By Rev. Jacqueline Jefferson, Pastor, Lutheran Parish of Southern Columbia County

For Columbia-Greene Media

Second Sunday of Christmas + January 3, 2021

Prayer of the Day

Creator God, you fill all the earth with the Light of your Incarnate Word. By your grace, we are empowered to manifest your Light in all we say and do, through Jesus, our Savior and Lord, in your Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

A Reading from the book of the prophet Jeremiah 31:7-14

Thus says the LORD: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O LORD, your people, the remnant of Israel.” See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.” For the LORD has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again. Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the LORD.

We pray Psalm 147:12-20

Worship the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion, who has strengthened the bars of your gates and has blessed your children within you. God has established peace on your borders and satisfies you with the finest wheat. God sends out a command to the earth, a word that runs very swiftly. God gives snow like wool, scattering frost like ashes. God scatters hail like bread crumbs. Who can stand against God’s cold? The LORD sends forth the word and melts them; the wind blows, and the waters flow. God declares the word to Jacob, statutes and judgments to Israel. The LORD has not done so to any other nation; they do not know God’s judgments. Hallelujah!

A Reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

God has established peace on your borders and satisfies you with the finest wheat. God sends out a command to the earth, a word that runs very swiftly. God gives snow like wool, scattering frost like ashes. God scatters hail like bread crumbs. Who can stand against God’s cold? The LORD sends forth the word and melts them; the wind blows, and the waters flow. God declares the word to Jacob, statutes and judgments to Israel. The LORD has not done so to any other nation; they do not know God’s judgments. Hallelujah!

A Reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory

The Holy Gospel, according to St. John 1:1-18

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.

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. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own 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, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ ” From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

Sermon

Even as we shuddered, watching the light of day diminish into the winter solstice, now we hesitantly gaze a bit longer at the lingering sunset, daring to hope for a few more moments of brilliance before nightfall. It is as if Nature contrives each year to remind us that although darkness looms before us, threatening to rob us of our ability to see or hear or sense anything good, ultimately the One who proclaims all Creation “good”, will prevail. And so, as we hear John’s words, naming Jesus as the Light that is coming into the world, we can imagine for ourselves, John’s reiteration of Creation, a momentary return to Genesis, in which we are reminded that all things begun in the first moments of Creation, have been and continue to evolve, in and through and with Jesus. Jesus, who loves us into existence, every moment of every day, in an ongoing dance of drawing us into His Light, all the while reminding us that it is our origin, our Source, and ultimately our Summit. As we conclude the last calendar month of this year of looming darkness, threatening all we know and love, we read these words of John with a newfound appreciation for our purpose in the will of God, and find ourselves still the mainstream of God’s vision for Creation. We are being created to become the Image and Likeness of God. But that is a long and circuitous process. As individuals and as families and churches and nations, united with all who ever lived, and all who will live, we are being drawn inexorably toward the “telos”, the culmination of our existence, to reveal God’s Love, and to live it, in peace, in joy, and in Light. Happy New Year indeed! Amen

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