Sunday After Christmas

December 29, 2024

Lectionary Texts

1 Samuel 2.18-20 —The boy Samuel in the temple. His mother brings him a robe. Eli the priest blesses the family. Samuel grows in stature and God’s favor.

Psalm 148 —All Creation and all people praise God.

Colossians 3.12-17 — Lessons in community: Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, forgiveness and above all love. …. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.

Luke 2.41-52 —Young Jesus’ in the temple.
        If instead of this you opt to read Luke 2.22-40, Jesus presentation in the temple, Anna and Simeon, see Year B Sunday After Christmas.

Preaching Thoughts

     People may be tired of Christmas tunes, having heard Christmas themed Muzak for the last 6 weeks—but this is only the 5th day of Christmas! (Five gold rings. Yes, the carol is right: there are 12 days.) Let it still be Christmas. Today is a great chance to use all those “B Side” carols they haven’t heard much of: “He Is Born,” “Cold December Flies Away,” “On Christmas Night,” “Rocking,” “Sing We Now of Christmas”—you know, those.

       At first glance, taken literally, the story of Jesus in the temple is a lovely fable meant to demonstrate Jesus’ remarkableness, but not very rich with spiritual ore. Look how spiritually precocious Jesus is. See, isn’t he amazing? Hm. There’s not much there that connects with my life. It also depicts Jesus’ independence from his parents, and in particular his willingness to trouble his mother. In Luke 2.34 Simeon mentions this to Mary: Jesus will be “a sign that will be opposed… and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Maybe that comes around in Luke 8.19-21 when Jesus seems to spurn his family’s claim on him: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Jesus is not the cute little boy we adore. He’s liable to upset us, especially when he asks us to make tough choices, which is that sharp two-edged sword that divides truth from illusion, that pieces Mary’s heart no less than anyone else’s.
       It’s also a story about families, and how we hurt each other. The legend doesn’t allow us to imagine what Jesus was thinking for three days, but we do anyway. Mary is clear that she was hurt. “Why have you treated us like this?” Any parent who’s found their kid after they had run off in a public place knows that mixture of anger and relief. So Jesus and his parents have to come to some reconciliation. We don;t hear that dialogue, but we do see that Jesus goes with them and is obedient to them. They’re all OK. As we end a year and enter a new one, it’s a good time to confess how we’ve hurt each other, give and seek forgiveness, and start a new year OK with each other.
       And what if we let the story be a little more metaphorical? The Sunday after Christmas, reflect on what the Incarnation means. It’s not really about the cute little baby. It’s about God’s love embodied among us, and even within us. But we’re so attached to our agendas and assumptions we often miss where God is actually at. Part of the mystery of the incarnation is that God is not far away on some heavenly cloud, but intimately with us. Yet part of the mystery is that God is more in some “places” in our lives than others: God is more readily apprehended in certain experiences, attitudes, or ways of being mindful than others. So we search. Where is Jesus in your life? Some thoughts:
       Sometimes we head off on our journeys and we think we have Jesus with us—but we’re just assuming because he “belongs” to us, he’s by our side, when in fact we’ve launched off without him. We think God must naturally approve of what we’re doing or how we think, but we haven’t really checked that out. We have to go back, go into prayer, to really find where Jesus is at with us.
       Maybe when you feel like there’s something that’s missing in your soul it hasn’t gone away, it’s gone to the center, gone deeper in, and when you find it you will be in a holy place.
        Sometimes when we feel lost we need to remember that there’s a part of us, in our soul, that’s still present, close to God, not lost at all. We just need to go back, go deep, and find that part of us that’s wise and aware, and in God’s intimate presence. Our soul says to us, “Didn’t you know I would be in God’s house?”

Call to Worship

Leader: God of love, Christ is born, and we give you praise!
All: Your love is embodied among us, and we give you thanks.
You are not abstract, but real.
You are not far, but near.

We search for you, and we find you.
Jesus, lead us to the place of God.
We worship in awe, with gratitude, with love.

Leader: Behold! I bring you good news of great joy for all people,
for to you is born a savior who is Christ the Lord!
       All: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
       who has visited and redeemed the people.
He is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Life-Giver, Prince of Peace.
       Hosanna in the highest!
He is named Jesus, for he shall save us from our sins.
He is called Emmanuel, God with us.
       Glory to God in the highest,
       and peace on earth among al!

Leader: Gentle God, we rejoice in awe and wonder:
for your mystery unfolds before us.
All: You have sent a Savior to be with us,
       Emmanuel, your Presence, among us.
A child is born, to give light to those who live in darkness.
       Glory to God in the highest,
       and on earth peace among all, and God’s favor and good will.
In the presence of angels, we sing your praise.
       Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and renew in us the mystery of life. Alleluia!

Leader: Creator God, in the birth of Christ you have given yourself to the world.
All: Bless us that we may receive you with faith.
Living Christ, you dwell among us, sharing our human struggles and delights.
       Be born in our hearts, save us from our sin, and lead us in the way of life.
Holy Spirit, by your grace Mary conceived and bore a son. Work in us also, and restore within us the image and likeness of our Creator.
       We open our hearts to you now. Bless us, that we may be transformed
       into the Body of Christ, and bring your love into the world. Amen.

5. From Psalm 148, paraphrased
Leader: Praise our God! Praise God to the top of the sky!
       All: Praise God all the angels, sun and moon and shining stars!
Praise God, sea monsters and the ocean deep, fire and hail, snow and smoke!
        mountains and hills, fruit trees and cedars!
Bees and cattle, creeping things and flying birds!
       Powerful ones, rulers and all people!
(Men:) Praise God! (Women:) Praise God!
       (Young:) Praise God! (Old🙂 Praise God!
Leader: Praise God, whose glory fills the world.
       For God’s wonders, we give God our joyful praise!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God of love, you have come among us in Jesus. Open our eyes to see you. Open our ears to listen for you. Open our hearts, and come to us. By your birth in us, give us new birth. May your Word be made flesh. Amen.

Gracious God, in the birth of Christ you have given us light in our darkness and companionship on our way. As the young Jesus questioned and listened in the temple, we open our hearts to your Word. Speak to us, and shape us by your Word. Amen.

Loving God, as a child Jesus sought you in the temple, talking with the elders. We seek you, too. We come seeking, though others may think we are lost. We come with our experience and our questions, though others may dismiss them. Bless us now that we may speak with clarity and listen with courage, that your Word may shape us, for the sake of the whole world. Amen.

Eternal God, in the birth of Jesus you have come to us in grace. You have made a place among us to accompany us, to save us, to re-create us in your image. Grant that, being born in our hearts, Christ may give us life by the power of your Spirit, so that we may always live according to your delight. Amen.

Jesus in the temple, what are you seeking?
Grant us your curiosity.
Young boy among elders, confident in your truth,
grant us your trust.
You were not lost; you were exploring.
Are you among us as well?
Give us faith to speak without fear,
and to listen. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

God, bless the wandering child in us
who is not lost but seeking.
Bless the worried parent in us
who tries to tend our souls.
Bless that holy place in us,
where Christ is.

God, we are looking for you,
Where are you in our lives?
We are open. We are listening.

Prayer of Confession

Loving God, we confess the ways we have wandered from your care.
We are sorry, and we ask your forgiveness.
We have not always listened to your guidance.
Forgive us, heal us, and speak your wisdom to us.
Bless us that through our faith
we may continually be in your house.
Loving God, redeem us, and give us life. Amen.

Pastor: As Jesus troubled his parents,
we often trouble one another, knowingly or unknowingly.
In the spirit of Christ, we seek reconciliation.
All: Siblings in Christ, I give thanks for our kinship in the Spirit.
I confess I have hurt or offended you at times,
and I ask your forgiveness.
I have been hurt at times, and I offer you my forgiveness.
We have been entirely forgiven by God,
and we are one in the family of God.
We are a forgiven and forgiving people,
and we prepare to enter the new year reconciled and at peace.
God, bless us that we may always be at peace,
forgiving and forgiven, in the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

3. [Read by the pastor]
God, trusting in your grace,
we confess our sin to you with one another.
Sometimes we are “with you” and sometimes we are not.
We recall those times when we have been “with you,”
and we give thanks.
    … Silent reflection…
We recall those times when we have not been with you,
or searching for you in the wrong places, and we trust your mercy.
    … Silent reflection…Siblings in Christ, hear the good news,
that whether we are lost or searching, home or wandering,
God finds us, forgives us, claims us as God’s beloved,
and sets us free to grow in faith and to live by the power of God’s Spirit.
Be at peace, and walk in the ways of God.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

         We give our hearts to God, Creator of all that is and all that is to come, Source of Life and eternal Presence, who is our temple and our home.
         We follow Jesus, who lived among us as a child, learning and growing, exploring and wondering, questioning and making mistakes. As a teacher and healer he continued to question and wonder, to challenge, and to upset those in authority by his allegiance to the truth. He was crucified, but was raised from the dead, and still lives to guide and to question, to teach and to heal and to feed our souls.
         We live by the Holy Spirit, who is our wisdom and our law, who guides us in the ways of peace, who helps us grow as young Jesus did, and who gives us the gift of trust in God’s unfailing grace. By the power of that Spirit we devote our lives of justice and beauty and the way of love, for the sake of the mending of the world. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Jesus in the temple, what are you seeking?
Grant us your curiosity.
Young boy among elders, confident in your truth,
grant us your trust.
You were not lost; you were exploring.
Are you among us as well?
Give us faith to speak without fear,
and to listen.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

Gracious God, we thank you that you have given yourself to us. O Radiant One, with our eyes we have seen your salvation, and feasted on your grace. Emmanuel, God With Us, fill us with the curiosity of the young Jesus, to seek you wherever we may find you. May your Word take flesh in us, that we may be your holy people, revealing the glory of your love. Send us into the world, to be your light, by the grace of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Available on the Music page. Click titles to view songs.)

Holy Child
Lyrics: Holy child, holy child,
grant one blessing from above.
Holy child, holy child,
grant the joy of giving you my love.

If the Gospel text you choose is Luke 2.22-40,
Anna and Simeon’s song.

Advent to Epiphany – the Story
A solo. Congregation may join in on final chorus.
(Tune: Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah)

In the darkest time of year,
a time of hope, and a time of fear,
the prophet says that God is coming to you.
And so we turn from greed and hate,
still learning to pray and watch and wait,
and sing our fragile, hopeful hallelujah.

Young Mary said her “Yes” to him,
and Jesus was born in Bethlehem,
and laid him in a manger, that’ll do you.
The light of love shone in the night.
The shepherds came to see the sight,
and angels sang a glorious Hallelujah.

Some wise men traveled from afar,
just following such a tiny star,
as if its simple light could shine right though you.
They gave their treasures to the king,
who makes you want to serve and sing,
who tells you you can be his Hallelujah.

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