in the kingdom of God – the power of justice and righteousness to change lives and help create a just world for all.

As you read Luke’s Christmas story, notice the juxtaposition of King Jesus, no safe place to be born, wrapped in bands of cloth — and the Emperor Augustus, living in a palace in Rome. The power of his edict brings Mary and Joseph to Joseph’s hometown for taxation enrollment. We know which king reigns on earth, and hear hints in the special – other worldly events of King Jesus’ birth of that kingdom God brings among us. We know which king ultimately and finally reigns. These texts prepare us to live now – the “not yet” we await, which for some who accept God’s new ordering of this world, is grace and gift. The words of “Away in a manger” come to mind, “Prepare us Lord Jesus — to live with you there.”

The text from Titus celebrates the King who has come, but who comes again. For those prepared and awaiting God’s rule, the grace of God, the kingdom, has already begun on earth as in heaven. It is God’s “Christmas gift” — a blueprint for living fully in the love and grace of the Father, so we will know and welcome — and feel welcomed and familiar in the new kingdom God finally establishes in us all.

Common threads can be found in all three of the Propers or Lections, for Christmas. Two Gospels are from Luke, with different shades of emphasis. The third is John’s Gospel prologue for Proper 3. All prepare us for the Second Coming of Christ — and the special qualities that establish which kingdom we choose now. These texts ground us in the first coming, and one to come. For we who read and hold these stories dear, it is more than sweet memories of Christmases past. It is again being addressed by the loving kindness of God’s coming. The peace Christ brings is also peace that will disrupt and overturn the broken ways of this world. For some that sounds like a warning. For others that sounds like hope. Each year the stories of Christ’s birth bring a renewal of joy and hope as we prepare and await the final gift God promises to bring.

Blessings, love, hope, and joy found in rehearing anew, God’s story in these days — Merry Christmas, Fr. Steve

CHRISTMAS – Proper 1

For Christmas Eve and Day

The Collect

O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Old Testament

Isaiah 9:2-7

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness–
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

The Psalm

Psalm 96

Cantate Domino

1 Sing to the Lord a new song; *
sing to the Lord, all the whole earth.
2 Sing to the Lord and bless his Name; *
proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations *
and his wonders among all peoples.
4 For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; *
he is more to be feared than all gods.
5 As for all the gods of the nations, they are but idols; *
but it is the Lord who made the heavens.
6 Oh, the majesty and magnificence of his presence! *
Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary!
7 Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples; *
ascribe to the Lord honor and power.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the honor due his Name; *
bring offerings and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; *
let the whole earth tremble before him.
10 Tell it out among the nations: “The Lord is King! *
he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”
11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
let the sea thunder and all that is in it; *
let the field be joyful and all that is therein.
12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy
before the Lord when he comes, *
when he comes to judge the earth.
13 He will judge the world with righteousness *
and the peoples with his truth.

The New Testament

Titus 2:11-14

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

The Gospel

Luke 2:1-14(15-20)

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

[When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.]
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