The Whole Package

Second Sunday After Christmas
Ephesians 1:3-19; John 1:1-18

It’s still Christmas. It’s hard to tell that from the culture around us, and maybe even a little hard to tell from this Sunday’s appointed lessons. For a few days we were immersed in the earthiness of the Nativity (barn animals, labor and delivery, a feeding trough for a bed). But this week’s readings have phrases like “before the foundation of the world,” “the mystery of his will,” and “in the beginning was the Word.”

It’s tempting, perhaps, to see a sharp division here. To imagine that the Christmas lections are about the simple, familiar, child-friendly stuff—cradles and crèches and shepherds and angels—and that the “After-Christmas” readings have gone all grown-up and academic on us. Logos? John wants to talk Greek while we’re still singing Away in a Manger? Read more

Heaven and Earth

Second Sunday After the Epiphany: 1 Samuel 3:1-20; Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51

Each year on the second Sunday after the Epiphany, the lectionary steers us away from the Synoptics, where we have been immersed in birth narratives, visiting magi, and the baptism of Jesus, and into the first part of John’s gospel, which contains none of these historical particulars. But the Johannine detour is significant for Epiphany, for these texts deal with the revelation of Jesus to Israel and to the world, making the claim that this One from Nazareth (“can anything good come from there?”) is the eternal Logos, Word made flesh, whose glory we have beheld. Read more

Camel Hair and the Christ Child

Third Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 61:1-4, 9-11; Psalm 126; I Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8; 19-28

Sometimes the contrasts are jarring: sweet-faced children singing about cradles and crèches on the same Sunday that we hear about leather belts, locusts and wild honey. It’s early December and we’re already at the manger (the tidy Christmas card version)—in our heads and in our worship. We come to church decked out in our holiday finest and John the Baptizer greets us, sporting animal-skin outerwear and going on and on about baptism and repentance and sandal thongs.

Many churches give lip service to Advent—lighting the candles on the wreath, reading the appointed texts—but don’t seem prepared to go all the way with it. Why is that? Is there any concern about the mixed messages being sent when the camel hair and the Christ child fight for top billing on the same Sunday? Read more