Christmas 1B


Voice in the Wilderness: cHeryl Kerr

Featured Musician:Christopher Grundy


95: December 28, 2014

  1. Isaiah 61:10 - 62:3
  2. Luke 2:22-40

Featured Musician: Jennifer Knapp and Margaret Becker

Exegetical Notes

Luke 2:22-40

Initial Thoughts

  • My first thought: “I need an associate pastor.”  Actually, it was “Glad we’re doing a Christmas hymn-sing.”

  • New family coming to the Temple. Presenting their baby. They have been through a lot. Can hardly believe it all, then they walk in, and some old guy grabs their kid. Think about a family, bringing their first child to church for baptism or Christening. Mix of awe, exhaustion, wonder. Everything is new. Everything is terrifying.

Bible Study

  • Literary Context

    • Interlude between John/Jesus stories. After the birth of the babies, action has moved away from the John/Jesus stories, and now it’s Jesus/Temple. Will then pick up again with John in the wilderness.

    • First of two stories of Jesus in the Temple.  This is at circumcision, with reaction of two elders. The other is at age 12 during Passover.

  • The Temple and The Law

    • Luke places Jesus and his family squarely in the Temple.

      • The rejection of Jesus, which is foreshadowed, is not because of his rejection of the Temple.

    • The passage begins and ends with the Law

      • v. 22 “When the time came for their ritual cleansing, in accordance with the Law from Moses, they brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord”

      • v. 39 “When Mary and Joseph had completed everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to their hometown, Nazareth in Galilee.”

    • The next story tells us that Mary and Joseph go to the Temple every year. This is a deeply devout family.

      • They present turtle doves- a symbol of poverty

  • But Why does Jesus get presented? What does he need to be purified from?

    • Women had to be purified after giving birth

    • First born sons belong to God and had to be redeemed- literally ransomed from God (Exodus 13:12-15)

  • Simeon

    • Simeon was “Righteous and devout.” He was “ Anticipating the restoration of Israel.”

    • Introduces two themes that are a part of the Luke narrative:

      • “Light to the Gentiles and glory to Israel.”

        • Salvation through this seemingly unremarkable baby is to all - Israel and Gentiles.

      • “[Jesus will] be a sign that generates opposition”

        • Coming conflict is part of the plan, not a result of unfaithfulness.

      • An all or nothing ideal

        • “It is not that, if we go with Jesus, our lives are 17 percent better, our happiness 14 percent higher, our marriages 16 percent healthier. It's all or nothing. You fall. Or you rise.: - James Howell, Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration.

        • Notice the order- we fall and then we rise, we die then we are risen, we lose our life then we are saved

    • “Now I may go in peace,” are ominous words for an old man.  

      • “Now I’ve seen everything…”  

      • After serving at a church for about a year, and presiding over several funerals, I once had an 90+ year old man tell me “I want to die before you leave this church.” It was a strange thing to be told, but also highly complimentary.  He died the week I was told I’d be moving churches, and I was able to preside over his funeral.

      • Resignation of death is not a sad thing, it only comes with the ability to be grateful for what has come.

  • Anna

    • 84-year-old widow, who was only married 7 years. Basically lives in the Temple.

    • Anna in Greek is Hannah - drawing a closer connection with 1 Samuel 1-2 (Also the Magnificat echoes Hannah’s song

      • Connection between Samuel who was Judge and Prophet to Jesus who is King and prophet

    • v. 38 “She approached at that very moment and began to praise God and to speak about Jesus to everyone who was looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

      • The first evangelist was a widow woman who lived in the Temple.

Preaching Thoughts

  • The first evangelist of Jesus was a widow woman who fasted and praised God in the Temple. She was something in Jesus that could not have been apparent but through the eyes of discernment.

  • Simeon was able to declare that he was ready to die because he had seen the reconciliation of Israel and the saving of the Gentiles.

    • Both of these people did not see the present state, but were able to see in the coming of what seemed like an ordinary child, the coming of God.  How do we develop the eyes of Simeon and Anna?  

    • What does it feel like to see the beginning of something new - and imagine its completion ahead of time.

    • Can we see the church in the same light? At the start of a project - or at the start of a new year - can you see the promise that is to be?

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Initial Thoughts

  • Poignant passage considering what is happening in the US in particular (Cleveland, Ferguson, Staten Island)

  • Another classic “now, but not yet” - good for Christmas

Bible Study

  • Vineyard is vindicated - see Isaiah 5 and Psalm 80

    • Yahweh’s hopes for Israel are fulfilled

    • The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand at last and those who have walked in darkness shall walk in light

  • Return from Exile

    • The exiles have returned home not to a paradise but to a ruin

    • The rebuilding of Zion will take a long time

      • The rebuilding of relationship takes a long time

    • Hope is on the horizon- the impossible (renewed relationship with God) is now possible (they have been forgiven/redeemed)

  • Who is speaking?

    • Probably not Cyrus the Persian (cf. Isaiah 45:1 - “anointed one”)

    • Luke interprets later as coming from Jesus

      • clothes of salvation

      • robe of righteousness

      • Groom preparing for a bride

      • “Christ is preaching himself” - St. Augustine

  • Marriage between God and God’s people

    • It has not been easy or good

    • Reconciliation on the other side of separation, betrayal, judgment and pain

  • For Zion’s sake I won’t keep silent

    • Zion = us?

    • The prophetic voice is never against the oppressor or sinner, but speaks out for the oppressor as well as the oppressed

    • The truly prophetic voice seeks transformation of all people so that they might enter the kingdom of justice and peace

    • “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” -James A. Baldwin

    • The Work of Christmas Begins… by Howard Thurmond

When the song of  the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

Preaching Thoughts

  • This is a voice of prophetic love and hope crying out out against injustice out of love for the oppressor, comforting the oppressed with hope for the future, girding “the people” for a long road of reconciliation ahead.

  • Forgiveness is a long a painful process. Even if a relationship leads to repair it does not negate the past but leads to a longer road of reconciliation.

  • Ok, Jesus is what? Jesus is born - the prince of peace, yet there is no peace - wonderful counselor, yet people are more divided than ever. How do we continue to “greatly rejoice in the Lord” for God enfleshed among us while also speaking out and “not keep[ing] silent”? Theology of Hope for what is to come in spite of the seeming reality

  • The year is ending- what is the word of hope for the new year?

    • “Optimism is based on the possibilities of things as they have come to be; hope is based on the possibilities of God irrespective of how things are…. Hope is grounded in the faithfulness of God and therefore on the effectiveness of God's promise.” - Miroslav Volf quoted by Andrew Nagy- Benson in Feasting on the Word

    • In light of threats against movie-goers, massacres of children in Pakistan, systemic racism and growing wealth gap- what is the message of hope for 2015?

  • We are entering a new year and have the opportunity to be made new - to “called by a new name” - what will that name be?

Galatians 4:4-7

Initial Thoughts

  • The verses immediately before this compares children who are minors to slaves, so there may be a cultural gap to try and leap here.

  • This is a passage in the midst of some heavy theology that Paul is doing

Bible Study

  • Historical Context of Galatians

    • Authentic Paul

    • Marcus Borg places it second in the chronological New Testament, just after Thessalonians, around the year 52. Others place it as Paul’s first letter.

      • “The identity of the Galatians and the date of the letter are disputed. If Paul wrote to the congregations he and Barnabas established on their first missionary journey, he may have written Galatians as early as 49… But if Paul was writing to the Celtic tribes that had settled in the northern part of the province of Galatia modern-day Turkey), he was writing in the mid-50s… to congregations he established on his second missionary journey” (from the intro to Galatians in the Common English Study Bible, p. 353 NT).

    • Main theme of the letter: “A person is made right before God on the basis of what God has done in the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ rather than on the basis of doing the works of Moses’ Law.” (from the intro to Galatians in the Common English Study Bible, p. 353 NT).

    • Seems to be recently after Jerusalem Council, and still struggling with ramifications of being a Gentile Christian.

      • Are you in the family or not?

  • Family metaphor

    • Family is an important institution in all ancient cultures and to the Jews in particular

      • Social safety net

      • Status in society

      • Connection to God

      • Judaism is a religion of family, with Abraham as the Father, and the Covenant of the Law as the connection to God.

    • Hierarchy of Owner to Slave and Parent to Child is a clear social relationship.

    • This metaphor connects the believer to this hierarchical relationship. No longer about Owner/Slave or Parent/Child, but that of God/Believer. When once the believer was connected to God through the Law, now the believer can be connected to God in a more direct way - that of Jesus Christ.

    • People can move from slave to free, or from child to adult. Believers are called to move into adulthood, no longer under the “slavery” of the Law.

    • Adopted by God through Jesus

    • No longer a slave to sin, but a son or daughter of God

    • Welcomed into relationship (think prodigal son) - “Abba, Father!”

  • “Born of a  woman. Born under the Law.”

    • Back to Mary. Humanity of Christ is important.

    • Under the Law - is more than his Jewish heritage because here Paul is talking about the Jewish customs of upholding the Law.

    • The Law is a part of a system that covers all.

      • Jewish Law that sorts the world into clean/unclean, or insider/outsider.

      • Roman Law which persecutes any that are unwilling to submit.

    • Jesus is born into these systems so that he can free us from these systems.

    • Jesus frees all people equally from these systems that pit one against another, that set up haves and have-nots.

  • Meaning in context of Christmas

    • “Over against the deeply entrenched human desire to limit salvation to self, family, and nation, the readings for the First Sunday After Christmas relentlessly insist that God alone draws the boundary around God’s salvation and that God includes all creation within it” (Texts for Preaching, Year B)

    • Christmas changed everything. We no longer operate in a system where some are in and some are out. The world has been adopted by God, and we must respond to this freedom.

    • Paul is imploring a church to live in freedom, to stop dividing itself, to stop deciding who is in and who is out, and welcoming all.

Preaching Thoughts

  • Keep reading a little and find “Now, after knowing God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless world system?”

    • Perhaps we can ask, “No, after you have experienced Christmas, how can you turn back and pretend it didn’t happen?”


Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (,@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 Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).