January 4, 2009 Second of Christmas (RCL Year B) Jeremiah 31: 7-14; Ephesians 1: 3-14; John 1: 10-18
A word: good morning, and continued blessings of this season, as we come this morning to the Second Sunday after Christmas Day, the 11th Day of Christmas. Surprising musically under the tree this morning, then, are “eleven pipers piping.” Very nice, and to join the ten lords a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree. Doubtless “twelve drummers drumming” will add to the festivities tomorrow, and then we will be well-prepared to make our way to the Twelfth Night banquet and the Feast of the Epiphany as it dawns Tuesday morning.
Some folks take this as a sign that it’s time to bring down the greens and Christmas decorations, but my goal is always to have everything up until Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation, 40 Days after Christmas, February 2, also known as Groundhog Day. So far the trees Susy and Linnea chopped down in Allison’s Orchard seem to be holding pretty well, so perhaps this year we’ll make it. (The trees and greens in the Church will be gone by next Sunday, so enjoy them today!)
In any case, the point is that if the department stores are all about “After Christmas” sales at this point, and I guess hoping against hope that there will be some slight uptick in retail here in the new year, for us here in the Church we’re still in the high season of Christmas, and the great stories and themes of Nativity and Incarnation, the revealing of Emmanuel, God with us, will be with us through these days of early winter and actually all the way to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, and an early Spring on the 25th of February.
Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. Ris’n with healing in his wings, light and life to all he brings: Hail, the Sun of Righteousness! Hail, the heav’n born Prince of Peace! Hark, the herald angels sing, Glory to the new born King.
In any case, light and life: new birth, renewal, healing, reconciliation, hope, fullness of life now and forever in him. No such thing as “after Christmas.” We move into this mystery ever more deeply, as it moves into us. As the one born in the manger and lifted up on the Cross comes to live in our hearts, to fill our minds and our spirit with the power of his grace and his peace. All one: Bethlehem, Golgotha, the Empty Tomb, Transfiguration and Ascension. The LORD is in his holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before him.
The lessons appointed for this Second Sunday after Christmas Day overflow with the theme: Jeremiah’s great vision of God’s Kingdom, the redemption of the remnant of Israel, Jerusalem restored. For the Lord has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again. Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them and give them gladness for sorrow.
That’s what I call Christmas Spirit, and not simply a dream about the future but an invitation to live in it now, here and now, opening our hearts and our minds and our lives. I love this phrase, again: “and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord.”
And then in Ephesians, the unfolding of the mystery of how we become God’s children, adopted in Christ. The abandoned orphan now in the midst of a family, taken in, in this image of perfect restoration. And then from the last section of the Prologue and first chapter of St. John, “from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
Here for us, fully present, “grace upon grace,” Christmas in the Bethlehem stable, Christmas in the sacramental mystery of the altar, Christmas in the unfolding of our lives. The spirit of the season: “And they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord.”
Continuing this morning: Merry Christmas to all!