Archive for the ‘Christmas Day’ Tag

Devotion for Christmas Day (Year D)   1 comment

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Mikael Toppelius

Above:  The Adoration of the Shepherds, by Mikael Toppelius

Image in the Public Domain

Deciding or Refusing to Repent

DECEMBER 25, 2019

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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 6:(8) 9-13 or Jeremiah 10:1-16 (17-25)

Psalm 35 or 94

John 12:17-19, 37-50

Romans 11:2b-28 (29-32) 33-36

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You have seen, O LORD, do not be silent!

O Lord, do not be far from me!

–Psalm 35:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Happy are those whom you discipline, O LORD,

and whom you touch out of your law,

giving them respite from days of trouble,

until a pit is dug for the wicked.

For the Lord will not forsake his people;

he will not abandon his heritage;

for justice will return to the righteous,

and all the upright in heart will follow it.

–Psalm 94:12-15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Some of the readings for this occasion seem to indicate that God has, at various times, designated entire populations and refused to permit them to repent of their sins.  This reading is at odds with the theology of unlimited atonement (by Jesus, via his death and resurrection), which ends a process begun by the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.  My understanding is that (A) all of us are sinners, (B) God desires all sinners to repent, and (C) many sinners simply refuse to repent.  In Judaism one can find an interpretation of the lection from Isaiah that insists that God predicted that many people would not understand and did not desire them to fail to understand.  In this reading First Isaiah’s mission was to help people to repent, not to prevent it.  This makes sense to me.

Why might one not repent?  One might identify a set of reasons, but perhaps the most basic reason is that one must recognize something as an error before one seeks to correct it.  Spiritual blindness is a major problem from which all people suffer.  We can, by grace, see what occupies our blind spots.  Assuming that we do this, do we want to change?  Maybe we think that necessary change is pointless or too difficult.  Or perhaps we are simply afraid to take action by trusting in God and venturing into unknown (to us) spiritual territory.  Either way, one does not repent.

Whoever loves himself or herself more than God is lost, we read in John 12.  To be a Christian is to follow Jesus, who went to a cross then a tomb, which he occupied only briefly.

To think this much about Good Friday and Easter Sunday on Christmas Day might seem odd, but it is theologically correct.  The recognition of this reality is hardly new.  Indeed, Johann Sebastian Bach incorporated the Passion Chorale tune into his Christmas Oratorio.

Grace is free to all, fortunately.  Yet many will not accept it and the demands accompanying it.  Each of us has a responsibility to say “yes” to God, whose grace is always free and never cheap.  Each of us has a responsibility to love his or her neighbors as he or she loves himself or herself.  Doing so will, for different people, lead to different ends in this life, and translate into action in a variety of ways, depending on circumstances.  The principle is constant, however.  Jesus, who came to us first as a baby, demands nothing less than taking up one’s cross and following him.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 30, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRIETTE LUISE VON HAYN, GERMAN MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/deciding-or-refusing-to-repent/

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Devotion for Christmas Morning (Year D)   1 comment

Micah

Above:  Icon of the Prophet Micah

Image in the Public Domain

The Universal and Timeless Love of God

DECEMBER 25, 2019

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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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Ecclesiastes 7:15-29 or Micah 7:1-20

Psalm 44

Matthew 10:9-23 or Luke 12:1-12

Romans 3:1-22a

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Rouse yourself!  Why do you sleep, O Lord?

Awake, do not cast us off forever!

Why do you hide your face?

Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?

For we sink down to the dust;

our bodies cling to the ground.

Rise up, come to our help.

Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.

–Psalm 44:23-26, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The readings for this occasion present a realistic appraisal of the world, not only in antiquity or today, but during all the times in between.  Certain powerful empires conquer weaker neighbors.  Wicked people flourish.  Good people perish.  Persecution of people of God occurs.  Nevertheless, one should avoid committing the theological error of assuming or otherwise concluding that the existence of God, of whom caring is an essential property, precludes the reality of suffering for many righteous people.  At this point one might point to the Book of Job and the crucifixion of Jesus as Exhibits A and B in that case.

Although suffering (for righteousness, sin, and simply having a pulse) occurs, that fact does not negate or contradict the mercy of God.  That mercy is available regardless of ethnic and cultural factors and boundaries.  That love is evident in the form of baby Jesus, born into a place and time at which his life was in danger.  That love is and always has been evident in many ways.  That love is worth pondering every day, but especially on Christmas Day.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN COPELAND, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/the-universal-and-timeless-love-of-god/

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Devotion for December 25, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

04039v

Above:  Interior, Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, Palestine, Between 1934 and 1939

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-04039

The Incarnated Light

DECEMBER 25, 2019

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The Collects:

All-powerful and unseen God, the coming of your light

into our world has brightened weary hearts with peace.

Call us out of darkness, and empower us to proclaim the birth of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

and

Almighty God, you gave your only Son to take on our human nature

and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Set One:

Isaiah 62:6-12

Psalm 97

Titus 3:4-7

Luke 2:[1-7] 8-20

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Set Two:

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 98

Hebrews 1:1-4 [5-12]

John 1:1-14

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Some Related Posts:

O Blessed Mother:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/o-blessed-mother/

A Christmas Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-christmas-prayer/

Blessing of a Nativity Scene:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/blessing-of-a-nativity-scene/

A Christmas Prayer:  God of History:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-christmas-prayer-god-of-history/

A Christmas Prayer:  Immanuel:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-christmas-prayer-immanuel/

Christmas Blessings:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/christmas-blessings/

A Christmas Prayer of Thanksgiving:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-christmas-prayer-of-thanksgiving/

The Hail Mary:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/the-hail-mary/

O Little Town of Bethlehem:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/o-little-town-of-bethlehem/

Joy to the World:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/joy-to-the-world/

Christmas Prayers of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/christmas-prayers-of-praise-and-adoration/

Christmas Prayers of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/christmas-prayers-of-dedication/

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Christmas:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/a-prayer-of-thanksgiving-for-christmas/

How Can I Fitly Greet Thee:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/how-can-i-fitly-greet-thee/

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Light has dawned for the righteous:

and joy for the upright in heart.

–Psalm 97:11, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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You have made known your victory:

you have displayed your saving power to all nations.

–Psalm 98:3, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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The readings for Christmas Day, the first day of Christmas, focus on the arrival of salvation.  In some ways this announcement constitutes old news, especially when reading the lessons from Isaiah.  And, as another text tells us:

In many and various ways God spoke to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom he also created the ages.  He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.  When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has obtained is more excellent than theirs.

–Hebrews 1:1-4, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition

Salvation was–and remains–old news.  And the one new means of it is about 2,000 years old in human terms now.  Through Jesus we have access to

…the cleansing power of a new birth and the renewal of the Holy Spirit….The result is that we are acquitted by his [Christ’s] grace, and can look forward in hope to inheriting life eternal.

–Titus 3:5b and 7, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

The Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, proclaimed to shepherds, is potentially good news for people of various socio-economic backgrounds and cultural origins.  Grace is good news, is it not?  Yet grace, although free, is costly, not cheap.  It demands much of us.  And there is potentially bad news from a certain point of view.  To follow Jesus–to be a disciple–might cost one more than one wants to pay.  It has cost many people their lives.

On this Christmas Day and on all other days may we accept the challenge to take up a cross and follow Jesus, the Word made flesh and the Light who shines in the darkness without the darkness overcoming it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/the-incarnated-light/

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