The Second Sunday of Christmas (1/5/2014)

Lessons:Jeremiah 31:7-14 or Sirach 24:1-12 Psalm 147:12-20 or Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21 Ephesians 1:3-14 St. John 1: [1-9] 10-18

Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, you have filled all the earth with the light of your incarnate Word. By your grace empower us to reflect your light in all that we do, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

[1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.] 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ ”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

St. John 1: [1-9] 10-18 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Happy New Year!

Christmas Season Greetings to those of you who take time to read my weekly missive. I am so grateful for this mid-week opportunity to gather around the word of God. It continues to be a helpful aspect of my weekly sermon crafting rhythm, and I trust that it continues to be a helpful aspect of your weekly worship preparation. I wish you all the best in the new year. May you be blessed with rich companionship, good health, resilient faith, and ample opportunities to participate in what God is doing to make all things new in our world!

Maxfest 2010The Risendals will ring in the new year as we usually do. The four of us will gather around the table for our last meal of the year, grateful for the time we have had together. We’ll share with each other what we most appreciate about the past twelve months, and what gives us reason for hope in the coming twelve months. Then I (possibly accompanied for an hour or two by my younger son) will head up to “MaxFest” — an annual all-night-or-close-to-it New Year’s Eve bluegrass jam at my friend Max’s house. We’ll sing some sad songs, play some happy instrumentals, and enjoy each other’s company as long as our bodies will allow it.

I do enjoy the beginning of a new year. For me, it provides an opportunity to take stock of the past year, giving thanks for that which has been faithful and successful, and offering one last “mea culpa” for those ways in which I have fallen short. It seems the older I get, the more the balance shifts from “faithful and successful” to “fallen short.” I’m not sure if this is due to higher expectations or lower capability, but it is a humbling experience nonetheless. The beginning of a new year often feels like a chance for an annual reset; a fresh new beginning in life and in ministry. I am grateful for a God who loves me unconditionally, and for a Christ who offers me the gift of a new beginning, not just every January 1st, but every day.

In this weekend’s Gospel lesson, a repeat from Christmas morn, we turn our attention again to the beautiful poem that begins St. John’s Gospel account. It too is all about new beginnings. As John describes it, the God who spoke all things into being at the beginning of time is now spoken into being in Jesus of Nazareth. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth… From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Grace and truth are made known in Jesus: the grace of God’s unrelenting desire to forgive and make new; the truth that God loves us even more than life itself. St. John is on target: we have indeed received grace upon grace.

And so I’ll finish my weekly devotional message with the words I use to begin my weekly sermons — words that begin most of the Apostle Paul’s letters — words that resound with this grace-filled beginning to St. John’s Gospel: “Grace to you and peace, from God our father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen! Have a fantastic new year!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why does St. John describe God’s son as “full of grace and truth?”
  2. How did the people of the Bible experience Jesus as light in the darkness of their world?
  3. What does St. John mean by “grace upon grace?”

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. For what do I give thanks in this past year?
  2. About what do I carry regrets?
  3. What do I sense God is making possible in this new year for me?