Christmas 1 (December 28, 2008)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 61:10-62:3; Ps. 148; Gal. 4:4-7; Luke 2:22-40
We spent this week with our son Jeremy who is visiting from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa. Most of our time was in Amman — talking, walking, seeing the sites, watching movies and sharing good food! On Friday, we visited Roman ruins in Jerash and ate mansef – the Jordanian national dish made with rice, meat and yogurt — in the home of a former MCC Jordan local staff worker.
In the region this week, a shaky truce between Hamas and Israel totally fell apart – with both sides blaming the other for violating the Egyptian-brokered agreement. Hamas launched rockets against Israel, killing one Israeli, in response to Israel’s stringent economic blockade on the Gaza Strip.
Israel responded with its largest air offensive against Gaza in 40 years, killing at least 225 Gazans. Both sides threaten more violence in the coming days. Meanwhile, in Baghdad, at least 22 Iraqis were killed in a car bombing on Saturday.
The Common Lectionary readings this week offer praise and rejoicing for God’s acts of creation, redemption and salvation. How desperately God’s intervention is needed today!
In the reading from Isaiah, God’s servant rejoices that God has clothed him with garments of salvation and that God “will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations” (Is. 61:11).
The psalmist records that all creation will praise God – the sun, moon and stars (Ps. 148:3); the heavens (v. 4); sea monsters (v.7); fire, hail, snow, frost and stormy winds (v.8); mountains, hills, fruit trees and cedars (v.9); wild animals, cattle, creeping things and flying birds (v.10); even kings and princes and all people, young and old (vv. 11-12) – because God’s name alone is exalted.
Paul writes that, in the fullness of time, God sent his son to redeem those who were born under the law. No longer will they be slaves. They will now be adopted as God’s children (Gal. 4:5, 7).
In the Gospel reading, at the appropriate time, Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple to dedicate him to God. Upon seeing the Christ child, the elderly Simeon praises God because his eyes have now seen God’s salvation and light for both Gentiles and Jews (Luke 2:30). The 84-year-old prophetess Anna, praises God for the child who will redeem Jerusalem (v.38).
With all the violence that surrounds us, it is sometimes difficult to imagine a day when righteousness and praise will “spring up before all nations” (Isaiah 61); when kings and princes will praise God (Psalm 148); when people of many tribes and nations will recognize that they are God’s adopted children – and thus sisters and brothers (Galatians 4); and when both Gentiles and Jews recognize God’s light and salvation.
And yet, the Lectionary readings this week remind us that – even when we don’t see it and even when we wish God would act more quickly — in the fullness of time, God acts to redeem, restore and save. This indeed is reason to praise God. This is reason for us to walk in God’s light and treat one another as brothers and sisters.