Monday, December 11, 2017

Advent 3B Readings & Commentaries

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

1st Reading:  Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Our first reading dates from the time of Israel’s restoration after the exile in Babylon—the rebuilding of “Zion.” Isaiah foresees this as a time of the flowering of justice, a time of “Jubilee” (“the year of the Lord’s favor,” see Leviticus 25). This establishment of liberty will not be just for Israel’s sake but for all people (the omitted verses 5-7 make this especially clear). Zion herself responds with unfettered joy. She is clothed with new garments and, indeed the world with new life.

61:1 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. 4 They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. 8 For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed. 10 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. 11 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.

The Song of Mary (BCP, Canticle 15): Luke 1:46-55
Mary’s song is sung after she has arrived at her cousin Elizabeth’s home.  Elizabeth greets her with “Blessed are you among women…” and Mary responds with a song that has its roots in her ancestor Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.  The song begins with Mary’s joy at what God has done for her, but quickly moves to proclaim the God who turns the world upside down. This is not the “meek and mild” Mary of tradition, but a strong woman of bold faith. We often call this song “The Magnificat” for its opening word in Latin. This translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
       for he has looked with favor upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
       the Almighty has done great things for me,
       and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
       in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
       he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
       and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
       and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
       for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
       to Abraham and his children for ever.
Or this

Psalm 126
Psalm 126 is one of the “Songs of Ascents,” songs pilgrims sang on their way to the Temple for any of the major Jewish feasts. As a whole, they comprise Psalms 120 through 134. They date from the post-exilic period. Psalm 126 is a song of continued trust, remembering how God restored them to their land and turned their tears into joy.

1       When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, *
                  then were we like those who dream.
2       Then was our mouth filled with laughter, *
                  and our tongue with shouts of joy.
3       Then they said among the nations, *
                  “The Lord has done great things for them.”
4       The Lord has done great things for us, *
                  and we are glad indeed.
5       Those who sowed with tears *
                  will reap with songs of joy.
6       Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, *
                  will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

2nd Reading:  1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Our short passage from Paul’s earliest letter (and, therefore, the oldest Christian writing we have) is an exhortation to what we are to do while we wait for Christ to come again. The instructions are simple. Profoundly important is the closing sentence—it is God who will work these things in us.

5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise the words of prophets, 21 but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil. 23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

Gospel Reading:  John 1:6-8, 19-28
In this “Year of Mark” we will occasionally hear from John’s Gospel, since Mark is the shortest of the Gospels. Our reading this morning is the gospel writer’s account of John the Baptist. First come words from the “prologue” (the opening poem of the Gospel), placing John in the context of the Word becoming flesh. John the Baptist is then portrayed as a witness, attesting to the truth of what he has seen (a very important theme in John). Note the use of the word “Jews” in verse 19, the first of many times John will use this term. Usually John uses it as shorthand for the religious and cultural authorities. It rarely refers to all the people.  Remember Jesus and his followers were all Jews themselves.

1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said. 24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.


The Scripture quotations (except for the canticle and the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm and the Canticle translations are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are by Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.epiphanyesources.com , copyright © 2017.  All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use, with attribution.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Advent 2B Readings & Commentaries

In the midst of the catastrophe and despair...Isaiah comes to speak an astounding word of “good tidings” (gospel).

1st Reading:  Isaiah 40:1-11
In the midst of the catastrophe and despair of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the people in a foreign land, the voice of “Second” Isaiah comes to speak an astounding word of “good tidings” (gospel).  God is neither defeated nor dead.  God is “back” with words of comfort, hope and restoration.

40:1 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice cries out:  “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 6 A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. 9 Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10 See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
Our psalm shares the vision of Isaiah 40: a new shalom, a time of peace (wholeness) not just for Israel but for all creation.  In glorious language and imagery, the restoration is spoken into being. The nouns used in verse ten are among the most significant in biblical thought, and in Hebrew their meaning is rich:  ḥesed (mercy, steadfast love) and ‘emet (truth), ṣedāqâ (righteousness, justice) and shālôm (peace, well-being).

1       You have been gracious to your land, O Lord, *
                  you have restored the good fortunes of Jacob.
2       You have forgiven the iniquity of your people *
                  and blotted out all their sins.
8       I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, *
                  for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
                  and to those who turn their hearts to him.
9       Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, *
                  that his glory may dwell in our land.
10     Mercy and truth have met together; *
                  righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
11     Truth shall spring up from the earth, *
                  and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
12     The Lord will indeed grant prosperity, *
                  and our land will yield its increase.
13     Righteousness shall go before him, *
              and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

2nd Reading:  2 Peter 3:8-15a
By the time Second Peter is written, the followers of Jesus are already uncertain about Jesus’ promised return.  Why is it taking so long?  The answer begins with an illusion to Scripture:  Psalm 90:4 (“For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past”).  God’s time is not our time, and we should be grateful if it seems like there is a delay.  It is for our salvation, giving time to us for repentance and faithfulness.

3:8 Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. 11 Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? 13 But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. 14 Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; 15a and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 1:1-8
To open his story, Mark reaches back to Second Isaiah for a word to describe it:  “gospel,” or “good news/good tidings.”  It was also a word used in Roman political propaganda of the day, announcing military victories and other political “triumphs.”  This good news is a declaration of a new state of affairs initiated by God, first announced by John the Baptist.  The quote is actually a compilation of Isaiah 40:3 with Exodus 23:20 and Malachi 3:1, thus conjuring up the first prophet, Moses, and the last, Malachi.  In addition, John is clothed as the great Elijah (2Kings 1:8).  Mark wants us to know something new and BIG is happening here!

1:1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; 3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” 4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”


The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are by Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.epiphanyesources.com , copyright © 2017.  All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use, with attribution.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Advent 1B Readings & Commentaries

Apocalyptic writing is about the end of time. It is usually heavily symbolic, and it often depicts a very simplistic picture of good vs. evil.  It typically comes out of communities that are under great stress, whose identity and existence is uncertain. 

1st Reading:  Isaiah 64:1-9
The Book of Isaiah contains three related yet distinct voices.  First Isaiah (chs. 1-39) was written just prior to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple and the taking of many of the Jews into exile in Babylon.  Second Isaiah (chs. 40-55) is written near the end of the time of exile, announcing a homecoming.  Third Isaiah (ch. 56-66) is from the period after the return, during the re-founding of Jewish faith and society. Chapters 63—66 show signs of division within the community and a longing for unity and forward vision. The two strong metaphors at the end of this reading—“our father” and “our potter”—make clear that Israel must be totally reliant on God for their present and their future.

64:1 O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence—2 as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! 3 When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 4 From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. 5 You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. 6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. 7 There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. 8 Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. 9 Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.

Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
Our psalm today is a communal lament, calling on God as Shepherd to deliver the people from their enemies, with the plaintive refrain, “Restore us, O God of hosts….” This psalm may very well have its origins in the period of exile in Babylon.

1   Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; *
           shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.
2   In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, *
           stir up your strength and come to help us.
3   Restore us, O God of hosts; *
           show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
4   O Lord God of hosts, *
           how long will you be angered
           despite the prayers of your people?
5   You have fed them with the bread of tears; *
           you have given them bowls of tears to drink.
6   You have made us the derision of our neighbors, *
           and our enemies laugh us to scorn.
7   Restore us, O God of hosts; *
           show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
16 And so will we never turn away from you; *
           give us life, that we may call upon your Name.
17 Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, *
           the son of man you have made so strong for yourself.
18 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; *
           show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

2nd Reading:  1 Corinthians 1:3-9
The first Sunday of Advent wants to renew in us our longing for what here St. Paul calls, “the revealing of our Lord” and “the day of our Lord.”  What is necessary in the meantime is that we seek to be enriched and strengthened in our relationship with Christ, relying on God’s faithfulness, which we can best know in our fellowship with one another.  The word in Greek translated “fellowship” is one of the most important words in all of Paul’s writing:  koinonia (also translated as “communion, “participation,” or “sharing.” See also 1 Cor 10:16, Galatians 2:9, Philippians 2:1 and others.

1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5 for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind—6 just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you—7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 13:24-37
In the New Testament, apocalyptic imagery is present in each of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke) as well as in the Book of Revelation. Apocalyptic writing is about the end of time. It is usually heavily symbolic, and it often depicts a very simplistic picture of good vs. evil.  It typically comes out of communities that are under great stress, whose identity and existence is uncertain.  Its ultimate intention is to give such communities hope.  This portion of Mark’s “Little Apocalypse” (13:1-37) includes two short parables, “the fig tree,” and “the man on a journey.”  They serve to remind us of the blessing that awaits us and our need to keep awake, be watchful and ready.

13:24 Jesus said, “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 28 From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”


The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are by Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.epiphanyesources.com , copyright © 2017.  All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use, with attribution.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Last Sunday after Pentecost, 2017: Proper 29A

1st Reading:  Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
After criticizing Israel’s shepherds (kings) in 34:1-10, God proclaims himself as the good shepherd who will re-gather a flock that has been scattered and abused. Among the sheep there will be some in need of judgment. The sheep need to be “fed with justice,” meaning that they must both be re-taught just living and are in need of justice given their past abuse by the bad shepherds. Finally, in line with the theme of shepherd and sheep, there will be a ruler in David’s line to come, David being with whom the shepherd image began.

34:11 For thus says the Lord God:  I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12 As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice. 20 Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.  21 Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, 22 I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.

Psalm 100
Psalm 100 is the quintessential psalm of thanksgiving. It has long been a fixture in Morning Prayer in the tradition of The Book of Common Prayer, where it is known as “The Jubilate” (see pp. 45, 82). Notice the metaphor of sheep, of frequent use in the Hebrew Scriptures (see especially Psalm 23 and today’s first reading).

1   Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; *
                  serve the Lord with gladness
                  and come before his presence with a song.
2   Know this: The Lord himself is God; *
                  he himself has made us, and we are his;
                  we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
3   Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
     go into his courts with praise; *
                  give thanks to him and call upon his Name.
4   For the Lord is good;
     his mercy is everlasting; *
                  and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

Or this

Psalm 95:1-7
Psalm 95 is one of a series psalms (Beginning with Psalm 93) to praise God in his role as Creator and King. It has long been a fixture in Morning Prayer in the tradition of The Book of Common Prayer, where it is known as “The Venite” (see pp. 44, 82).

1   Come, let us sing to the Lord; *
                let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.
2   Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving *
                and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.
3   For the Lord is a great God, *
                and a great King above all gods.
4   In his hand are the caverns of the earth, *
                and the heights of the hills are his also.
5   The sea is his, for he made it, *
                and his hands have molded the dry land.
6   Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, *
                and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
7   For he is our God,
     and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. *
                Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

2nd Reading:  Ephesians 1:15-25
This passage may reflect an early Christian hymn, proclaiming the exaltation of Christ over the whole creation, including the Church.  Like in our first reading, at the end is emphasized that we remain his Body on earth.  In us lies the mission of his purpose to “fill all in all,” that is, as the Catechism of The Book of Common Prayer says, “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (p. 855).

1:15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Gospel Reading  Matthew 25:31-46
The last of the parables in Matthew’s Gospel, often called the parable of the sheep and the goats, might be better termed, “The Judgment of the Nations.” That alone is an important detail of the story. It is “the nations” that are being judged, not individuals. There is also the implication that this parable is intended for the Gentiles (whereas the previous parable was meant for the Jews, or at least their leaders). “The nations” is the same word that will end this Gospel (the disciples being sent to “the nations,” 28:19). The main point, however, will certainly be for all Jesus’ followers: our treatment of one another is our treatment of Jesus himself.

25:31 [Jesus said,] “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”


The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.

Advent & Christmas at Home

Advent

Prayer for Light

Leader           Light and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord.            (The sign of the cross may be made)
All                 Thanks be to God.

Leader           God be with you.
All                 And also with you.
Leader           Let us pray.
Kindle in our hearts, O Lord, the flame of love that is never overcome, that it may burn within us and shed its light on those around us, and that by its light we may have a vision of the holy city, where lives the true and eternal light, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Other prayers appropriate to use in place of the above can be found in the BCP, pp. 211-212).

The appropriate number of candles on the Advent wreath are lighted.  The household Grace follows, if this is mealtime.  The Bible Reading and discussion may occur during a meal or afterward.

Bible Reading
A passage of Scripture is read, using the scheme on the reverse side, or from the Daily Office readings
 (which can be found in the BCP, beginning on p. 937 (we are beginning Year Two).

The reading may be discussed.  The following simple format can be used:
v  Each person share a word, image or phrase from the passage that especially caught their attention and why they think it did so.
v  Each person shares some way in which the above touches their life.

Closing Prayers

Leader      The night is far spent, the day draws near.
All            Let us walk in the light while we have the light.
Leader      Maranatha.
All            Come, Lord Jesus.

Leader      Let us pray.

A time of free prayer of both intercessions and thanksgivings.

The Lord’s Prayer

The Peace
Advent Resources

The Blessing of an Advent Wreath

Bless, O Lord, our wreath of candles and greens, and, as we use it to mark the time from now to the celebration of your birth, guide us by its light to prepare our hearts to receive you again.  We pray in your holy Name.  Amen.

Setting Up the Crèche
v  Set up the nativity set sometime during the first three weeks of Advent.  Put only the animals in place to emphasize that this was first their home.  The shepherds could be nearby, and Mary and Joseph traveling toward Bethlehem.  Save both the baby and the wise men for later.
v  On the Fourth Sunday of Advent Mary and Joseph arrive and are placed in the set.
v  Christmas Eve add the baby Jesus; Christmas morning, the Shepherds.  Also get out the wise men and set them at a distance from the set, and, during the 12 days of Christmas, each day move them a bit closer until they arrive on the Eve of the Epiphany (January 5).

The Blessing of a Christmas Tree

The tree may be blessed before it is decorated by placing a single apple on it and recalling the story of Eden.

God of Adam and Eve, God of all our ancestors, we praise you for this tree.  It stirs a memory of paradise, and brings a foretaste of heaven.  Send your Child, the flower of the root of Jesse, to restore your good earth to the freshness of creation.  Then every tree of the forest will clap its hands, and all creation will bless you from these shining branches.  Bless this tree and the time we spend around it this holy season.  All glory be yours, now and for ever.  Amen.

Alternate Readings
If Forward Day by Day (the Daily Office Lectionary) is not used.

Week 1:  Isaiah’s Visions
           Isaiah 6:1-8; Isaiah 9:2-7; Isaiah 11:1-10; Isaiah 35:1-10; Isaiah 40:1-11
Week 2:  John the Baptist
           Malachi 3:1-4, Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-6, John 1:29-42
Week 3:  Abraham & Sarah; Elizabeth & Zechariah
           Genesis 12:1-4a; Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Luke 1:5-25; Luke 1:57-66; Luke 1:67-80
Week 4:  Mary & Joseph
           Luke 1:26-38; Luke 1:39-56

Gift Giving
What about spreading your gift giving out.  1st, a small gift on St. Nicholas Day; 2nd another gift or gifts on Christmas Day; 3rd one last gift on Epiphany (January 6).


Christmas Day through The Epiphany

Prayer for Light

Leader           Light and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord.            (The sign of the cross may be made)
All                 Thanks be to God.

Leader           God be with you.
All                 And also with you.
Leader           Let us pray.
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. Amen.

Other prayers that can be used for the above can be found in the BCP, pp. 212-214 & pp. 237-238.

Bible Reading
A passage of Scripture is read, using the scheme on the reverse side, or from the Daily Office readings
 (which can be found in the BCP, beginning on p. 937 (we are beginning Year Two).

The reading may be discussed.  The following simple format can be used:
v  Each person share a word, image or phrase from the passage that especially caught their attention and why they think it did so.
v  Each person shares some way in which the above touches their life.

Closing Prayers

Leader      Joy to the world!
All            The Lord has come!
Leader      Jesus has been born for us.
People       Come let us adore him.

A time of free prayer may be had, encouraging both intercessions and thanksgivings.

The Lord’s Prayer

The Peace

Leader      The peace of Christ be always with you.
All            And also with you.



Christmas Resources

Alternate Readings

Christmas Eve/Day:  Luke 2:1-20 (can be divided 1-14 & 15-20)
Feast Days:
St. Stephen’s Day (12/26):  Acts 6:8—7:3, 51-60
St. John’s Day (12/27):  1 John 1:1-9
Holy Innocent’s Day (12/28):  Matthew 2:13-18
Holy Name Day (1/1):  Luke 2:15-21
Other Days:
John 1:1-14; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23; Luke 2:22-40; Luke 2:41-52
The Epiphany (1/6):  Matthew 2:1-12


The Blessing of a Home at Epiphany
Chalk is used (that may have been blessed at the Epiphany Service at Church) to mark the following on the door of the home:

           20   +   C   +   M   +   B   +   18
The C-M-B stand for both the legendary names of the Magi—Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar—and also the Latin words “Christus, mansionem benedicat” (“Christ, bless the house”).

Once the marking is done, all say this rhyme
Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar!
Though the spring seems very far,
Oe’r us has risen a star.
Though the cold grows stronger,
Now the days grow longer.
Though the world loves night,
Christ is born our light.

Then inside the home, the following blessing is said.
Visit, O blessed Lord, this home with the gladness of your presence, Bless all who live here with the gift of your love; and grant that they may manifest your love [to each other and] to all whose lives they touch. May they grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you; guide, comfort, and strengthen them; and preserve them in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and for ever. Amen.

A candle may be carried to each room in the house, incense burned, and water may be sprinkled in each room to further the blessing.

When all is complete, the Song of Mary may be said (BCP, p. 119).


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