Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Many readings for Sunday, January 1, 2012

Thank you to all who were at our Christmas Eve services and to those who helped out by reading one of the scriptures.

Special note – Newsletter articles should be in by tomorrow, Wednesday, December 28.

Of course, as we are aware, this coming Sunday is New Year’s Day. One tradition many Americans have on this day is to make a resolution to do something positive in the coming year: lose weight, exercise more, eat less, save more, spend less, etc. Of course, I need to do all these things but I never put them into a resolution because of my high probability of failing. I only make one resolution each year and that is to make no resolutions. Of course, this means that I immediately fail the resolution because I just made a resolution.

Then there is our baptismal covenant, promised for many of us when we were babies by our parents and later reconfirmed at our confirmation or promised directly by many of us when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Do you remember that covenant? Do you remember the promises you made? Most of us don’t remember the exact words but we do remember the general tenor of it. On January 1, this coming Sunday, you will have a chance to remember and to recommit to that covenant. This “Covenant Renewal Service” first arose out of the Puritan community in England in the 17th Century and was adapted by John Wesley and the Methodist movement in the 18th Century. I believe it is a service that transcends denominations as the service calls us to remember and reminds us of God’s faithfulness to us. Join us this Sunday at 9:00 AM at Grey Eagle UMC or 10:30 AM at Peace United Church to renew your covenant with God.

There are several sets of readings for this Sunday, one for the First Sunday after Christmas, one for New Year’s Day, and one for Epiphany Sunday (the 12 days of Christmas runs from December 25 to January 5 and Epiphany is always on January 6). I will also use some other lessons for the Covenant Renewal Service.

First Sunday after Christmas:
Isaiah 61:10-62:3 – God clothes us in salvation and I will not keep silent.
Psalm 148 – God’s glory is revealed in all the universe. Praise God!
Galatians 4:4-7 – God sent his Son, born of a woman, at the fullness (right?) time so we may be adopted as God’s children.
Luke 2:22-40 – Jesus is named (verse 21), the family goes to the temple for their purification and they meet Simeon and Anna, and they return to Nazareth.

Epiphany Sunday:
Isaiah 60:1-6 – God’s glory is revealed and visitors shall bring gold and frankincense.
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 – A prayer for God’s guidance and support for the king of Israel.
Ephesians 3:1-12 – Paul is prisoner to the Gospel because the mystery of God’s plan has been revealed in Christ.
Matthew 2:1-12 – This Magi follow a star and find the new born King

New Year’s Day:
Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 – There is a time for everything as we sing the song by the Byrds.
Psalm 8 – What are humans compared to the stars, moon, and planets in the heavens, yet God sets humans above angels to care for creation.
Revelation 21:1-6a – A new heaven and a new earth.
Matthew 25:31-46 – The Judgment of the Nations

Covenant Renewal Service:
Joshua 24:14-18 – “As for me and my family, we will follow the Lord.”
Jeremiah 31:31-34 – The Lord will bring a new covenant that is written on the heart.
1 Peter 1:13-25 – A call to holy living as the Word of the Lord endures forever.
John 15:1-17 – Jesus is the true vine; abide in him as he abides in God.

There, a lot of reading for this week. May God Bless You through your reading God Good Word!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Readings for Christmas

Hello Everyone,

Worship services for Christmas Eve are at 4:00 PM at Grey Eagle UMC and 6:00 PM at Peace United Church. There will be NO WORSHIP on Sunday Christmas Day.

I wish everyone a “Happy Hanukkah”. At sunset tonight Hanukkah begins and the Festival of Lights ends at sunset on Wednesday, December 28. Hanukkah celebrates the successful overthrow of the Greek rulers of Judah in 162 BCE (BC) or 165 BCE by the Maccabees family. After the cleansing of the temple and at it’s rededication (The Hebrew word “Hanukkah” means “dedication". You can read about the cleansing and rededication at 1 Maccabees 4:36-61.) there was a small amount of oil for the Temple Lamp. It was thought that the oil would only last a day, but it miraculously lasted for eight days, hence the eight day Festival of Lights.

Of course, as Christians we are looking forward to the Celebration of the coming of the True Light, the birth of Jesus. The date of December 25 is just an arbitrarily chosen date because no one knows the actual date (it is not in the Bible). Some accuse the Christian community of choosing that date to usurp the Roman festival of Saturnalia, a celebration of the winter solstice (which is on Thursday, December 22 this year). Check this section of the Christmas article on Wikipedia: Christmas History. The first recorded account of a celebration of Christ’s birth is in 356 CE (AD). In the early church, Epiphany (January 6) was a more important celebration.

In my time as a pastor, I have celebrated Christmas worship with a “Service of Lessons and Carols”. The UMC Book of Worship lists nine lessons for this service but I cut that back to seven. The Lectionary has four lessons for Christmas Eve and four lessons for Christmas Day. So, with very little comment, here are the fifteen lessons:

Christmas Eve
Isaiah 62:6-12 – “Salvation Has Come”
Psalm 97 – “The Glory of God’s Reign”
Titus 3:4-7 – “Justified by Grace, Heirs of Eternal Life”
Luke 2: (1-7) 8-20 – “The Birth of Jesus, the Visit of Shepherds”

Christmas Day
Isaiah 52:7-10 – “The Announcement of the Lord’s Salvation”
Psalm 98 – “Praise the Judge of the World”
Hebrew 1:1-4 (5-12) – “God Has Spoken by His Son”
John 1:1-14 – “The Word Made Flesh”

Service of Lessons and Carols
Isaiah 9:2-7 – “The Birth of a King”
Micah 5:2-5a – “The Place of Birth is Named”
Luke 1:26-38 – “The Annunciation”
Luke 2:1-7 – “The Birth of Jesus”
Luke 2:8-16 – “The Shepherds Visit”
Matthew 2:1-11 – “The Magi Visit”
John 1:1-14 – “The Light Has Come into the World”

There you go. A lot to read this week and I pray that you do the reading. You will be blessed indeed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Readings for December 11 2011

Hello Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

One announcement for each church before the questions and comments on our texts.

First, Grey Eagle UMC’ers, we will be having our Annual Sunday School Program during the worship service this Sunday. Come to church if you are able and support the Sunday School program.

Second, PUC’ers, this Sunday’s worship service will be the Hanging of the Greens Service (and you won’t have to listen to me preach! Yeah!) Following the service we will be having a potluck dinner and our Annual Church Meeting. Come one, Come All!

As always, to answer my questions, please cheat by using your Bible. Our texts this Sunday are:

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 – The first two verses are famously quoted by Jesus at the beginning of his ministry in Luke 4:18-19 where he leaves off the part about the day of the Lord’s vengeance. What will the prophet do in verses 1-3 and why is he doing it? What will the people become and what will they do in verses 3-4? Who is speaking in verses 8 and 9? What will be done for the people? What will other nations and peoples say? Who is speaking in verses 10 and 11? What has happened to the prophet and why?

Psalm 126 – As usual, the Psalm is chosen by the Lectionary Committee to accompany the Old Testament reading, in this case Isaiah 61. What happens to the people when the Lord restores their fortunes? What happens to those who weep? What happens to those who bear seeds for sowing?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 – This passage come at the end of a section that my Bible labels as “Final Exhortations, Greetings, and Benediction”. You should probably start at verse 12 which is were I would start. Starting at verse 16 and going through verse 22, how many different things should we do and what are they? Why should we do them (verse 18)? What does Paul, the author of the letter, wish God will do for the people? Why does Paul believe that God will do this?

John 1:6-8, 19-28 – The second and third Sunday of Advent are devoted to John the Baptizer (referred to as JB in the rest of these comments). Any ideas as to why this may be so? (This won’t be found in our Bibles.) In the midst of a beautiful opening prologue John the Gospel writer mentions the man sent by God named John (the Baptizer). Who is the light of the world (verses 4 and 5 but not in our reading)? Is JB the light? What is JB in relation to the light? Who, in verses 19-23, is JB not? (I know, this is a awkward construction of the question.) Who does JB say he is? Who is coming after JB? Where did all this take place?

May the One who baptizes with the Spirit, bless you in your encounters with the Bible this week.