Year A: December 15, 2019
First Reading: Isaiah 35:1-10
The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng by Sophia Gholz
(Written for ages 5-8)
Comment: We are not certain when these words were written but they seem to describe the time when Jerusalem fell to Babylon. Many of the Jews were taken into exile then and they lived for at least 75 years in Babylon, miles from their home in Jerusalem. If you’ve ever been homesick you will know how they felt. But Isaiah gives them hope. He compares the future with a green and and verdant land with glorious mountains. He encourages the people to be strong and to look to what God will do for them. In this future the blind will see, the deaf hear, the lame leap, and the mute sing for joy. A highway will lead to this land, a safe and clearly marked roadway will lead the returning captives to Zion. There will be singing and great joy. The word picture that Isaiah paints in this passage can be illustrated in today’s true story about a boy worried about his own island that was shrinking as floodwaters took away the trees on the island and eroded much of the land. He watched animals lose their homes because of the devastation to the land and worried that if animals were suffering so much from the loss of their trees, would human suffering be far behind? He began planting a stand of bamboo on the river banks and when it grew and animals began returning, he planted new trees for them. For many years, he planted trees that allowed animals of every type to find a home there and also provided resources for building homes. His life’s work was planting, pruning and protecting this forest that was home to such a richness of human and animal life. The pictures in this book are good ones to show a green and verdant land, and to talk about how God’s promise was about planting, pruning and protecting as well.
Second Reading: James 5:7-10
Sprout, Seed, Sprout! by Annika Dunklee
(Written for ages 3 – 7)
Comment: A young boy gets an avocado seed from his father. With one glass of water, two careful hands and three pointy toothpicks, he begins the process of trying to get the seed to grow. As he moves the seed from a water glass to a pot, placing it the sun and engaging friends to sing song to it, there is lots of ‘waiting, waiting, waiting’. The process takes time, and the book shows how the boy grows over the years as he continues to work to nurture the plant that eventually grows into a tree. Christians to whom James writes have been oppressed and cheated by evil land owners. James encourages them to be patient, to wait like the farmer for the coming of the Lord. Wait without complaining about one another. Christians expected the Lord to return soon although Jesus had said we could not mark the day of his return on a calendar. They would have to wait patiently even though they saw wrong doing. Most of these Christians were poor with little political or economic power. How could they wait patiently? What does patient waiting look like? The little boy in our book today waited, but he was also working to give the avocado what it needed to grow during the waiting period. Do you see things in our world today that are wrong? What might patient waiting for God look like for us?
Gospel Reading: Matthew 11:2-11
The One Day House by Julie Durango
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: In last Sunday’s passage from Matthew, we met John the Baptist declaring in no uncertain terms that the Messiah was on his way and that people needed to change their ways in order to greet him Today, we read that John seems almost hesitant in understanding who Jesus might be: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” (v. 3, CEB) Jesus tells his disciples to report back to John what they are hearing from Jesus and seeing him do. Maybe John, like many, was expecting a different kind of Messiah. But Jesus shows by his words and deeds what kind of Messiah he will be. As Arland J. Hultgren states, “[Jesus] comes among us in his Word and through the Spirit to stir us up to get involved in his ministry among those who are left out, on the margins of society and who are in need.” Wilson is a young boy with a elderly friend, Gigi, who lives in a home that is in need of lots of repairs. He frequently tells Gigi what he will do to her house “one day” – fix her windows so she can feel the breeze, fix her stairs so she can sit on the balcony, fix the roof so that the wind and snow can’t get in. Then, one day, a whole community of people show up at Gigi’s house and make the repairs that Wilson has been dreaming of for her. We, like Wilson, are called to participate in the work of reaching out to the those that are in need. Jesus calls John, and us, to see where he is going, what he is doing, how he is saying we should live – and participate with him.
The Revised Common Lectionary Links this week were co-written by Virginia C. Thomas, a frequent book review contributor, and Ann Thomas Knox.