Engaging the Word: Readings for 12/25/16 (Christmas Day)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-12; John 1:1-14. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, God’s people learn that the exile is over and  God is bringing peace, the writer of Hebrews tells us that the Son is the image of the Father, and we read again John’s beautiful description of the Incarnation of our Lord.

Alleluia by Thomas Cooper Gotch, 1896. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Alleluia by Thomas Cooper Gotch, 1896. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Isaiah 52: 7-10: This week’s reading comes from Second Isaiah (chapters 40-55), and is addressed to the people in exile.  A messenger brings the good news that Babylon has been defeated and the exile is finally over. The messenger announces salvation and proclaims “Your God reigns.” The Lord has redeemed Jerusalem and this is a time to break out into singing for joy. Moreover, the Lord’s power will be revealed “before the eyes of all nations” and the Lord’s salvation will be known to all the ends of the earth.

Psalm 98: This week’s Psalm is one of the Royal, or Enthronement, Psalms (Ps 93-99). It urges God’s people—indeed, all of creation—to sing joyfully to God as the victorious King and who is coming to judge the world. “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.” I always think we should sing a new song to the Lord each day, because that’s exactly what the Lord is doing each day for us.

Click here for a video of Psalm 98 sung joyfully by the congregation of Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho.

Jesus, Savior of the World by El Greco, c.1600. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jesus, Savior of the World by El Greco, c.1600. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Hebrews 1:1-12: This week’s reading introduces the Letter to the Hebrews, though it is often described as a sermon. Written in the first century AD by an unknown author, it was written to encourage Jewish Christians who were suffering for their faith, and describes the person, the character, and the work of Christ.

In this week’s reading, the author tells us that in the past God spoke to his people through the prophets, but now,  “in these last days,” God has spoken to us through his Son and heir of all things. Jesus is the one uniquely identified with God because “He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being and he sustains all things by his powerful word.” The main thing we need to remember is that Jesus isn’t just a messenger of God, Jesus reveals God. Jesus cleanses us from all our sins by his once and for all time sacrifice, and is seated at the right hand of God; his sacrifice has made us presentable to God.  This is very good news indeed.

Birth of Christ by Frederico Barocci (1528-1612). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Birth of Christ by Frederico Barocci (1528-1612). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John 1:1-14: Here in the prologue to John’s gospel we have one of the most beautiful passages in all of Scripture—worth memorizing.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Here we glimpse the mystery of the Incarnation. Here we see how “In the beginning” illuminates the story of creation in Genesis 1:1. Jesus already was, because he shares God’s own nature.

Our reading notes that John the Baptist was sent by God to testify to the true light. Other than Jesus, John the Baptist is the only person in John’s gospel described as being sent by God.

Jesus is the Word, the logos, the organizing principle of creation, and everything came into being through the Word. Yet the world did not know him and the world’s people did not accept him. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us…full of grace and truth.” The Word became incarnate, God became a human being, while remaining fully God. What a mystery! Yet it is through Jesus that God’s glorious nature is made known to us, and we are given access to the Father.

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