Monday, December 22, 2014

Lectionary Notes for Christmas Eve, Year ABC

Readings for Christmas Eve/Day, 12/24/14:
Isaiah 9:2-7, Psalm 96, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-20

Isaiah 9:2-7:
  • This text is particularly meaningful in the midst of December in this part of the world, with the short days and sometimes seemingly perpetual darkness. It can be overwhelming. Our life without God's light is like a perpetual darkness. But the joy of Christmas is the coming of the light in the Christ-child.
  • The coming of the messiah comes as one who frees from oppression and lifts the burden from the downtrodden. Christmas comes to those in desperate need - sometimes we forget that, and think of Christmas as all for us and about us who can't honestly describe ourselves as oppressed.
  • "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." What is your name for the messiah? This year in my congregation, we are focusing on the appellation "Prince of Peace" in particular.
  • "there shall be endless peace" - what do you think Isaiah means by this? We look around and see that though Christ has come, we haven't experienced endless peace. Are we missing it? Is it yet to come? Do we have to aid in its coming, or does it happen in spite of us? What do you think?
  • I think we always have to be careful with light/darkness imagery to make sure we're not interjecting any racist overtones to our language. Obviously light/dark imagery is biblical and helpful in teaching, but we also have to watch out for ways talking about light as good and dark as evil can be hurtful to people of color. Just be mindful.
Psalm 96:
  • The first verses don't distinguish this psalm for me from many others. Praise God, tell of God's salvations. Great is the Lord, greatly to be praised.
  • God judges with equity - as a judge is supposed to do. But so often we experience injustice even in the very justice system. God's justice is always - just!
  • Vs. 11 is some of the anthropomorphic language often found in Psalms, but I find it effective. Heaven, earth, sea, fields, and all that is in earth is glad for God's ruler-ship. The trees sing. To my mind come images from The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia with trees who could indeed sing praise.
  • We will be judged with God's truth. How do you understand that? With what else are we judged?   
Titus 2:11-14:
  • Christmas Eve is the only time Titus appears in the lectionary, and I'm guessing people usually don't use the Titus text when we have so much to talk about in Isaiah and Luke. Poor Titus! But there's some good stuff in this short selection.
  • "The grace of God has appeared." - I really like this - Grace, something we think of as intangible and invisible, has become tangible, literally touchable, certainly visible, in the coming of the Christ child.
  • "bringing salvation to all" - emphasis mine. Salvation is for all.
  • "renounce impiety and worldly passions" - what are the 'worldly passions' you need to announce. Instead of a season of joy and abundance, it seems we often make the season instead one of gluttony and selfishness. But here we are called to live lives that are "self-controlled, upright, and godly." What would you have to change to make that true for yourself?
  • "zealous for good deeds" - I can try and trick myself all I want, but I know I can't honestly describe myself as one who is zealous for good deeds. Can you? I wish I could though - what a great description for someone.
Luke 2:1-20:
  • I find it hard to write notes on this text and give a new look at words so familiar. But we have to look with new eyes and read with new ears, don't we? I find it hard to even preach on this text. Often on Christmas Eve I opt for monologues and drama, to try and let the story come alive. My goal is to try to engage the text in a five-senses sort of way: what do we see, hear, smell, touch, taste? And additionally: what is everyone feeling?
  • Mary, of course, is the star here (aside from the baby, obviously.) What does Mary feel? Is she stressed? Exasperated? Scared out of her mind? We don't know the details, but from the story we can't see that there's anyone there to help her through the birthing process except Joseph.
  • Why do you think God speaks to the shepherds? We have such warm fuzzy images of shepherds, but we don't really have a feel for the places of shepherd's in Jesus' day. Why are they included in the birth? Why not the innkeeper? A priest? Other townsfolk? What do you think the shepherds felt about what they saw (other than terror at the angels?!)
  • The shepherds told others about the baby Jesus. I wonder what was made of this news - crazy shepherds? Did years later people still wonder about the child? Know that the man Jesus was the baby they'd once heard about?
  • "Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart." One of my favorite verses in the bible. What a brave, faithful young woman we find pictured in this text. 

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