First, many thanks go out to a successful and joyous Christmas Eve Worship. Thank you, Bob Kutter, for leading worship at Grey Eagle UMC and thanks to the approximately 115 people in attendance. Thanks to the 76 people who came to worship at Peace United and all the children who helped me ring the bells.
Second, thank you everyone who joined with me in worshiping on Christmas Day. It was an intimate, relaxed, quiet, and meaningful worship for me along with nine people at Grey Eagle and seven at Peace United. We may have been small in number but I am assured that God honors our worship no matter the size of the congregation.
Third, this Sunday, January 1 (yes, I know it is New Year's Day), we will be having our Annual Covenant Renewal Service. Suspecting that there will be a light turnout for worship that morning, I CHALLENGE EVERYONE to do your best to make it to church. I believe that we need an annual checkup on how we our keeping our side of the covenant with God and the first Sunday of the year is as good a time as any. Of course, God is always faithful to the covenant, but how are we doing? The service will include our Covenant Renewal Service with a remembrance of our Baptisms and the Service of the Table a.k.a. Communion.
So, what Sunday is this that we are coming up on? The Lectionary is all over on this one. It is either the First Sunday after Christmas, or it is New Year's Day, or it is Epiphany Sunday. There are four readings assigned to each of them. On top of that, we will have some different reading for our Covenant Renewal Service.
First Sunday After Christmas
Isaiah 63:7-9 - God's Mercy Remembered
Psalm 148 - Praise for God's Universal Glory
Hebrews 2:10-18 - We are brought to glory by the suffering of Jesus
Matthew 2:13-23 - The escape to and return from Egypt for Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus.
New Year's Day
Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 - Everything Has Its Time; God Gives Us Tasks
Psalm 8 - Divine Majesty and Human Dignity
Revelation 21:1-6a - The Seer John has a vision of the New Heaven and the New Earth.
Matthew 25:31-46 - The parable of the Judgment of the Nations: Goats to the left, Sheep to the right.
Isaiah 60:1-6 - The Light will shine in the darkness and all nations will come to it.
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 - Prayer for Guidance for the King; Three Kings Bring Gifts
Ephesians 3:1-12 - Paul has become a servant to the Gospel for the sake of the Gentiles.
Matthew 2:1-12 - The visit of the magi who bring three gifts.
Covenant Renewal Service
Joshua 24:14-15 - Joshua is coming to the end of his life and he calls all the tribes of Israel to listen to his charge: Remember what God has done for you and then choose whom you will serve. It will either be the One God who saved and saves you or it will be the gods of the people in whose land you now live. Or, as the Nobel Prize winning poet once sang:
But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
but you're gonna have to serve somebody.
Joshua said that he and his family will choose to serve the Lord. Who will you serve?
1 John 1:5-2:6 - God is light. There is no darkness in God. (I would define darkness as violence, vindictiveness, and seeking retribution.) When we walk in the Light we have fellowship with one another and our sins are cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Those who claim to follow Jesus but do not live by his commandment (see below) are not true followers and do not live in the Light. "But whoever obeys His Word, truly in this person the love of God has reached . . . (wait for it . . . ) perfection."
John 13:12-20, 31-35 - It is the night that Judas betrays Jesus. Jesus and the disciples have gathered for a supper. Before they eat, Jesus puts a towel around his waist and washes the disciples feet. He then asks them about this act and tells them that they should be like servants (not like masters). Jesus then gives them one commandment, one thing to do, one way of living their lives: Love one another just as Jesus has loved them. Those words resound through the ages and speak to us. Do we as followers of Christ love each other? Do we love our neighbors as ourselves? Do we love God as God loves us?
Have a great week serving the Lord God by serving your neighbors. Have a wonderful New Year's Eve and I will see you on Sunday.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor