Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas 2 ABC - Jesus the Word become Flesh

Jer 31:7-14 (Christmas 2 ABC; Proper 25 B)
Ps 72:1-17, 10,14 (Christmas 2 ABC; Advent 2 A)
Eph 1:3-14 (Christmas 2 ABC; Proper 10 B)
Jn 1:(1-9) 10-18 (Christmas 2 ABC; Advent 3 B; Christmas III ABC)

Four out of seven years has two Sundays between December 25th (Christmas) and January 6th (Epiphany). As such, this Sunday is only celebrated just more than half of the time.

Christmas 2 in all years focuses on John 1. Provisions are made to ensure that there is no overlap with the optional reading from John on Christmas (This is known as Christmas III). However, should John not be used for Christmas, I would recommend utilizing the whole of John 1, because it only occurs on the festivals of Christmas and Christmas 2, and it is a cornerstone for our understanding the incarnation of Christ.

Note that Advent 3 included excerpts from this, focusing on the preaching of John the Baptist on Jesus.

Year B, Christmas 1 - Jesus' Childhood

Isa 61:10-62:3 (1 Occurence)
Ps 148 (4 Occurences, Christmas 1 ABC, Easter 5 C)
Gal 4:4-7 (1 Occurence)
Lk 2:22-40 (1 Occurence)

Three out of seven years has only one Sunday between December 25th (Christmas) and January 6th (Epiphany). As such, this Sunday is the only Sunday before epiphany just under half of the time.

The gospel for Christmas 1 in all years focuses on the stories of Jesus’ childhood. Conveniently enough, there are only three such stories: Jesus’ presentation in the temple (Luke), the flight and exile in Egypt (Matthew), and Jesus as a child being left behind in the Temple (Luke). As such, it is an opportunity to expand on the story of Jesus’ birth.

The gospel for Christmas 1 in year B gives an opportunity to fully tell Luke’s stories surrounding the birth of Jesus as it follows on the heels of the Christmas reading. I would actually suggest that the reading begin with the verse concerning Jesus’ circumcision, which is included in the Christmas reading because of the naming of Jesus. However, given the ideas of Mary’s purification after birth and Jesus’ dedication in the temple according to the law of Moses, Jesus’ circumcision on the 8th day falls in line with the ritual theme of the prescribed reading.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Eve, Morning, and Evening

All of the readings for Christmas are the same each year in the lectionary. This is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that, for those who attend Christmas services each year, uniformity breeds familiarity and comfort, and becomes part of the Christmas tradition. The curse is the need to come up with something fresh and new to say each year concerning the old, old story. For that, there are many quality resources, online and on book shelves.

However, my bias in all of these things is to say that the longer you see a pattern coming, the more time you have to think about it. If one is especially interested in such things, laying out ones own discarded ideas for one Christmas for use on subsequent ones seems profitable. However, I leave that for the especially interested to pursue.

However, for those who tire of this pattern, there may be some help to be found in the Lectionary of all places. Unbenounced to me, the lectionary distinguishes between the readings on Christmas Eve, Morning, and Afternoon/Evening. Somewhat impractical in use at the average congregation, it seems to presuppose a monastic type community, in which worship is the center of the community, such that 3 worship services in 36 hours would not seem over the top. I would thus suggest that any of the three could be used for the service at a church with only one service, though some things are more appropriate than others.

The Gospel readings for Christmas Eve and Morning are essentially interchangable, though should one desire to preach two different sermons at each service, Luke's nativity has been divided in half by the lectionary, with the option of simply expanding the nativity story if one only has one service. Christmas Evening has a reading from John 1 which seems like a good option should one see fit to have two other services. Nonetheless, it seems singularly unadvisable to preach on the ethereal word made flesh except when one has already preached on the babe in the manger.

For the Epistle, again, Christmas Eve and Morning have similar readings - Titus 2 and 3 respectively. This is the only opportunity to preach out of Titus in the lectionary, so it is advisable to do at least some work with those texts. Using each every other year would be a neat way to keep some things changing should that be desirable.

Psalms 96, 97, and 98 are the psalms for Christmas Eve, Morning, and Evening respectively. It seems remarkable that there is this numerical progression among the psalms among these services. I would be curious to discover the source of that decision. Nonetheless, again, any of these could be chosen

Almost without saying, the great prophet Isaiah is the prophet of choice on Christmas. Passages from chapters 9, 62, and 52 are taken for Christmas Eve, Morning, and Evening. Again, presumably these can be used interchangably should you desire to use fully appropriate 1st Lessons to bring out different parts of the Christmas story this year.

Christmas Eve
Isa 9:2-7

3 Occurences per cycle, all on Christmas Eve

Ps 96

5 Occurences per cycle
  • Christmas Eve ABC
  • Proper 24 A
  • Epiphany 9 C
  • Proper 4 C
Ti 2:11-14

3 Occurences per cycle, all on Christmas Eve
  • Note: Titus 2 appears only on Christmas Eve, and Titus 3 only appears on Christmas Morning. Thus, Christmas is the only time to work with the book of Titus in worship.
Lk 2:1-14 (15-20)

3 occurences per cycle, all on Christmas
  • Note the parenthesis only apply if there is also a different Christmas morning service.
Christmas Morning
Isa 62:6-12

3 occurences in the cycle, all on Christmas Morning

Ps 97

4 Occurences in the cycle
  • ABC Christmas Morning
  • Easter 7 C
Ti 3:4-7

3 occurences per cycle, all on Christmas Morning
  • Note: Titus 2 appears only on Christmas Eve, and Titus 3 only appears on Christmas Morning. Thus, Christmas is the only time to work with the book of Titus in worship.
Lk 2:(1-7), 8-20

3 occurences per cycle, all on Christmas Morning

Note that the parenthesis only apply if there is a different Christmas Eve service

Christmas Evening
Isa 52:7-10

3 occurences per cycle, all on Christmas Evening

Ps 98

3 occurences per cycle, all on Christmas Evening

Heb 1:1-4, 5-12

3 occurences per cycle, all on Christmas Evening

Jn 1:1-14

7 Occurences in 3 yr cycle
  • Advent 3 B (1:6-8, 19-28) ---> Just occured
  • Christmas Evening ABC
  • Christmas 2 ABC (vs 1-9 optional, minimizing overlap)

Year B, Advent 4 - Preceeding the Nativity

Advent 4 turns all attention to the stories of Matthew and Luke.

Year B records Luke's annunciation to Mary. Year C tells of Mary's subsequent trip to Elizabeth. Year A rounds off the story after a fashion with Joseph's decision to marry Mary after a vision in spite of her pregnancy.

Luke 1:26-38

1 occurences in 3 years

Luke will feature greatly in the next weeks. Christmas Eve or Morning focuses on Luke, as does the Sunday after Christmas. After that, there's no Luke until next Advent. 3 sermons in a row on Luke 1 and 2 might warrant some planning ahead to avoid running out of material. Though, if that happens, there are always other texts to rely on.

Romans 16:25-27

1 occurence in 3 years

Psalm: Luke 1:46b-55

2 occurences in 3 years
  • The other occurence is Advent 4, Year C; appropriate placement given that it is the year of Luke.
  • The Magnificat, as sung by Mary. Perhaps most appropriately sung after the reading of the Gospel, but that is a judgment call.

2 Samuel 7:1-11

1 Occurence in 3 years
  • The initiation of the Davidic covenant, establishing the house of David as king over Israel, of which Jesus is considered culmination and heir.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Corinthian Epiphany

Apparently, someone over at the RCL committee loved 1st Corinthians. A lot. So much so, that whether you've known it or not, every year, running from Epiphany 2 through Epiphany 8 (6 in Year B, after which it goes to 2nd Corinthians), we have a month and a half of readings from 1st Corinthians.

It seems noteworthy that they didn't want to extend this all the way through Epiphany 9 - the longest Epiphany can go for. My guess is that they wanted to protect their beloved book being read on the Sunday least common in the Church calendar, so they made sure that Epiphany 9 was full of 2nd Readings that weren't significant to this project of theirs.

So, what texts are actually being read?
Year A: 1:1-9; 1:10-18; 1:18-31; 3:1-9; 3:10-11, 16-23; 4:1-5
Year B: 6:12-20; 7:29-31; 8:1-13; 9:24-27; [2 Cor 1:18-22; 3:1-6; 4:5-12]
Year C: 12:1-11; 12:12-31a; 13:1-13; 15:1-11; 15:12-20; 15:35-38,42-50; 15:51-58

Let me just ask: does this catch any of you off guard? That you've been preaching or hearing 1st Corinthains so regularly, but never noticed it?

Now, what is being omitted? That is almost more interesting to me than what is being read. Well, all of chapter 2; 3:12-15; 4:6-21; Chapter 5; 6:1-11; 7:1-28, 32-40; 9:1-23; Chapter 10 and 11; 12:31b; Chapter 14; 15:21-34, 39-41, and Chapter 16. Another day I'll provide my own analysis of this choice. Today, it'll have to wait. For the curious, links to all the texts have been provided.

I'm not sure what logic can be ascribed to this choice. I have some ideas and some issues with such logic. However, again, more on that for another post.

Ultimately, use the lectionary the way it's meant to be used: A guide through the whole story of Scripture in Sunday worship. Use your best judgment. Maybe simply making people aware of what's going on will increase their interest in and retention of the reading at hand - a brief word on the relationship between the 2nd Lesson of this and preceeding and following weeks from the lector of the day. Just an idea.

Substantive analysis of the lectionary from a week to week basis is difficult, if not impossible. This kind of analysis is the kind I've been working on. For more, first tell me you're interested (this takes work, and I won't do it if it's not interesting), and then, stay tuned.

Soli Deo Gloria

Year B Advent 3 - The Baptist Part 2

John 1:6-8, 19-28
7 occurences in 3 yrs
  • Years A, B, and C, Christmas Evening (if applicable)
  • Years A, B, and C, Christmas 2, John 1:(1-9) 10-18
Note: Last week was the beginning of Mark. This is the beginning of John. Next week is the beginning of Luke.

In all three years, Advent 2 and 3 both focus on John the Baptist. Year A tells the whole story of the Baptist in Matt 3, and then goes to the interpretation of him in Matt 11. Year C divides up the introduction of the Baptist from the preaching of the Baptist. Year B goes first for Mark's terse account of John, and then goes over to the Gospel of John on the Baptist.

So, it would be fully appropriate to focus on John's distinctive vision of John - it is a very unique vision and deserves to be explored. However, unfortunately Mark's terse dealing with this sounds like John. If last week there was so much focus on the Baptist as to render further exposition irrelevant, the Isaiah text could be used as the primary jumping off point, and then the John text could be used to refer back to last week, but with a renewed focus on testifying about Christ and upon our anointing in our baptism to testify concerning the good news of Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
  • 1 occurrence in 3 yrs
Psalm 126
  • 3 occurrences in 3 yrs
  • Year C, Lent 5
  • Year B, Proper 25
Isaiah 61:1-4
  • 1 occurrence in 3 yrs
  • 7 weeks of concentration in Isaiah or prophetic texts

Year B Advent 2 - The Baptist Part 1

Mark 1:1-8
Advent 2 and Advent 3 are always explorations of John the Baptist. Advent 2 is marked by an exploration of John the Baptist through the eyes of each of the Synoptic Gospel writers. Mark is read for Advent 2 this year, and John is read next week. Note the similarities between the two readings and plan ahead for how to differentiate the sermons.
  • 2 Occurrences in 3 yr lectionary
  • Year B, Baptism of our Lord, Mk 1:4-11 -- 7 Sundays from now
  • Note: This itself will in part be repeated Year B, Lent 1, Mk 1:9-15. Considering how to handle these three differently would be good

2 Peter 3:8-15a
  • 1 Occurrence in 3 yr lectionary

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
  • 3 Occurences in 3 yr lectionary
  • Year B, Proper 10
  • Year A, Proper 14

Isaiah 40:1-11
  • 1 Occurrence in 3 yr lectionary
  • 8 weeks of concentration on Isaiah and other prophetic texts
  • Note: All this time spent in Isaiah - 2 months worth - warrants brushing up on the book. No other OT book gets this kind of exposure.