Year B: January 1, 2012
First Reading: Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Comment: We have heard the cries of Israel throughout Isaiah. Likewise, we hear the cries of the donkey in Saint Francis and the Christmas Donkey. The donkey’s life is hard, with much to carry, silly looking features, and a voice he is often teased for having. Saint Francis tells the story of how it came to be this way. Following creation, the actions of the first donkey led to the estrangement of donkeys from other animals and gave them their hard work. This is certainly a reason for the present donkey to cry out in an unhappy voice. In today’s text from Isaiah, the prophet speaks words filled with hope and reconciliation for those who have been exiled. Like the prophet, Saint Francis brings a word of hope and a message of reconciliation for the donkey. He tells the story of a donkey who carried a very special load to Bethlehem. Saint Francis brings the donkey hope as he tells of the Christmas donkey’s relationship to the Son of God. As the story ends, the Saint and donkey look out towards a brilliant star—a symbol of hope for us all in this Christmas season.
Second Reading: Galatians 4:4-7
Comment: Luis R. Rivera explains how this message from Paul is an invitation of grace, especially for those who experience life as other or outsider. “God’s love and righteousness defy all attempts by religious people to establish policies of separation, exclusion, subordination, and assimilation on human terms that run counter to the gracious term of God’s policy and praxis of redemption, adoption, and hospitality.” (Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 1, p 162) This experience of gracious acceptance and love is beautifully illustrated in Nikolai, the Only Bear. People at the orphanage don’t understand Nikolai. They don’t speak bear or recognize when he is playing. It’s clear to readers that Nikolai experiences feelings of being different from the other orphans. When the fur-faced man and the smooth-faced woman come to visit, they treat Nikolai differently. They don’t ask him to stop being a bear, but through their love and acceptance he feels soft-bearish. This is the story of love transforming a lonely boy, who identifies as a bear, into a beloved, adopted son.
Gospel Reading: Luke 2:22-40
Only a Star by Margery Facklam (Written for ages 4-6)
Comment: As we read this text the week after Christmas we are reminded of the exceptional ordinariness of Jesus. He is a son born in a stable, but he is the son of God born in a stable. As his family makes the expected pilgrimage to Nazareth, the same as so many other families, they already know that he is a different child. So he is, on one hand just an ordinary boy, but he is also the son of God. In this book, we look at the ordinary objects that become extraordinary in light of Jesus; “A dragonfly hovered on wings of clear crystal scattering the light in a rainbow of gems”. We look at hay, a spiderweb, bugs, a donkey’s bell and many more of the pieces of the familiar narrative and how they, like us, are transformed by Jesus.
The Lectionary Links post this week was co-written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Rachel Mastin and regular contributor Noell Rathbun.