Year A: December 22, 2013
First Reading: Isaiah 7:10-16
Waiting for Noel by Ann Dixon
(Written for ages 4 and up)
Comment: Although Ahaz initially refuses to ask for a sign, God graciously offers a sign to him anyway. But it is an unusual sign: a child born at an unknown time to an unknown woman, a child known as “Immanuel, God with us”, because that is what he will bring to the world. It’s strange and unexpected as signs go. Additionally, this sign of “Immanuel” won’t happen immediately, but is something that both Ahaz and Israel will have to wait on in order to see it. In our own time, we know what it is like to have to wait and see. God’s promises to us, now, still require patience. God’s faithfulness and grace as we anticipate Jesus’ return also require patience. As Don Saliers writes, we live in a future that is promised, but “has not yet come to be” (Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, pg. 78). In Waiting for Noel, a little girl named Noel hears, once more, the story of her own Christmas birth, told by her parents who knew to expect her but still had to wait and see for that promise to be fulfilled. Noel and her parents now celebrate and anticipate the promise of the season, waiting to see a future that “has not yet come to be”.
Second Reading: Romans 1:1-7
First Year Letters by Julie Dannenberg
(Written for ages 5 and up)
Comment: Paul opens his letter to the Romans: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God”. This opening gives Paul a chance to introduce himself. But for Paul, his identity is not only who he is by name, but who he is in Christ (David J. Wood, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, pg. 88). His opening salutation and letter reveal his identity as a servant of Christ, an apostle for Christ’s work, and someone set apart for the message God has given him in Christ. This is what he wants the recipients of his letter to know, and what gives purpose to his letters. In the same way, in First Year Letters, Mrs. Hartwell and her students exchange letters through a classroom postal box, and through their letters we find out more about who they are as individuals and what their life in her classroom is like. We find out their identities and intentions through their letters, carefully written and shared, just as Paul did with the recipients of his letter.
Third Reading: Matthew 1:18-25
The New Baby by Mercer Mayer
(Written for ages 3-7)
Comment: Joseph was not expecting Mary to be carrying a child, much less a child conceived by the Holy Spirit. This has disrupted all of his plans. But when the angel of the Lord speaks to him, Joseph sees how God has provided a new plan, with new, even brighter expectations for Joseph’s life—the care and raising of God’s own son. (Aaron Klink, Feasting on the Word, Volume A, pg. 92-93). In The New Baby, Little Critter’s expectations of what it will be like to have a new baby sister are entirely upset by the reality of having a baby sister! Little Critter is disappointed that he can’t do any of the things with her that he had planned—but then he finds that snuggles and walks and lots of different wonderful things do come with having a baby sister. His plan, like Joseph’s, is disrupted for something even better.
The Lectionary Links this week are written by Sara Anne Berger, Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna and pastor of the Whitmire Presbyterian Church in Whitmire, SC.