199: Christmas A (Dec. 25, 2016)


199: Christmas, A (December 25, 2016)

Image: (Photo: screengrab, ABC)Linus Van Pelt delivering his speech on what Christmas is about by reciting Luke 2:8-14 in "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965)
Featured Musician - “Glory In The Highest” by Jonathan Rundman from his album A Heartland Liturgy.

Episode 199 Christmas, Year A - (December 25, 2016)
Hello and welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 199 Sunday December 25, 2016, Christmas, Year A.

Introduction and Check-in

  • Christmas stuff
  • Least favorite Christmas song twitter poll. Winner is: Christmas Shoes

    • This week’s Twitter poll: For clergy - When are you celebrating New Year’s Eve? Fri, Sat, Sun?

Featured Musician - “Glory In The Highest” by Jonathan Rundman from his album A Heartland Liturgy.

DONATE: www.pulpitfiction.us/donate

Gospel Reading: Luke 2:1-20 - Birth of Jesus + Shepherds
Initial Thoughts

  • Parallel to John the baptist

    • Joyful birth - naming – circumcision

Bible Study

  • Luke is a terrible historian

    • There was no empire wide census by Augustus, but there was by Quirinius

      • The revolt of Judas the Galilean (see Acts 5:37)
    • Quirinius was not governor until 6CE (and Herod the great died in 4 BCE)...awkward..
  • Bethlehem

    • World Changing- what is happening in Bethlehem will affect everyone from shepherds to angels to emperors
    • Census – no historical record of this census – reason to get the Holy Family to Bethlehem

      • Different from Matthew – they settle in Bethlehem after returning from Egypt
  • Juxtaposition of Jesus and Augustus

    • Bringer of peace for ending civil wars – Pax Romana (altar of the peace of Augustus in 10 BCE)
    • Savior of the World – How Augustus was known in Asia Minor, declared a god in 42 BCE and his birthday was celebrated as New Year’s Day
    • Currency depicting Augustus’ image hails him as the “Son of God”
    • Luke – Jesus the true “Savior of the World” is born amidst the demonstration of Roman “power” and domination
    • Zooming in to the most unlikely place from the most likely Augustus in Rome to Joseph in Bethlehem
    • Places the birth of Jesus in the midst of political unrest - people are ready for a different Kingdom (even as they obey the laws of the current oppressor)
  • Shepherds

    • Who are they?

      • Representatives of the hoi poloi - “the people”, not kings or priests, but ordinary people
      • Outsiders, the marginalized, living away from settled community - who Jesus would reach out to (Luke 4)
      • Perhaps a reference to one or both:

        • the bad kings in Ezekiel 34
        • the good King David in 1 Samuel 16:11
    • God meets people- not in the temple, but in the fields and farms
    • Continues the juxtaposition of Jesus and Augustus
  • Angel’s message

    • Good news for all the people

      • inclusive message (not only inclusive through culture and socio-economic status, but chronologically inclusive too- for us)
      • All the people surely includes the marginalized - central to Jesus’ message, but also includes the powerful and rich )i.e. Pharisees, Zaccheus, etc)
    • Peace and Goodwill

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • The angels bring good news to you! What is the good news that the Angels are telling you as the preacher? Be an angel: Share it!

    • "What good would it do me, if he were born a thousand times and if this were sung to me every day with the loveliest airs, if I should not hear that there was something in it for me and that it should be my own?” Martin Luther, Luther's Works, vol. 52, Sermons, II, ed. Hans J. Hillerbrand (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974), 21.
  • The message of Christmas is often viewed to be very Christian-centric, but the message in this passage is actually very inclusive - this is good news for all people. How will you share this good news with others without discounting their different beliefs or disbelief?
  • Scandalous love! Out of town unmarried couple has child! Filthy migrant nomads see hallucinations in the sky and come to see baby!
  • Many times we dream of the perfect Christmas (think National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation), but the original Christmas was anything but perfect- it was messy. God chose to enter into the messiness of the world to show us how to love and forgive in the midst of the mess.

Psalm Nugget: Psalm 98 Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Second Reading: John 1:1-14 - Prologue to John
Initial Thoughts

  • “The Gospel of John opens with one of the most challenging texts in the New Testament.”  (Gail O’Day,New Interpreter’s Bible, v. IX, p. 516)

    • Just look at a few different versions of the Bible, and note the footnotes.  There are a lot of “Or this could mean…” footnotes.
    • Poetry - not easy to interpret.  Open to many different ways to understand

      • Poetry is the language of Creation.
  • Many themes that are important in the rest of the gospel are found in the prologue

    • Interplay of God and Light
    • Rejection of Jesus by the people (Jews vs Judeans)
    • Incarnation - close relationship between Jesus and God (Father)

Bible Study

  • Overall movement of “The Prologue”

    • v. 1-5 God, the Word, and Light.
    • v. 6-8 God, John, and Light.
    • v. 9-13 Light, the World, God’s people, God’s new people.
    • v. 14-18 The Word, the flesh, God’s new people.
  • God, the Word, Light enjoy a close intimacy

    • The relationship between God, The Word, and The Light is a poetic relationship that is difficult to sort out.
    • “In the beginning” is direct parallel to Genesis and the creation, which occurs by God speaking, and first bringing light.
    • V. 3 and 4 has very subtle translation issue “from ancient times readers have been unsure how to divide these two verses.”
    • “All people, whether they believe it or not, live in a world illuminated by the light just as they live in a world created by the Word. What they are called to do is to trust the light, to walk in it, and thereby become children of light” (Texts for Preaching, Year A, p. 80)
  • John is not the Light

    • Knowledge of John’s ministry and life is a given to the author.
    • John’s only role is to point to Jesus.
    • John is further subordinated by this gospel.
    • John does not baptize Jesus, but merely sees “The Holy Spirit coming down from heaven like a dove, and it rested on him” (John 1:31).  
  • Something new, and yet eternal, is happening

    • Johannine community is claiming Jewish roots, but clearly the separation from the Synagogue is complete.
    • Much of the polemic in the rest of the Gospel of John is rooted in v. 11. “God’s own people didn’t welcome him”
    • The rejection of Jesus by “The Jews” is seen as the primary tragedy of human creation.

      • Historically, this has become the source of much evil.
    • Rejection by “God’s people” forces a redefining of who God’s people are.
    • No longer birthright, or by Covenant with the Law, but by belief in The Word.
    • Following “The Word,” or seeing “The Light” is prerequisite to seeing God.
    • Adoption as God’s people only happens by seeing God through Jesus.
  • The Word is made flesh - The Incarnation

    • v. 14 “The Word became flesh and made his home among us.”

      • ‘made his home’ = ‘pitched his tent’
      • Reminiscent of God in Exodus, residing in the Tabernacle.
      • Implies deep intimacy, not just a passerby or temporary guest.
      • At the same time, something different, and not fully native.
    • v. 18 “God the only Son, who is at the Father’s side.”

      • Reminiscent of the seating at the Passover (13:23) “One of his disciples, the one who Jesus loved, was at Jesus’ side.”
    • Jesus is flesh - not a gnostic rejection of flesh and the material world.  

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • We are invited into God’s eternal activity.  Becoming adopted by God is not initiation into a club.  It is joining in God’s eternal work to redeem Creation.
  • On this, the day we commemorate the day that the Word was made flesh, what can be made new?  How can we participate in the ongoing work of creation?  How are we being created, even now?
  • What does it mean to welcome God (v. 12)?  
  • How has the Word made its home among us?  Where is the Incarnation today?  It is in a manger in a stable, among shepherds.  It is in a small village, with strange foreigners bearing gifts, amidst the tyranny of a jealous king.  What other strange yet ordinary place is the Word made flesh?

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

  • Dollar Store Children’s Sermons (https://dskidsermons.com/)

    • Hi Robb and Eric! I’m Barb Miller – a minister with the United Church of Canada, living in Northwestern Ontario. I’m new to your podcast and am enjoying it very much! Thank you for your great work! Thought-provoking and inspiring. At the end of this podcast you were sharing a comment by a listener looking for help with Children’s Sermons and I simply had to share with you a resource that I have found immensely helpful this last year: Dollar Store Children Sermons with Pastor John Stevens, Zion Lutheran Church ELCA, Oregon City, Oregon. John brings an energy and enthusiasm to his work that demonstrates his deep commitment to kids and his ideas are often very easy to adapt for the age and numbers of my own congregation and easy to adapt with my own theological take. I use his material often – in whole or in part. He also presents a lesson for those who follow the Narrative Lectionary. Hope this helps!
  • Bethlehemian Rhapsody puppet show. Just for fun. A few theological tweaks I’d want to make, but overall, very clever.

Thank you listeners

Featured Musician -  “Glory In The Highest” by Jonathan Rundman from his album A Heartland Liturgy.

Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”, "Real Ride" and “Summertime”) and The Steel Wheels for our transition music(“Nola’s First Dance” from their album Lay Down, Lay Low) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).