Remember. In the midst of a longer lament, Isaiah calls the people to remember God’s goodness and graciousness even a time that it does not seem readily apparent. This text raises the question. “Is Christmas reliable, do we have a Savior for the hard times in life?” “I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel which he has granted them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.” (Isaiah 63:7) Isaiah remembers God’s character and how God embodies goodness, mercy, and loving-kindness. God acknowledges God’s children. God has always been present with God’s people. God suffers with us. This text speaks profoundly to anyone who has ever asked, “Where was God when . . . .?” God was suffering with us.
This is a hymn of praise so wide that all aspects of creation are called to praise God. This serves as a good response to the lament of Isaiah. Isaiah praises God that God is present in suffering; here the whole orchestra of heaven and earth tunes up to praise God.
This text deals with the humanity of Jesus Christ. Jesus identifies completely with humankind, even in suffering. The writer asserts that God saved humankind through the suffering of Jesus. The text notes the full humanity of Jesus. Being human, Jesus was able to stand among humankind and communicate with them. The identification of Jesus with humanity, even in suffering and death, had the power to destroy the power of death. “When Jesus died and rose, he exposed the limits of the power of death and showed that God was the one who had final authority. God worked in Jesus to give humans real hope, not to make them something other than truly human.” (Preaching the New Revised Common Lectionary, Year A) God’s saving grace is working for humankind.
Stamp a warning upon this text. It surely raises questions it does not answer. Why did God not save all the children but allowed the “slaughter of the innocents?” “Why was Joseph concerned about Archelaus?” We have to allow Matthew to tell his story in is way. Our text ends Matthew’s birth narrative. The wise men have found the baby Jesus but they are warned of Herod’s evil intent. Thus they go home a different way. Joseph takes his family to Egypt to save them. Eventually he returns to Israel. Matthew tells us that often the powers of the world align themselves against God’s purposes. God is faithful to God’s purposes and brings the divine plans to fruition. “What does Matthew mean? Nothing more and nothing less than that all of God's dealings with Israel are summarized, consummated, embodied, and realized in Jesus Christ. In Jesus all of God's work and all of God's words are made perfect. Israel's past becomes truly real, as Jesus relives and perfects Israel's story.” (Preaching the New Revised Common Lectionary, Year A)
On this Sunday, before all our Christmas cards are put away and we start writing “thank you notes” for gifts received, do a “thank you card to God.” Post a large poster board(s) with large “thank you, God.” Allow and encourage people to go to the card(s) and write a message or at least to sign the card.
Greetings/Calls to Worship
Let us dance with delight in the Lord
and let our hearts be filled with rejoicing,
for eternal salvation has appeared on the earth. Alleluia!
Christ is born; give him glory!
Christ has come down from heaven; receive him!
Christ is now on earth; exalt him!
O you earth, sing to the Lord!
Holy, holy , holy, is the God of countless galaxies
and also of tiny babies!
O you nations, praise him in joy, for he has been glorified!
[Using THE FAITH WE SING, p. 2011 “We Sing of Your Glory,” offer the following call to worship as directed.]
The irrepressible joy Christ’s birth be with you all!
L: The heavens are bursting forth with God’s glory!
P: God’s mighty acts of power and love are sung by God’s angels!
Choir: singing verse 1 of “We Sing of Your Glory”
L: From the darkness of our night, God has brought us salvation!
P: We have not been forgotten!
Choir: singing verse 4 of “We Sing of Your Glory”
L: Thanks be to God who, in a little child, has again reminded us of God’s love.
P: Praise be to God who comes to save and lead us. AMEN.
All God's people - boys and girls,
men and women,
come and worship!
Shepherds, Magi, saints, and angels:
Come and worship!
Come and worship!
All who need the Savior,
all who long for comfort:
Come and worship!
Come and worship Christ,
the newborn King!
Need we make hymn suggestions for this service? The traditional Christmas hymns are probably the best known hymns. (Not to mention that you have probably been hearing them since October!)
Just another Sunday? Maybe you know the famous sermon, Its Friday, but Sundays coming! That is a great message of hope for Good Friday but a frightening prospect for busy pastors. Because of pastoral and administrative duties, worship planning may slip by the way side.
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