First Sunday after Christmas (January 1, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 60:1-6; Ps. 72:1-7, 10-14; Eph. 3:1-12; Matt. 2:1-12
Cindy was in Virginia this week, being a grandma and spending time with our children. In her unbiased opinion, our granddaughter Sydney is even cuter in person than in the pictures. Daryl spent a quiet week in Amman and has recovered from pneumonia.
As 2011 draws to a close, we are grateful for a year that has been filled with supportive relationships and stimulating opportunities:
- In January, we completed a two-month home leave packed with quality family time.
- In March, we accompanied a MCC Ontario learning tour group to Palestine-Israel.
- In April, Daryl’s sister Judy and her family visited from Raleigh, North Carolina.
- In May, we attended the Europe-Middle East retreat in Cyprus, followed by a four-week speaking engagement in MCC East Coast, Winnipeg and MCC British Columbia.
- In July, Cindy’s mother and cousin visited from Kidron, Ohio. We also participated in a peacebuilding workshop in Amman, led by Dr. Alma Abul-Hadi Jadallah, an adjunct professor at Eastern Mennonite University, and hosted the MCC Reps from Egypt.
- In August, Daryl’s sister Cheryl and brother-in-law Mark visited from Grottoes, Virginia. We also welcomed three new SALT workers to the region.
- In September, we participated in a retreat for MCC staff from Iraq, Jordan and Palestine.
- In October, we accompanied an MCC East Coast learning tour group to Palestine-Israel. During this tour, we learned that we had become grandparents!
- In November, we visited Gaza.
- In December, Cindy accompanied Dr. Alma Abdul-Hadi Jadallah to northern Iraq, for another peacebuilding workshop.
In the region this week:
- Israel approved 130 new settlement homes near Bethlehem and launched multiple airstrikes on Gaza, killing one and injuring 10 persons. In response, a rocket was fired from Gaza into southern Israel, but did not cause injuries.
- As tensions mount between the Iran and the United States, the Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi warned that Iran would shut down the Strait of Hormuz if the West imposes more sanctions against Iran. As if to underscore the point, Iran conducted naval exercises in the Persian Gulf, including test-firing a long-range missile. The U.S. responded that it would not tolerate such actions by Iran, which would shut off a major oil route.
- Several thousand protested in Ammanon Friday, calling for government reforms.
- Mass protests continue in Syria in spite of a rising death toll.
- Egyptian security forces raided 17 civil society organizations throughout the country, searching computer files and temporarily detaining employees.
The Common Lectionary readings for this first Sunday after Christmas highlight that all nations — all peoples – will eventually be drawn to God’s light, finally recognizing that God alone is worthy of worship.
In the Old Testament reading, Isaiah writes that “darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.” The prophet continues, “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Is. 60:2-3) As the nations come to the light that shines upon God’s people, they will “bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.” (v.6)
In the psalm, Solomon prays that God will help him lead with justice and peace, and defend the cause of the poor (Ps. 72:1-7). But, in prophetic words that also describe the coming Christ, Solomon also prays that all the kings of the earth will render him tribute, bring him gifts and fall down before him (vv.10-11).
In the Epistle reading, Paul writes that the mystery that has been hidden from former generations is that God’s blessing is not exclusive to one people group. Rather, “the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Eph. 3:6) It is through the church that this mystery of inclusion is demonstrated to the rulers and authorities (v.11).
The Gospel reading describes the visit of the Magi from the East. Guided by a star they come to Palestine to find the child who has been born king of the Jews (Matt. 2:2). They kneel down and pay homage to baby Jesus, bringing him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (v.11).
With all of the violence and injustice in the world, it often feels like thick darkness covers the earth. The potential for war in this region appears to be high in the coming year. But darkness will not have the final word in history. Christmas reminds us that God’s light has come in Christ and is now to be reflected by God’s people. Like the Magi, may we be drawn to God’s light and may our lives brightly reflect this light to those around us.