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Worship, Prayer and Bible Study Resources

Christmas 1, Year C, White


Jesus teaches in the TempleIntroduction

The Lectionary takes us on a strange journey this year. Having just celebrated the birth of Christ, we now fast forward to the one story in the Scriptures from Jesus’ childhood – when his parents forgot him in the Temple. Then, with next week being Epiphany, we go back in time again, to the visit of the magi ! We are told that the family of Jesus went to the temple every year and we are told that Jesus was 12 years old. This is a significant episode from the childhood of Jesus, and it reminds us just how Jewish Jesus really was.

This is an important story of Jesus growing up and coming to a realisation of who he was and what was important in his life. There is a growing sense of identity and he uses the words ‘my father.’
We are also told that it was 'after three days' they found him in the temple. I suspect that nobody would have been able to read those word without thinking about the death and resurrection of Jesus. Here Luke is embedding the mission of Jesus to suffer death into the earliest sense of his development and identity. Jesus is growing and taking upon himself the responsibilities for which he has been born. This is an example for us as we consider our own calling and God’s expectations. 

Jesus wasn’t overwhelmed by the temple he was growing in a sense of his divine work. As we move on from Christmas and into the New Year. May we all be about our Father’s business to discover how we can play our part in working our the values of the Kingdom in our world. 


Opening Verse of Scripture   Psalm 148 v 11 - 13

Kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and maidens, old men and children.  Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendour is above the earth and the heavens.


Collect Prayer for the Day—Before we read we pray

Almighty God, who wonderfully created us in your own image and yet more wonderfully restored us through your Son Jesus Christ: grant that, as he came to share in our humanity, so we may share the life of his divinity; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. Methodist Worship & Common Worship

Radiant God, in Jesus Christ your light shines in our darkness, giving joy in our sorrow and revealing your presence in our loneliness. Fill our hearts with your light that in the darkness of this world our lives may shine with your eternal splendour; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  Methodist Worship

God in Trinity, eternal unity of perfect love, gather the nations to be one family, and draw us into your holy life, through the birth of Emmanuel, our Lord Jesus Christ   Common Worship Shorter Collect

First Bible Reading 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26

But Samuel was ministering before the LORD--a boy wearing a linen ephod. Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, "May the LORD give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the LORD." Then they would go home. And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favour with the LORD and with men.

Second Reading  Colossians Chapter 3:12-17

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Gospel Reading Luke Chapter 2:41-52

Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they travelled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.

Post Communion Prayer

Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son shared at Nazareth the life of an earthly home: help your Church to live as one family, united in love and obedience, and bring us all at last to our home in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Commentary

A Holy Family

When I was 11, I travelled each day to school on the famous ferry across the Mersey. It was wonderful and looking back I wished it could have lasted for longer, each day was an adventure. Of course then it was considered much safer for children, nowadays I we can hardly think about letting children out of our sight. It might seem that there are far too many characters who prey upon children, what is perhaps more true is that now we are more aware of the dangers than ever were and we are trying to close the loopholes which have allowed people to operate so freely in our communities for years. I am sure that most parents have some idea how Mary and Joseph would have felt when Jesus went missing. When something so precious as a child is lost the sense of desperation can be intense.

I am fairly sure how I would have reacted if I found a missing child and they replied in the way that Jesus did to his parents! Instead it is Jesus who issues a rebuke to his parents. It is clear that at the time when his parents found him, Jesus was already aware of a destiny that was unlike other children. He was already drawn to God’s work and his special mission.

Raising children has never been easy in any culture. Sometimes the only thing that parents can do is to ponder the mystery and hope the child will (continue to) grow in wisdom, maturity, and favour among human beings and God.

According to Deuteronomy 16 v16, every Jewish male was required to appear before the Lord (in Jerusalem) to make an offering three times a year: Passover, which commemorates the deliverance from Egypt; Pentecost, which commemorates the giving of the Law on Sinai; and Booths (or Tabernacles) which recalls the forty-year sojourn in the wilderness. Today’s gospel reading shows Jesus’ family in the company of other devout Jews fulfilling the requirement of the Law during the Feast of Passover.

As his parents bring the child Jesus on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Jesus finds himself in the great Temple and in the midst of teachers. Without His parents knowledge, when they leave Jesus stays behind in Jerusalem. Its only when they can’t find Him among their friends and family they search the whole caravan, eventually returning to Jerusalem to look for Him there. Eventually they find Him in the Temple with a group of adult teachers (doctors) discussing matters with them on, at least, equal terms. It seems safe to assume that Jesus has made the transition into the adult world at this stage in His life. But the transition has consequences that are evident in Jesus' dialogue with Mary. Mary’s irritation, expressed in her question, "Son, why have you treated us like this?" is perfectly understandable. Jesus is (now) supposed to begin to behave like a responsible, adult male but clearly told no-one of His intentions to remain in the Temple and as such His behaviour is irresponsible and disrespectful. Jesus replies in the plural to both Mary and Joseph, "Did you not know . . .?" Male maturity in the Mediterranean world entails becoming liberated from the female control that characterizes early childhood. For Jesus it was also a transition in obedience from His earthly father, Joseph, to His heavenly Father. For Mary and Joseph this Passover journey involved more than a trip to Jerusalem for a religious festival, they were to "pass over" to new ways of understanding who they and Jesus was and who He would become. For while Jesus was (and would always be) the son of Mary and his foster father Joseph, he was most profoundly the Son of God who "must he in His Father's house." Paul in Colossians invites us too to "pass over" to a deeper understanding of who we are, God's chosen people, called to love one another as members of God's family.

Biblical scholars tend to classify the story of Jesus at the Temple as a "legend". This does not necessarily mean that the incident is wholly unhistorical, but that its purpose is not necessarily purely historical. So why did Luke include it in his gospel? The story about the Holy Family’s pilgrimage to the Temple gives an insight into their devout adherence to the Jewish law and the family structure which provided the environment in which Jesus would develop as a child, just as Samuel had developed in our Old Testament reading. Jesus’ development was a critical factor which laid the earthly foundations which would enable Him to fulfil His role as the eschatological prophet and the bringer of redemption to Israel and the wider world. The first reading tells the story of a young boy in "the temple of the Lord." Samuel's barren mother, Hannah, had made a vow to God that if she should have a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord's service. It is in fulfilment of this vow that Samuel is brought to the Temple where he will now live and study under the tutelage of the priest, Eli. In the gospel reading another male child is brought by his family to the Temple to fulfil religious obligations; both will be dedicated to the Lord's service, even from youth.  Sam Cappleman
 

Meditation

The writings of St. Paul are insistent and urgent: Christ is strategic to the world. The birth and life of the Lord Jesus are not just more of those events that might or might not have happened. They are the fulcrum of human destiny. By the coming of Jesus we are delivered from the law, and we become adopted children. We are no longer slaves, but heirs. And this is by God's design. Jesus is how God blesses us, more than Moses might have imagined. In his face God shines upon us and is gracious to us. In him God reveals eternal kindness and wishes us lasting peace. In him we know God's name and appearance and attitude. The blessing that the Lord gave to Moses for the Israelites is the blessing that God gives to all humankind, the blessing of the adopting parent who wants only our joy: "May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace."
John Kavanaugh, S. J. of Saint Louis University
 

Hymns

  • Brightest and best
  • Make me a channel of your peace
  • Lord of all hopefulness
  • Thou didst leave thy throne
  • Christians awake
  • Unto us a boy is born
  • Born in the night
  • On Christmas Night 


 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Let the door of our heart be always open to you, O Lord, that we may mark your entrance, embrace your presence, hear your voice, seek your strength and hold fast to you for ever. Amen.Paul Heath (1599-1643)

With the angels and saints, each day and each night, each shade and each light, I bend my knee in the eye of the Father who created me, in the eye of the Son who redeemed me, in the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me. In love and affection, in wisdom and grace, in love and in fear, for ever and ever. Amen. Gaelic Prayer to the Trinity

O God, all holy one, you are our Mother and our Father and we are your children. Open our eyes and our hearts so that we may be able to discern your work in the universe. And be able to see Your features in every one of Your children. May we learn that there are many paths but all lead to You. Help us to know that you have created us for family, for togetherness, for peace, for gentleness, for compassion, for caring, for sharing. May we know that You want us to care for one another as those who know that they are sisters and brothers, members of the same family, Your family, the human family. Help us to beat our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks, so that we may be able to live in peace and harmony, wiping away the tears from the eyes of those who are less fortunate than ourselves. And may we know war no more, as we strive to be what You want us to be: Your children. Amen
Desmond M. Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa

We thank you Lord, that we are citizens of a world made up of different races. Your grace touches us all, whatever our race and colour. We rejoice in the richness of our cultures, our music and dance, our folklore and legends. We thank you for all these gifts. We delight in the joy they bring to our lives. Amen. (Women of Brazil)

The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the eternal covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight; and may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen
 

Additional Resources

Some old Christmas messages

Archbishop of Canterbury Christmas Message 2012

Recently on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show the archbishop spoke about the use of social media by church clergy, including the Pope on Twitter. The Archbishop has used You Tube for his Christmas message.

 

'It's a slightly strange way to start a Gospel you might think. We expect something a bit more like the beginning of the other Gospels: the story of Jesus's birth perhaps or his ancestry, or the story of Jesus's arrival on the public scene. But at the beginning of St John's Gospel what St John does is to frame his whole story against an eternal background. And what he's saying there is this: as you read this Gospel, as you read the stories about what Jesus does, be aware that whatever he does in the stories you're about to read is something that's going on eternally, not just something that happens to be going on in Palestine at a particular date. So when Jesus brings an overflow of joy at a wedding, when Jesus reaches out to a foreign woman to speak words of forgiveness and reconciliation to her, when Jesus opens the eyes of a blind man or raises the dead, all of this is part of something that is going on forever. The welcome of God, the joy of God, the light of God, the life of God - all of this is eternal. What Jesus is showing on Earth is somehow mysteriously part of what is always true about God. And that's why it's central to this beginning of John's Gospel - that he says the light shines in the darkness and the darkness doesn't swallow it up. How could the darkness swallow it up? If these works of welcome and forgiveness, of light and life and joy, are always going on, then actually nothing can ever make a difference to them. And that's why at the climax of this wonderful passage, St John says, the Word of God, the outpouring of God's life, actually became flesh and blood. And we saw it - we saw in this human life the eternal truth about God. We saw an eternal love, an eternal relationship; we saw an eternal joy and a light and a life. So as we read these stories we know that nothing at all can make a difference to the truth, the reality, they bring into the world. This is indeed the truth; this is where life is to be found. And this explains why at the end of St John's Gospel, he famously says that if we tried to spell out all that this means, there would be no end of the books that could be written. So in the light of that overflowing joy and everlasting truth, I wish you every blessing and happiness for this Christmas and the year ahead."    + Archbishop Rowan

 

2006 Message from the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

The carols we sing and the prayers we say around Christmas carry two important messages which at first sight look a bit contradictory. Jesus is described as 'the desire of all nations', picking up the words of Haggai 2.7; he is what everyone has been waiting for, the one that everybody on earth longs to meet. All human life finds its centre and its goal in Jesus.
And then we remember that there was 'no room in the inn', and we sing carols about how 'the busy world' had no space for Christ, and how, from the very beginning, the Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head. No-one wants to meet him; he is on the edge, not at the centre.
This is not a sign of confusion on the part of Christians. If Jesus is truly divine as well as truly human, then we always have to face the fact that he will not fit into our world tidily - even when we want him to.
God's purposes for the world are likely to be mysterious to our small minds; and in order to go along with those purposes, we shall have to change in ways that can frighten and panic us. No wonder that we push Jesus to the edge and try to avoid the implication of what he says and does.
Yet we can't get away. God has made us in such a way that we only become really human when we are in harmony with his life and love. His will, his presence, his personal being is indeed what we most deeply want. It's as if we have to make a very long journey to find these deep places in ourselves, a journey for which we need courage and patience.
So what looks like the edge is really the centre. Jesus is both a frightening stranger and the one who speaks to us with more intimacy and immediacy than any other being. Our Christmas stories and songs are about how long it takes to find ourselves, the selves God made.
T.S. Eliot's poem about the journey of the magi imagines the three wise men asking 'Were we led all that way for birth or death?' And the answer is ‘both'; so much of what we think we want and what we think will help us or make us safe has to die; and what comes to birth is the self God wants, the self that begins to look like Jesus, the true image of God in humanity.
We're living through a time of great uncertainty and disturbance in our Church. There is no quick solution to the disputes that divide us, and we are all, surely, grieved at how these disputes take us away from the task of sharing the good news. But at Christmas we are reminded of truths that should unsettle everyone in the Church - not just 'liberals' or ‘conservatives'. We are all brought before the same Christ and told that he is both the one we most need and long for and the one we shall find most strange and troubling. We are all urged to begin again the long journey into our hearts to find the true centre. We shan't emerge from that journey with better arguments with which to defeat opponents or better schemes for saving the Church. We emerge with a greater fear and wonder - like those who in the gospel stories first met the newborn child; and we turn to get on with the hard business of living in a divided and imperfect church with just a little more awareness of the overwhelming mystery with which we deal and the searching questions it puts to each one of us. Before becoming preoccupied with our neighbour’s failings, we must, in the presence of the Christ child, look first to our own birth and death; to where we see the centre and the edge; to how we find God's centre, not just the centre of our own concerns and anxieties.
‘The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid..."’ ‘The shepherds said to one another,
"Let's go to Bethlehem and see".'

 

 

 

Christmas messages
From the President of the Methodist Conference
Revd Graham Carter,


“Christmas is a down to earth celebration. We celebrate a God who is not far off but one who is deeply involved in human life. Christmas is not about fairy tales and far-fetched beliefs. It is about the realities of human living and the acknowledgement that God is with us, even in the dark and dingy places.

“There are those who would hide the celebration of Christmas. Afraid of imagined dispute and conflict they want to have everyone celebrate ‘Winterval’ or ‘Winterfest’. These are not people who have a genuine interest in equality. They are people who either want to enforce a kind of sameness or are afraid of religion. Genuinely religious people of all faiths are happy about celebrating Christmas, seeing it not as divisive but enriching the field of faith. As Christians we would not want to stop Jews celebrating Hanukkah, Muslims celebrating Eid or Hindus celebrating Diwali. Nor do people of other religions want to stop the celebration of Christmas.

“Over the centuries, Christianity has shown a remarkable ability to use existing festivals and imbue them with deeper meaning. The Church took over a Roman celebration to celebrate the birth of Christ in mid-winter, and in Britain we still use the pagan name for Easter. Now that some people want to go back and de-Christianise Christmas, to secularise it or re-institute pagan ceremonies, we ought to be more particular about making sure ours is a truly Christian celebration. We should resist attempts to trivialise an understanding that brings a deeper meaning than simply the rising of the sun in the winter sky once more.

“The Christmas message reminds us that Christianity is a world-affirming religion, not world-denying. In our Christmas story, God becomes human in a very ordinary way. The stories of Mary, the shepherds and the wise men may sound exceptional, but in their telling they emphasise how ordinary the event was. Mary’s song, the Magnificat, reminds us that she was from a lowly family; there wasn’t even a proper bed for Jesus when he was born; shepherding was among the lowest of occupations, yet the shepherds were the first to be given the news of the birth; the wise men thought Jesus would have been born in a palace, but even with all their wisdom, they got it wrong.

“The good news of Christmas is that the most ordinary of people are counted special in God’s eyes and they have a special purpose. Well-being and good life do not depend on status or wealth or possessions. This means all of human life is valuable and the charitable acts so popular at Christmas are not just out of the kindness of people’s hearts, but express the reality of how things are supposed to be. ‘Winterval’ and ‘Winterfest’ give rise to selfish indulgence. Christmas celebrates the good life for all.”


The Archbishop of Canterbury—Christmas Message

'He comes the prisoners to release, In Satan's bondage held.' These are words from one of my favourite Advent hymns, 'Hark the glad sound!' And they draw our minds towards an aspect of Christmas that is often neglected because we prefer some of the 'softer' elements in the story.

Jesus of Nazareth was born, lived, died and rose because human beings were not free. Since the dawn of human history, men and women had been trapped – even the very best of them – by the heritage of suspicion and alienation towards God and fear of each other. They had been caught up in the great rebellion against God that began even before human history, the revolt of God's creatures against God out of pride and self-assertion. Satan, the fallen angel, stands as a sign of this primordial tragedy, showing that even the most highly endowed being can be corrupted by self-assertion. All of the intelligence and spiritual dignity belonging to the angels did not stop Lucifer from the ultimate madness of rejecting the God in whose presence he stood.
And this corruption of intelligence and dignity spreads like an epidemic through the universe. We know and sense that we are living in something less than truth or justice, but don't know how to get out of the trap. The birth and life of Jesus don't first of all change our ideas – they change what's actually possible for us. They set us free.

They set us free by re-establishing our dignity on a new footing. Because God himself, God the Son, has taken our human nature to be his, every human being is touched by that transforming fact. The epidemic of rebellion is countered by something almost like a benign 'infection', the touch of God communicated to human nature. We still have to choose to co-operate with God – but he has opened the door for us first by re-creating human nature in Jesus Christ.

In the coming year, we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. This was achieved not by enlightened and progressive European intellectuals convinced theoretically of the equality of human beings, but by Christian people who were passionately persuaded of the dignity of lives touched by the incarnate Word of God, people who knew that slavery was both a terrible affront to the dignity of the slave - and a terrible wound to the spiritual health and integrity of those who owned slaves, and who in virtue of that fact were more deeply enslaved themselves by sin and greed.

Christmas sets us free; and if the memory of William Wilberforce and the great campaigners against slavery means anything, it sets us free to set others free. It breaks open the prison of blind selfishness, it challenges the lazy way in which we take for granted the misery of others as a background to our lives. So Christmas now should prompt us to ask, 'Whose misery are we taking for granted and not noticing? Where are today's slaves?' The coming year will have a lot of events that should help us look for answers to these questions – though most of us know some of the answers: child soldiers, victims of sex trafficking, people who have lived for decades in an environment of ceaseless violence or who have lost their homes or countries through this violence.

'He comes the prisoners to release.' Let him come again into this world through our own commitment to 'set all free'; and let us give thanks that we are set free by Jesus in all he is and says and does, from Bethlehem to Calvary and beyond.

Our glad hosannas, Prince of peace,
Thy welcome shall proclaim;
And heaven's eternal arches ring
With Thy beloved name.

Every blessing and happiness to you in this season.
+Rowan Cantuar:
 

The Archbishop of Canterbury Christmas Message 2006

'He comes the prisoners to release, In Satan's bondage held.' These are words from one of my favourite Advent hymns, 'Hark the glad sound!' And they draw our minds towards an aspect of Christmas that is often neglected because we prefer some of the 'softer' elements in the story.

Jesus of Nazareth was born, lived, died and rose because human beings were not free. Since the dawn of human history, men and women had been trapped – even the very best of them – by the heritage of suspicion and alienation towards God and fear of each other. They had been caught up in the great rebellion against God that began even before human history, the revolt of God's creatures against God out of pride and self-assertion. Satan, the fallen angel, stands as a sign of this primordial tragedy, showing that even the most highly endowed being can be corrupted by self-assertion. All of the intelligence and spiritual dignity belonging to the angels did not stop Lucifer from the ultimate madness of rejecting the God in whose presence he stood.

And this corruption of intelligence and dignity spreads like an epidemic through the universe. We know and sense that we are living in something less than truth or justice, but don't know how to get out of the trap. The birth and life of Jesus don't first of all change our ideas – they change what's actually possible for us. They set us free.

They set us free by re-establishing our dignity on a new footing. Because God himself, God the Son, has taken our human nature to be his, every human being is touched by that transforming fact. The epidemic of rebellion is countered by something almost like a benign 'infection', the touch of God communicated to human nature. We still have to choose to co-operate with God – but he has opened the door for us first by re-creating human nature in Jesus Christ.

In the coming year, we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. This was achieved not by enlightened and progressive European intellectuals convinced theoretically of the equality of human beings, but by Christian people who were passionately persuaded of the dignity of lives touched by the incarnate Word of God, people who knew that slavery was both a terrible affront to the dignity of the slave - and a terrible wound to the spiritual health and integrity of those who owned slaves, and who in virtue of that fact were more deeply enslaved themselves by sin and greed.

Christmas sets us free; and if the memory of William Wilberforce and the great campaigners against slavery means anything, it sets us free to set others free. It breaks open the prison of blind selfishness, it challenges the lazy way in which we take for granted the misery of others as a background to our lives. So Christmas now should prompt us to ask, 'Whose misery are we taking for granted and not noticing? Where are today's slaves?' The coming year will have a lot of events that should help us look for answers to these questions – though most of us know some of the answers: child soldiers, victims of sex trafficking, people who have lived for decades in an environment of ceaseless violence or who have lost their homes or countries through this violence.



'He comes the prisoners to release.' Let him come again into this world through our own commitment to 'set all free'; and let us give thanks that we are set free by Jesus in all he is and says and does, from Bethlehem to Calvary and beyond.

Our glad hosannas, Prince of peace,
Thy welcome shall proclaim;
And heaven's eternal arches ring
With Thy beloved name.

Every blessing and happiness to you in this season.

+Rowan Cantuar: