Almighty God, who wonderfully created us in your own image and yet more wonderfully restored us through your Son Jesus Christ: grant that, as he came to share in our humanity, so we may share the life of his divinity; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, now and for ever.
Another year on our calendar has come and gone. The world is in need of a Savior. Only Jesus brings the salvation needed, a full salvation, as big as all creation and as small as each and every aspect of our lives. This begins now in God’s kingdom come in him as revealed in the gospel and found even in the church, God’s kingdom community in King Jesus. As we await its culmination in King Jesus’ return.
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
O God our Creator, you have divided our life into days and seasons, and called us to acknowledge your providence year after year: Accept your people who come to offer their praises, and, in your mercy, receive their prayers; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. +
Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Bible over and over again makes clear that God is an advocate for the poor, the destitute, the marginalized, the down and out. We need to read our Bible and keep reading it, I not less than anyone else. And something scripture affirms over and over again as well is our solidarity with the poor. Jesus identifies with his brothers and sisters who are poor in Matthew 25. And God is on the watch both to bless the poor and to judge those who oppress the poor. Let me add that scripture has much to say that can encourage prisoners. Whether or not they are guilty, Jesus came to set the prisoner free. Perhaps in this life they may not be free from incarceration, but they can be free in spirit and in truth in and through the redemption that is in King Jesus. We are called to bless the poor, to help those who are in need.
We should have no trouble identifying with the poor and imprisoned, regardless of our relative wealth and freedom. We too are dependent on God for “our daily bread,” for whatever material wealth and blessing we have. And we are either slaves of sin or set free to be slaves of God and of righteousness. The freedom that is ours in Jesus is a freedom to serve others in love. We need to do so sacrificially, remembering that we too are in need, poor in and of ourselves, as well as imprisoned in sin apart from Christ. We should be able to look anyone in the eye and identify with them, even as we help them come to look to the Savior and with us begin to find their identity in him.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
Merciful God, who raised up your servant Frances Joseph Gaudet to work for prison reform and the education of her people: Grant that we, encouraged by the example of her life, may work for those who are denied the fullness of life by reasons of incarceration and lack of access to education; through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I failed to see that our denomination, the Anglican Church in North America, transferred the Feast of the Holy Innocents from yesterday to today. But in so doing, I found something more, which was quite encouraging. The promise in God that there will be a judgment which not only destroys the hand of the wicked, but actually restores and even somehow redeems the suffering of the victims. To be sure we often can’t see that in terms of this life. And so we await in and through King Jesus the life to come. When children who have been murdered can be reunited with mothers and fathers. With the realization that no tear from tyranny goes unnoticed by God.
Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.
Thus says the Lord:
Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears;
for there is a reward for your work,
says the Lord:
they shall come back from the land of the enemy;
there is hope for your future,
says the Lord:
your children shall come back to their own country.
Although Christmas Day and season (traditionally called “Christmastide“) is a time of celebrating the birth of Jesus, it isn’t lost that Jesus’ coming brought with it some dire, tragic consequences. Herod, who fancied himself as the King of the Jews, would brook no rival. Even if God were to bring someone forward as the Messiah, the true King of the Jews, Herod would not step aside. In fact he was so bent on destroying the Christ Child that he had all the male babies two years and younger destroyed.
And so the church has designated this day in remembrance of “the Holy Innocents,” (also called the “Massacre of the Innocents“) committing each of those baby boys into the Lord’s care. As we remember that the light of the world, though it will ultimately prevail, will not be welcomed by the darkness of evil.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod,Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.“Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.