If you’ve hung around the blog for a while, you’re no doubt aware of my one man attempt to change the liturgical calendar to move Advent to November and Christmastide to run from the Sunday after Thanksgiving (US) to Epiphany. At this point, however, I’m thinking maybe we just ensure one Sunday after Christmas Day and move on. We took our tree down yesterday. The gifts are all put away. The new clothes are running through the washing machine as I type. Life is beginning to get back to normal, except the nave smells like a Christmas tree farm and the wreathes are beginning to look like a fire hazard. It isn’t that I’m generally a grumpy person (even though I am pretty much Squidward if he were human and ordained), but that the modern Episcopal Church never seems more out of touch with society than it does around Christmas. I’ve written all of this before, so I’ll save you the retread, and just say this, IT IS STILL CHRISTMAS!?!
This is one of those years that we get two Sundays after Christmas Day. The Episcopal version of the Revised (not-so)Common Lectionary allows three different options for Gospel lessons: the flight to Egypt, Home Alone tween Jesus, and the Magi. Calendarquest Steve would have us go ahead and claim Epiphany this week, but all three lessons provide good preaching fodder. Since I’ve spent 244 words on this intro, let’s take a quick look at all three.
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 – The Flight to Egypt. Matthew tells the story of three dreams that God gives to Joseph. This story features the second and third. The second dream occurs after Jesus is born and the Magi have visited, warning Joseph to take the boy and escape Herod’s murderous jealousy. Skipping over the Slaughter of the Innocents, which is a problematic choice, but another blogpost, we jump to the third dream, an “All Clear” message from God that the Holy Family can return to Israel. The preacher might focus on Matthew’s use of the Old Testament to make a case for Jesus as the Messiah or turn their attention to the ways in which God communicates with the faithful today.
Luke 2:41-52 – Home Alone Tween Jesus. The only story we have about Jesus between his circumcision and his baptism, this is a favorite among preachers and congregants alike. It gives us some insight into what God the Son in human flesh looks and acts like as he grows into adulthood and his ministry. Jesus gives his parents some sass, and, it seems, finds this fully human, fully divine thing a bit hard to navigate. Preaching this text might invite some work on the two natures living together in Christ.
Matthew 2:1-12 – The Magi. My personal preference for this week, but I’m not preaching, the story of the coming of the wise men from the East gives us a lot to work with. It deals with how a Messiah, even as a baby/toddler, is seen as a threat to the political powers-that-be. It invites to us to ponder how God uses the Word Incarnate to invite all the people of the world into relationship. It makes for challenging exegesis when the Magi don’t worship the Christchild – despite what some translations may say – but do pay homage and show reverence. Perhaps in a time where anti-Semitism and anti-Islamic sentiment is on the rise, this sermon would prove timely.
I wish you the best as your write a sermon on a short week, dear preacher, and I look forward to journeying with you in 2020.