Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Guide to Christmas Devotions for 2017-2018   1 comment

Above:  Nativity of Christ

Image in the Public Domain

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MONDAY, DECEMBER 25, 2017:  CHRISTMAS DAY:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/devotion-for-christmas-morning-year-d/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/devotion-for-christmas-day-year-d/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-day-of-christmas-christmas-day/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-25-lcms-daily-lectionary/

ELCA

December 26:  The Feast of St. Stephen:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/devotion-for-december-26-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/second-day-of-christmas-the-feast-of-st-stephen-deacon-and-martyr-december-26/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-26-lcms-daily-lectionary/

December 27:  The Feast of St. John the Evangelist:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/devotion-for-december-27-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-day-of-christmas-the-feast-of-st-john-apostle-and-evangelist-december-27/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-27-lcms-daily-lectionary/

December 28:  The Feast of the Holy Innocents:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/devotion-for-december-28-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-28-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fourth-day-of-christmas-feast-of-the-holy-innocents-december-28/

December 29:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/devotion-for-december-29-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-29-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fifth-day-of-christmas/

December 30:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/devotion-for-december-30-year-b-elca-daily-devotion/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-30-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/sixth-day-of-christmas/

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 31:  THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS, YEAR B:  

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-after-christmas-ackerman/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-sunday-after-christmas-years-a-b-and-c/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/devotion-for-december-31-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-31-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/seventh-day-of-christmas/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/new-years-eve-december-31/

January 1:  The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-of-christmas-year-d/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-1-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/eighth-day-of-christmas-the-feast-of-the-holy-name-of-jesus-january-1/

January 2:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/devotion-for-january-2-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-2-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/ninth-day-of-christmas/

January 3:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/devotion-for-january-3-and-4-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/tenth-day-of-christmas/

January 4:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/15/devotion-for-thursday-before-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/devotion-for-january-3-and-4-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-4-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/eleventh-day-of-christmas/

January 5:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/15/devotion-for-friday-and-saturday-before-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/devotion-for-january-5-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/twelfth-day-of-christmas/

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Devotion for the Second Sunday After Christmas (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   A Checklist

Image in the Public Domain

Compassion, Not Checklists

NOT OBSERVED IN 2018

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 57:14-19

Psalm 106:47-48

1 John 3:11-14a; 4:1-6

Luke 1:1-4

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The assigned readings for this Sunday, taken together, speak of the importance of knowing God.  Those who love God keep divine commandments, or at least attempt to do so.  One can succeed by grace, fortunately.  The faithful who receive the crown of martyrdom are still more fortunate than those who trust in idols.

Discerning divine commandments does seem difficult sometimes.  As I read 1 John 3:14b-24, I find some guidance regarding that topic:

  1. Do not hate.
  2. Love each other so much as to be willing to die for each other.
  3. Help each other in financial and material ways.
  4. Do not mistake lip service for sincerity.

Those instructions are concrete, not abstract.  And, by acting accordingly, we demonstrate the presence of the Holy Spirit within ourselves.

I notice the emphasis on compassion, not checklists.  Legalism is a powerful temptation.  Indeed, many who fall into that trap do so out of the sincere desire to honor God.  Yet they wind up fixating on minor details and forgetting compassion frequently instead of remembering the big picture:  compassion, such as that of the variety that Jesus modeled all the way to the cross.

Living compassionately is far more rigorous a standard than is keeping a moral checklist.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROSS MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/compassion-not-checklists/

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Devotion for the First Sunday After Christmas (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:  Jethro and Moses, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

A New Year Resolution

DECEMBER 31, 2017

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Exodus 18:13-24

Psalm 69:30-36

1 Timothy 3:1-13

Matthew 1:1-17

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The Gospel of Jesus Christ is one of inclusion–inclusion of all the faithful regardless of gender, ethnicity, national origin, et cetera.  In Matthew 1, for example, the author mentions four women (although we know there were more females than that involved in all that begetting), one of whom was a foreigner and three of whom had dubious sexual reputations.  Even the aliens and the objects of gossip have vital roles to play in the unfolding of divine purposes.  Furthermore, nobody can do everything (as Moses learned), but the division of labor and the faithful attendance to duty can enable the faith community to function as well as possible.

The author of Psalm 69 hates his enemies (who hate him) and asks God to smite them.  We tend to omit such angry portions of the Psalms, do we not?  They frequently make us squirm in our seats as we identify with those passages and feel less than holy as a result.  We prefer to read the other passages–such as the assigned portion of Psalm 69–as we ignore the anger and frustration elsewhere in the same poem.

We cannot become the new creations in Christ we ought to be and fulfill our divine vocations as long as we embrace the desire for revenge.  I write from experience.  We need to acknowledge that anger and vengeance then give it over to God.  We must detach from them if we are to grow fully in Christ, who prayed for the forgiveness of those who crucified him and consented to that execution.

This Sunday falls in the vicinity of New Year’s Day.  Therefore I offer a proposed resolution: may we abandon revenge and the desire for it in the new year.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROSS MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/a-new-year-resolution/

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Devotion for Christmas Eve (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:  Madonna and Child

Image in the Public Domain

Sharing the Distress of Others

DECEMBER 24, 2017

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Habakkuk 3:17-19

Isaiah 54:1-10

Philippians 4:10-14

Luke 2:1-20

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The readings from Habakkuk 3 and Isaiah 54 exist in the context of exile.  They also teach the wisdom of trusting God, even when the darkness seems darkest and hope seems lost.  God is faithful, these scriptures tell us.

For the mountains may move

And the hills be shaken,

But my loyalty shall never move from you,

Nor My covenant of friendship be shaken

–said the LORD, who takes you back in love.

–Isaiah 54:10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

In Philippians 4 St. Paul the Apostle writes of his contentment in a variety of circumstances, from hardship to ease.  This is an inner freedom and a great spiritual gift.  St. Paul can do all things with God’s help, we read.

In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.

–Philippians 4:14, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Was that not what God did via the Incarnation?  Did not God share our distress?

Does not God call on us to be agents of divine kindness by sharing the distress of others?  To be a Christian is to follow Christ, who suffered and died for our benefit.  The author of Hebrews, in 10:24, writing in the context of persecution and of faith community, challenges us to

consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

You, O reader, and I are supposed to be ambassadors for Christ.  What we do might bring someone to faith, turn someone off from God, deepen his or her faith, or damage it.  One way to be an agent of Christ to someone is to share in that person’s distress and offer compassion, not judgment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BOSA OF YORK, JOHN OF BEVERLEY, WILFRID THE YOUNGER, AND ACCA OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY REES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LLANDAFF

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/sharing-the-distress-of-others/

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That Old Sweet Song of Angels   Leave a comment

nativity-and-annunciation-to-the-shepherds

Above:  Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds

Image in the Public Domain

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Long ago the angels vanished–

But their song is sounding still!

Millions now with hope are singing,

“Peace on earth, to men good will.”

Sing, my heart!  Tho’ peace may tarry,

Sing good will mid human strife!

Till that old sweet song of angels

Shall attune to heav’n our life.

–William Allen Knight (1863-1957), “Come, My Heart, Canst Thou Not Hear It” (1915), quoted in The Pilgrim Hymnal (1931/1935), Hymn #77

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Part of the mystery of the Incarnation is its counterintuitive nature:  a vulnerable baby was God incarnate.  This truth demonstrates the reality that God operates differently than we frequently define as feasible and effective.  Then again, Jesus was, by dominant human expectations, a failure.  I would never claim that Jesus was a failure, of course.

If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;

and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;

for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,

and the LORD will reward you.

–Proverbs 25:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Speaking of counterintuitive ways of God, shall we ponder the advice of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 12:14-21?

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them, if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That old sweet song of angels will not attune to heaven our life if we ignore this sage advice–if we fail to overcome evil with good.  How we treat others indicates more about what kind of people we are than about what kind of people they are.  If we react against intolerance with intolerance, we are intolerant.  We also add fuel to the proverbial fire.  Is not a fire extinguisher better?

As the Master said,

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

–Matthew 5:43-48, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Perfection, in this case, indicates suitability for one’s purpose, which is, in the language of the Westminster Shorter Catechism,

to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

–Quoted in The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, The Book of Confessions (1967)

As the annual celebration of the birth of Christ approaches again, may we who follow him with our words also follow him with our deeds:  may we strive for shalom on a day-to-day basis.  Only God can save the world, but we can leave it better than we found it.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Devotion for the Second Sunday of Christmas (Year D)   1 comment

John the Baptist in Prison

Above:  John the Baptist in Prison, by Josef Anton Hafner

Image in the Public Domain

Good Liturgy and the Covenant Written on Our Hearts

NOT OBSERVED IN 2018

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Exodus 25:1-40

Psalm 73

Matthew 11:1 (2-11) 12-15 (16-19) 20-24 (25-30) or Luke 7:18-35

Hebrews 8:1-13

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But for me it is good to be near God;

I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,

to tell of all your works.

–Psalm 73:28, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Hebrews 8 speaks of an internalized covenant, the law written on human hearts.  This is an echo of Jeremiah 31:31-34.  It is a covenant not written on the hearts of certain Pharisees and scribes in Luke 7.  When one reads the entirety of Luke 7 one realizes that the Pharisees and scribes in question were guilty of obsessing over minor details while twisting the law to accept financial donations that impoverished innocent third parties.  Thus these particular religious people were guilty of violating the principle of the Law of Moses that prohibits economic exploitation.  One also learns that a Gentile woman had the covenant written on her heart.  Likewise, those who criticized St. John the Baptist for his asceticism and Jesus for eating and drinking were seeking excuses to condemn others.  They did not have the covenant written on their hearts.

There is no fault in maintaining sacred spaces and beautiful rituals.  We mere mortals need sacred spaces that differ from other spaces and rituals that inspire our souls.  Good liturgy should make us better people.  It if does not, the fault is with us.  May it inspire us to recognize and serve God in each other.  May good liturgy, in conjunction with the covenant written on our hearts, help us find ways to act as effectively on divine principles, for the maximum benefit to others and the greatest possible glory to God.  May we refrain from carping language that tears others down and seek ways to build them up, for we are stronger together in the body of faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 1, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SUNDAR SINGH, INDIAN CHRISTIAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, EPISCOPAL DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/good-liturgy-and-the-covenant-written-on-our-hearts/

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Devotion for the First Sunday of Christmas (Year D)   2 comments

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee

Above:  Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, by Ludolf Bakhuizen

Image in the Public Domain

Liberation in God

DECEMBER 31, 2017

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 14:1-24

Psalm 110

Matthew 8:14-34 or Mark 5:1-20

Hebrews 7:1-28

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The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind,

“You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

–Psalm 110:4, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Psalm 110 is a text that speaks of divine assurance of victory for a priest-king.  “Priest-king” is a description that applies to the mysterious Melchizedek, King of (Jeru)Salem, perhaps a Gentile follower of YHWH.  The meaning of Psalm 110 is vague and the text of Genesis 14 concerning Melchizedek is ambiguous, but the political use of the Melchizedek story, centuries later was clear.  David and his descendants are worthy to perform certain priestly roles, subsequent royal publicity experts claimed.

The use of certain passages of scripture to convince people to obey their leaders is an old strategy.  My bias in this question is to resist the use of scripture to control people.  No, I argue, following God is about liberation–to follow God and to build up communities and other groups of people.  The truth of God is frequently contrary to the message of many human authority figures.  I think also of Samuel’s warning about the dangers of monarchy in 1 Samuel 8:10-18.

Jesus liberates us to love others as we love ourselves.  He frees to build up the whole, not seek selfish gains and hurt others in the short, medium, and long terms, as well as ourselves in the long run.  Jesus liberates us to take up a cross and follow him.  He frees us to glorify and enjoy God forever.  Jesus invites us to die–to self, at least–and perhaps, literally, for him.  Jesus liberates us to become our best selves in God.

How do we respond to Jesus?  Do we seek to honor him one way or another?  Or do we make excuses for why we refuse to follow him?  Perhaps we find Jesus threatening, maybe to our livelihood, and/or our identity (regarding who and what we are not, rather than who and what we are) and demand that he leave us alone.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL OTTO EBERHARDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/liberation-in-god/

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