Year A: December 29, 2019
First Reading: Isaiah 63:7-9
The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown
(Written for ages 4-7)
Comment: The Important Book’s pages list why various things around us are important. Every item in the book has a list of its characteristics, in addition to what is most important thing about it. So a spoon isnt flat, it’s like a little shovel; but the most important this about a spoon is that you eat with it. The book ends by identifying that the most important thing about the reader is that the reader is uniquely himself or herself. We make our own kind of lists We make grocery lists, Christmas gift lists, lists of what we want to pack for vacation. In a culture where there are few ways to write, prophets make lists, usually in a poetic form because it is easier to remember.
In today’s passage, Isaiah is making a list, recounting the gracious deeds and the praiseworthy acts of the Lord. God claimed the people of Israel as God’s people; God called them God’s children; God redeemed them; God lifted them up and carried them; and saved them by God’s presence. These, says Isaiah, are praiseworthy acts. What might you put on a list of some of the praiseworthy acts that you know God has done for us? What is most important to you about God and God’s good gifts?
Second Reading: Hebrews 2:10-18
Testing MIss Marlarkey by Judy Finchler
(Written for ages 6 – 9)
Comment: Today’s story is set in a school preparing for THE TEST. Miss Malarkey begins to act strangely, the physical education teacher stops having the children play games and instead has them focus on yoga and meditation. Even parents reading their children bedtime stories have them complete a worksheet and give the main idea before they can go to sleep. THE TEST is clearly worrying everyone, although in this book, the adults are the ones exhibiting the most concern.
The author of Hebrews says that Jesus was a human – flesh and blood – like us, “like his brothers and sisters in every respect.” He had experiences like ours, he was tempted to do wrong, as we are, he suffered as we do. Because he was tested by what he suffered, he understands and can help us when we are tested. We know what a test is – just like the students in Miss Malarkey’s classroom. Sometimes we pass; sometimes we fail. We don’t just have tests in school; we are tested when we could lie to make us look better; when we could use more than our share; when we could say something unkind to a friend. Jesus will help us pass the test because he has gone first.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:13-23
Barefoot: Escape on the Underground Railroad by Pamela Duncan Edwards
(Written for ages 5-9)
Comment: The harrowing journey on which Joseph leads his young family after the birth of Jesus is the stuff of nightmares. Wanted by a powerful and feared king, unable to settle in his hometown and led through the nights by angels and dreams, this is a frightening story for younger children. But throughout the journey, God sends help. Help comes in the form of angels who show Joseph who and what to avoid, and a dream that points him towards a new home. We are modern day Christians who sometimes struggle with the ways that God speaks in Scripture as angels, dreams and visions aren’t always a part of our experience. But Karen Wiseman notes that even though this is a story about the presence of evil in the world, it is also a story that God’s is with us, “..present in times of distress in the voice guiding us, in the sending of us to safety, in the healing of our pain, and in the presence in our lives.”
The man in this week’s book is known simply as a Barefoot, a slave escaping his cruel owner through a dark and frightening night. As the Heavy Boots follow after him to return him to the place from which he wants desperately to escape, he is afraid, exhausted, hungry and uncertain. But a croaking frog lets him know there is fresh water near. A mouse seen eating berries gives the Barefoot an idea of where he might find food. And a quilt hanging on a house identifies a safe haven for the night. This story of a man on a frightening journey on the Underground Railroad can help us connect with the ways God speaks to us and offers us help when our journeys are not easy.
The Revised Common Lectionary Links this week are co-written by Union Presbyterian Seminary graduates Virginia C. Thomas and Ann Thomas Knox.