Daily Archives: January 1, 2023

First Sunday after Christmas

The Word, the Spirit, and the Will

The Gospel of John does not have an Infancy narrative as do the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Rather, John speaks of a time before the birth of the Christ Child. He writes of the One who pre-existed the world and was the very agent of all creation:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.   (John 1:1-5)

Many of His own Jewish people did not comprehend who Jesus was when they were privileged to see him in person:

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.  (John 1:10-11)

Though the Gospel of John does not speak of an infancy narrative, it does speak of our infancy narrative:

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.   (John 1:12-13)

We are reborn as children of God in Jesus. The Apostle Paul writes:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.   (Galatians 4:4-7)

The Prophet Isaiah wrote:

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.  (Isaiah 61:10-11)

The remarkable thing is that the creator God entered the world of His own creation on our behalf. In Jesus, God made himself vulnerable to humankind, in order to reveal his true nature and heart:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John 1:14)

He did so, that we may have that same heart. he paid the price of our sins in order to grant us his righteousness by faith in him, and what he has done for us. we must receive the Spirit of his Son into our hearts. The Spirit is the power we need to become the children of God.

God’s children receive God’s love and forgiveness. But children need to fully grow to become joint heirs with Christ. The Book of Hebrews warns:

You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. 1But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.

Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, instruction about baptisms and laying on of hands,   (Hebrews 5:12-14; 6:1-2)

How do we grow up as disciples of Christ? Let us remember we are disciples of the Word of God made flesh. Jesus Christ our Lors. He tells us

“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”   (John 8:31-32)

Only the Word of God will set us free from the power of sin, Jesus has given us the way that we may truly interpret his word:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.   (John 16:13-14)

The Holy Spirit guides our reading and meditation on the scriptures, but we must do the reading and meditation. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we must continually do so:

As you, therefore, have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.   (Colossians 2:6-7)

Satan will try to distract us. Circumstances we encounter in life may erode our faith, This is all the more reason to stay in the Word:

Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.   (Romans 10:17)

Through the Spirit, Jesus has given special gifts to the Church, the Body of Christ:

He himself granted that some are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.   (Ephesians 4:11-16)

The Church has been established to teach us the Word of God and help us grow into the Word. We want to be sure that we are in a community of believers that seek the whole truth of God’s Word. This is where Church leadership is vitally important.

But let us not disregard, perhaps, the most important ingredient for spiritual growth, our desire. The Apostle Paul wrote:

This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.   (Philippians 3:13-14)

Are we willing to let go of the past? We all fall short in our spiritual lives.

If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   (1 John 1:9)

Let us not lose heart, but continually put our trust in God:

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence but much more now in my absence, work on your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.   (Philippians 2:12-13)

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Holy Name

Yeshua (ישוע) – Deliverer

In Judaism names have meanings. A name does more than merely identify someone. It speaks to their character, to their calling, and to the blessing that God has placed upon them. Abram was renamed by God so he became Abraham, the father of many nations. Jacob became Israel because he had wrestled with God and prevailed. Simon became Peter, the rock upon whom God would build His church.

The Son of God was named Jesus or, in Hebrew, “Yeshua” – which means God saves. In today’s Gospel we read:

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  (Matthew:18-21)

It was customary in Judaism to dedicate each male child to God on the eighth day after his birth. This was the time that the child was circumcised and was also given his name. This was true for Jesus. From Luke we read:

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.  (Luke 2:21)

God the Father wants to place us on the same footing as Jesus. Jesus received his name on the eighth day and the blessing of the Father. We are to receive that same blessing as well if we come under the name of Jesus. God does this through an adoption which occurs when we embrace Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Paul wrote in today’s Epistle:

When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.   (Galatians 4:4-7)

God has always desired to bless His people and place His name on them. During the time of Moses He instructed His priests how to do this:

The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

“The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”

“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”  (Numbers 6:27-28)

We are so blessed to have the name of our Lord placed upon us. We are called Christians because Jesus is making us in His image. When we receive the name of our Lord with humility and thanksgiving, God the Father places upon us the character and nature of Jesus. Have we been adopted by God? If not, now is the day of salvation.

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”   (Acts 4:12)

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