Lectionary Passages for Jan. 4, 2015.Jer. 31:7-14, Ps. 147:12-20, Eph. 1:3-14, John 1: 10-18
Happy New Year! The extra services are finished, the company gone home, and I'm starting to think about putting decorations away. The Christmas season is done.
Packing up our olive wood nativity scene, however, makes me think. We've just celebrated the arrival of Jesus, God incarnate in the world. Can I really pack baby Jesus away in a box until it's convenient to pull him out again next year, like the Christmas lights?
Jesus comes into our lives as a gift, and like a good gift, is not meant to be packed away. There is some assembly required to make this gift do what it is supposed to do. I think of the under counter lights my husband gave me last year. Left in the box, they would have been less than useless, they would have been a waste of money and space. He assembled them, built them into our kitchen, and they have been tremendously helpful all year as I prepare food for our family. The gift was for me, since I do a lot of the cooking (and complained the most about the lack of light), but it has benefits for all of us.
The scriptures today talk about gifts we have received from God. Gifts meant to benefit everyone. Jeremiah talks about the gathering back together of a broken people and of physical provision. Psalm 147 does the same thing in more poetic language. Ephesians tells us we are adopted by God and given the gifts of redemption, forgiveness, and grace. In John, it says that those who believe receive the power to become children of God, as well as grace and truth.All of these gifts require some assembly, some response and responsibility on behalf of the recipients. What use are the gifts if they are packaged up and not used?
So, how does one assemble redemption or forgiveness, or grace, or truth? Ephesians says we are destined for adoption-that implies that we aren't quite there yet, we've got work to do. John says we have to accept the gifts, taking the power to become children and using it. That means practice.
We are to practice grace and forgiveness with each other. This is hard. God gives valuable gifts-this isn't "cheap grace" or unthinking forgiveness. This isn't taking our lumps and forgetting, or sweeping things under the rug, this is actually dealing with life. This is the hard stuff of swallowing pride, speaking constructively, accepting failings, trying again, and trusting that God works out what we cannot.
What did I get for Christmas? I got some of the same things again-good things.Reminders of grace and forgiveness. Reinforcement of the belief that God speaks words of light into human darkness. Inspiration to keep trying to assemble and use those gifts so that they are helpful to everyone.Grace upon grace and truth. (Jn 1:16-17) Now, if I would just spend some time with the instruction book and with others before trying to do all the assembly myself...
What did you get for Christmas? What sort of assembly are you looking at in 2015?
**Note: for those coming to worship at FMC on Jan.4-the passages we will use are different than these. We will be using Isa. 60:1-6, Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, Eph. 3:1-12, Matt. 2:1-12. These are the passages as listed in the "Leader" magazine which has formed the basis of our worship services through the season.