By Barbara Klugh
Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Psalm 147; Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7; John 1:1-18. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings we hear a song of thanksgiving to God for the vindication and redemption of God’s people in Jerusalem, Paul teaches us that we become children of God through faith in Christ, not through keeping the law, and the gospel of John describes the true identity of Jesus and of his relationship to God.
Isaiah: This reading comes from what is often known as Third Isaiah, chapters 55-66. These chapters are addressed to the people who have returned from exile in Babylon in the sixth century BC.
An unnamed servant, anointed by God, is sent to bring good news to the oppressed and suffering. The servant offers a song of thanksgiving; he says that because the people have turned to back to God, God will “cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.” And then God, speaking through the servant, speaks about the transformation of the community—the righteousness, vindication and salvation of Jerusalem and its people. Israel “shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.”
Psalm: This week’s psalm praises God for his compassion, goodness, and creative power, especially in rebuilding Jerusalem and for gathering the exiles.
Galatians: In Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, he defends himself from attacks against his authority, and defends the gospel against the false teachings of a group of Jewish-Christians. They were teaching that the followers of Jesus needed to observe the rules and regulations of the Law of Moses.
In this week’s passage, Paul equates the law to a disciplinarian or guardian, who in the Greek world was a slave who would escort a child to and from school and oversee their conduct until they came of age. For Paul, the purpose of the law was to serve as a spiritual guardian until Christ came. Now that Christ has come, we are no longer subject to the discipline of the law, for in Christ Jesus we are all children of God through faith.
“When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son”—God’s Son became human so that through his life, death, and resurrection, we might become adopted children of God. We can call, “Abba! Father!” just as Jesus did.
John: Here in the prologue to John’s gospel we have one of the most beautiful passages in all of Scripture—worth memorizing.
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.
Here we glimpse the mystery of the Incarnation. Here we see how “In the beginning” illuminates the story of creation in Genesis 1:1. Jesus already was, because he shares God’s own nature.
Our reading notes that John the Baptist was sent by God to testify to the true light. Other than Jesus, John the Baptist is the only person in John’s gospel described as being sent by God.
Jesus is the Word, the logos, the organizing principle of creation, and everything came into being through the Word. Yet the world did not know him and the world’s people did not accept him. “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.”
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us…full of grace and truth.” The Word became incarnate, God became a human being, while remaining fully God. What a mystery! Yet it is through Jesus that God’s glorious nature is made known to us, and we are given access to the Father.
A note about this and next week’s readings: Although the Episcopal Church has adopted the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) as our official lectionary (as have most of the mainline churches), we have made a few adaptations. The most significant adaption is in our appointed lessons for the First and Second Sundays after Christmas. Unlike our sister denominations, we use the same beautiful readings every year. I doubt anyone could tire of hearing this Good News.