Thursday, July 1, 2021

What can we say December 26? 1st after Christmas

    Low attendance warning!! December 26 is Boxing Day, not a day for fighting, but a day to box up gifts to give to the unnoticed people in your world: the mailman, the grocery clerk, the garbage pickup guys. A lovely custom, preachable (if we avoid trivializing the rare, seasonal spurt of kindness which should go on all year). It's also St. Stephen's day - if you think folks are in the mood to hear about the first Christian martyr!! Of course, if you're still doing Christmas in the pulpit, I refer you to my blog, "Preaching Christmas," with loads of illustrative material.

   1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26. Somehow this time zone just after Christmas has an Old Testament feel to me, although I’ve no idea why. Each year, Hannah would take her son a little robe – like a Christmas gift, the bathrobe a child would wear to open gifts, a new outfit for the poor. Samuel is reported to do what Jesus was beginning to do the day after the first Christmas: growing in stature, wisdom and favor with God and the people (echoed in Luke 2:52). I wrote a short chapter on Jesus’ very earliest days as an infant in my book, Birth: The Mystery of Being Born, which I’d commend to you.

   Psalm 148. I preached on this eloquent text a few weeks back, and it could easily be adorned to fit the day after Christmas by riffing on the infant Jesus as the pinnacle and purpose of all the wonders of Creation, or that the universe and the earth were concocted by God to serve as the theater in which God would dazzle and safe us all by becoming flesh in it. Much of my Psalm 148 sermon focused on St. Francis of Assisi. On him, for this day, we could add that he created history’s first manger scene in the village of Grecchio. Imagine no one ever having heard of such a thing – but he gathered the people, friars, animals, and preached a beautiful sermon about Jesus’ first cry sounding like the bleating of a lamb. His tender love for the infant Jesus is ours to emulate.

   Colossians 3:12-17, another lovely text, the one read at my wedding! The “put on…” admonitions work well with the little robe Hannah delivered to Samuel, or the swaddling clothes in which the Christchild was wrapped. Do we invite people to think about any clothing they might have received for Christmas as these holy traits of compassion, kindness, meekness, forgiveness when they get dressed in the morning? A few years back, we printed this text on little hanging cards for people to drape over their clothing racks, to envision themselves dressing for a holy life - along with Jesus' command to "Go into your closet and pray." Boom. Done. Every day you can please Jesus in this way!

   Luke 2:41-52. How can the lectionary add a dozen years to the boy Jesus in a single day? Fascinating text, but honestly… He’s some sort of prodigy, but let him lie in the manger for a few days at least! The magi haven’t had time to show up yet. All the more reason to go with the Psalm, or Hannah and Samuel, or even the Epistle.

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