Year A: December 29, 2013
First Reading: Isaiah 63: 7-9
I Promise I’ll Find You by Heather Ward
(Written for ages 4-7)
Comment: Isaiah reminds the people that God says of them: “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely”. Because they are God’s children, God will treat them as a loving parent does: lifting them up and carrying them, as a parent carries their beloved child. In Heather Ward’s book I Promise I’ll Find You, children are assured that no matter where they are, their parents will search for them—by boat, plane, car, even rocket ship! And most importantly, children are promised that at the end of that seeking, they will be found once again. The people Isaiah speaks to may be missing in a different sense, but ultimately, the same promise applies—when they are missing, they are still God’s people, God’s children, and God will save, redeem, and lift them up always.
Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins by Carole Boston Weatherford
(Written for ages 5 and up)
Comment: Lisa G. Fischbeck writes “When the one who suffers ahead of us is human, we are inspired. When the one who suffers ahead of us…is fully God and fully human, that suffering and death are transformed, and we are free from whatever bonds of fear we had before” (Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, pg. 162). Jesus, as this passage from Hebrews tells us, became like us in every way, was tested as we are tested, and yet triumphed over suffering and death, and does, indeed, inspire us. He came to help us, his brothers and sisters, and transformed our lives, bringing “many children to glory”. Connie, in Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins, knows what it is to be inspired. Connie only wants to be able to drink a milkshake at the same lunch counter as everyone else, but because of her skin color, she isn’t allowed. But when the sit-in movement reaches Greensboro, Connie is inspired by people who are working to transform not only their own lives, but her life, as well. Although they were different kinds of transformation, the activism of those who participated in Greensboro sit-ins, and the suffering and death of Jesus Christ inspired and profoundly altered the lives of those who witnessed and followed them.
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
(Written for ages 3-8)
Comment: The Rev. Fred Rogers has a now-famous quotation, wherein he remembers his mother’s advice in times of fear to “look for the helpers”. In the same way, with this deeply disturbing passage from Matthew, it is worth following his advice and looking for the helpers in this story. Joseph and his new family, despite the fear and horror of the massacre surrounding them, are helped two times: by an angel of the Lord, urging them to flee to Egypt from Herod’s wrath, and later on, by an angel who tells them it is safe to return from there. Another story in which we can easily spot the helper is Robert McCloskey’s classic Make Way for Ducklings. As the mallards in the story seek out a home and travel there, they receive help from a police officer named Michael. Michael feeds them, watches out for them, and then eventually, even stops traffic so that the ducks can safely cross the road. The ducks avoid a dangerous situation because of their helper, Michael. While the suffering and terror of this passage cannot be brushed away, it is still important to remember that, in the same way, Joseph, Mary and Jesus are protected in a dangerous situation by their helpers. We see, clearly, that though an evil king’s intentions may be to harm and destroy, God’s intentions are to protect and to help.
The Lectionary Links this week are written by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Sara Anne Berger, pastor of the Whitmire Presbyterian Church in Whitmire, SC.