Below are the readings for the First Sunday after Christmas Day, December 27, 2020.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

During this particular festive season, there are two Sundays after Christmas Day. That doesn’t happen very often. Therefore, if you enjoy Christmas carols, get to church, coronavirus restrictions permitting.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

Isaiah prophesies God’s deliverance of His people but also the fulfilment of the promise of salvation through Jesus Christ. Gentiles — ‘the nations’ — will also be saved. In the version of the Bible that Matthew Henry used, Isaiah 62:2 reads as follows:

And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.

Now on to the reading:

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

61:10 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.

61:11 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.

62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.

62:2 The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.

62:3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Psalm

This is one of the Praise Psalms (145-150). Matthew Henry’s exposition on it is nothing less than stunning and well worth reading, especially during the Christmas season.

Psalm 148

148:1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

148:2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!

148:3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!

148:4 Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!

148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.

148:6 He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

148:7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,

148:8 fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!

148:9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!

148:10 Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!

148:11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!

148:12 Young men and women alike, old and young together!

148:13 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.

148:14 He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD!

Epistle

Paul tells the Galatians that those who follow Jesus are no longer ‘slaves’ to Mosaic law but adopted children of God. Various judaizers beset the Galatians with worries about legalism, saying that they must obey Mosaic law even as Christians. Paul’s verses are a beautiful summary of the Christmas story.

Galatians 4:4-7

4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,

4:5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.

4:6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

4:7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Gospel

Perhaps I am getting old, but the more I read the account of Simeon and Anna seeing the Christ Child at the temple, the more moving it becomes. One cannot imagine what they must have experienced at that moment. Both were elderly. Both devoted their lives to God. The Holy Spirit told Simeon that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. When Simeon says ‘dismissing’ in verse 29, he means that he can now pass from this life ‘in peace’. This took place 40 days after Mary gave birth and had her ritual bath allowing her to resume public worship. The Anglican Communion has a similar ceremony, without the ritual bath, in the Churching of Women. My post makes reference to this chapter in Luke’s Gospel:

The Churching of Women — misogynist or not?

Luke 2:22-40

2:22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord

2:23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”),

2:24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

2:25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.

2:26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

2:27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law,

2:28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

2:29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;

2:30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,

2:31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

2:32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

2:33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.

2:34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed

2:35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed–and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

2:36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,

2:37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.

2:38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

2:39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.

2:40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Contrast Simeon and Anna’s godly reactions to the judgemental bile and wilful hatred that the Sanhedrin — the notional spiritual shepherds of the Jews — heaped upon Jesus during His ministry. Jesus — all divine, all human — knew from the beginning everything that would happen. His inner experience amongst mankind is impossible to put into words.