First Sunday After Christmas
First Reading: Isaiah 63:7-9
My Family Tree and Me by Dusan Petricic
(Written for 3-7)
Comment: In the context of Isaiah, this is not a comforting word for the reader, especially for being in the lectionary the week after Christmas. Here the prophet is recounting judgment, but also showing a very personal and tender side to God. We hear of our redemption through “his love and in his pity” and how he “lifted them up and carried them all the days. This Isaiah passage speaks to the steadfast love of the Lord, even in the middle of divine wrath and human despair. The book tells the story of a young boy’s family. In an interesting twist, the author writes from both the front and the back of the book, with the middle being the revelation of the full family tree. What may seem an odd choice for the Isaiah text, this book is a story that exemplifies the steadfast love of the Lord, a love that endures from generation to generation, and a love that lifts up individuals and families. Verse 7 reveals, “I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord…because of all that the Lord has done for us.” Through this boy’s story of a family that grew through generations, including wars, we see a celebration of “praiseworthy acts of the Lord,” and “the abundance of God’s steadfast love.” Children will especially enjoy the double-sided family stories meeting in the middle to reveal the full family tree.
Second Reading: Hebrews 2:10-18
A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman by David A. Adler
(Written for ages 6-9)
Comment: In our Bibles, this passage is entitled “Christ Made Perfect in Suffering” and reminds us that Jesus Christ became human in order to experience life on earth and suffer before his atoning death. We are reminded in vs. 11-12, “…Jesus is not ashamed to call [us] brothers and sisters, saying: I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” God chose to become human and to not be ashamed of us or turn away from us. In the midst of hardship, we can rely upon God’s presence, even in the most unlikely of ways. The story of Harriet Tubman is not an easy one, as it speaks bluntly of her time as a slave and a conductor on the Underground Railroad. The book reminds us that she worked for much of her life to save several hundreds of slaves from their life under the ownership of other human beings. In service to brothers and sisters and after enduring suffering, much like Christ’s life in service to God, Harriet Tubman refused to abandon fellow slaves, and she brought life and hope to all whom she assisted. *Please note a few things: this book is not suggested to serve as a comparison of Harriet Tubman to Jesus Christ as the savior, rather it offers the story of one who suffered similarly to her peers and offered help to bring freedom from bondage. Additionally, this book shows violence in a gun, and slave beatings. However, I believe it can be utilized with skipping those two pages.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:13-23
The Worst Day of My life EVER! by Julia Cook
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: RJ has had a very bad day. From waking up with gum in his hair, to missing the bus, to losing recess, to making a huge mess out of his kitchen at home…it’s been a bad day for him. Possibly his worst day, ever. RJ realizes, in talking to his mom at the end of his bad day, that he could have had a much different day if he’d just listened better and followed instructions. As he recounts his day and mentally makes better choices, he learns what went wrong and how it could have been avoided if he’d only paid more attention when people told him what to do. In our scripture reading from Matthew, we learn of the three dreams that Joseph had giving him instructions on where to go and when in order to keep his family safe. In following the instructions, not only does he keep his family safe, but he is able to fulfill the prophecies about Christ’s early life. In both stories, RJ and Joseph realize the protective care of a parent/adult/guide in normal times and in uncertain times. God protects the holy family, and God finds ways to protect us, too. It might be through a teacher, a parent, a “silly” rule, or an alarm clock, but it’s care and protection laid out to keep us safe, healthy, happy, and grateful.
We welcome back Katie Barrett Todd as the Lectionary Links writer for the next two weeks. Katie is the Associate University Minister at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln and stated supply at the Dunbar Presbyterian Church in Dunbar, Nebraska.