Keyword Search

  • Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company
    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

Christmas 2, Cycle B (2015)

Christ is in control! The lessons give rise to sermons stressing that the newborn Christ overcomes all that is evil and chaotic in the universe. Atonement, Justification by Grace are the central emphases.

Psalm 147:12-20
This is one of the Psalms of Praise [zamar], a hymn praising God for his help. (The concept of praise in ancient Hebrew is associated with singing.) The song echoes themes of Job and Second Isaiah. After a call to praise Yahweh issued to the faithful in Jerusalem (v. 12), confidence is expressed that he will strengthen the bars (piercing objects) of the city’s gates (that is, strengthen the city’s defenses). As a result the people of Jerusalem will be blessed, granted peace [shalom], and feast on rich harvests (vv. 13-14). These themes of security and peace echo Isaiah 60:17-18. We should be reminded that shalom in this Jewish context refers not just to a state in which there is no combat, but to a state of well-being and thriving, to social justice (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, p. 130). Reflecting themes of the Fourth Discourse of Elihu in Job 37:9-11, the psalmist sings of how Yahweh’s word runs swiftly, giving snow and hail (vv. 15-17). The word is said to be sent out and melts what it encounters, for the Lord will make the wind blow and the waters flow (v. 18). This text might be read prophetically as referring to God’s word in creation. This word [dabar] is said to be declared to Jacob, regarding Yahweh’s statutes [choq, that is limits decreed by God] and judgments [mishpat, which in ancient Hebrew refers both to punishment and also a sense of comfort], reminding the people that other nations do not know these judgments of God (vv. 19-20). There seems to be clear allusions in the song here to the conclusion of Moses’ First Address to Israel in Deuteronomy 4:6-8, 12-13.

Application: A sermon on this Psalm will celebrate all the good things God has given and is giving us — peace in the Hebraic sense of well-being, rich harvests and security, not just for the individual but also for the whole of society. Of course there are limits set by God on use of these gifts, and yet these limits (the natural law) are not threats but provide order and comfort. The primary themes of such a sermon are Providence, Social Ethics, and Sanctification.


Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-20
This Apochryphal book deliberately reflects a prayer of Solomon for wisdom recorded in 1 Kings 3:6-9 and 2 Chronicles 1:8-10. It was probably not written by Solomon, but by a Hellenized Jew from Alexandria, perhaps just decades prior to Jesus’ lifetime. The book is written in Greek in the form of a didactic exhortation. But the message is a word of consolation — to help Jews who have been dispersed from the motherland to recognize that they possess true wisdom which surpasses that of the Gentiles.

Wisdom [Sophia in this Greek text, and chokmah in Hebrew] connoted for Old Testament writers the personification of the Wisdom of the Hebraic elders. It might be regarded as Israel’s individualized application of the morality taught to the whole nation (T.W. Manson, ed., A Companion to the Bible, p. 306). With Hellenization (the impact of Greek culture and thought forms on the people of Israel) connections between this understanding and Greek or Roman philosophy developed, so that it began to connote an order of knowledge, related both to language and to what is firstborn of God. These developments indicate how the use of the term logos [Word] in the Prologue of John’s Gospel was an appropriate development in the reinterpretation of the Hebraic concept of wisdom. (Themes like this are evident in the writings of an eminent first-century Alexandrian Jewish rabbi Philo [On the Account of the Word's Creation Given By Moses XLV].)

This text is a hymn testifying to how wisdom delivered Israel from Egypt (v. 15). Personified as a female, this wisdom enters the soul of one of the Lord’s servants and is said to withstand kings with wonders and signs (v. 16; cf. Isaiah 63:11-14). This text might be read as a prophecy of Christ. Wisdom is said to give holy people the reward of their labors, guiding them along a marvelous way and becoming a shelter to them (v. 17). As she brought the people over the Red Sea, drowning their enemies, the righteous are led to praise (vv. 18-20).

Application: If interpreted prophetically as a testimony to Christ, this text could inspire sermons on Christ setting us free (like wisdom delivered Israel from Egypt), to stand up to evil in government, and overcoming evil. The key themes for these suggestions respectively are Justification by Grace, Social Ethics, and the Classic View of the Atonement (Christ overcoming evil). Another possible sermon might be to reflect on female dimensions in God and Christ.

Jeremiah 31:7-14
The text is located in a book of prophecies of the late seventh-early sixth centuries BC prophet of Judah. It was dictated to his aide Baruch. The prophet frequently offers criticism of David’s heirs and the temple leadership, giving more attention to the Sinai covenant (to ways of serving Yahweh which predated the temple cult established by David). This may be related to the fact that Jeremiah was an ancestor of one of David’s high priests, Abiathar, who lost control of the temple and was finally banished (2 Samuel 20:25; 1 Kings 2:26-27).

The lesson is part of a section in Jeremiah called The Book of Consolation (30:1–31:40). These are oracles and poetry speaking of a future restoration of Israel and Judah. Consequently it is likely that this literature dates from a period after the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem in 587 BC. However, this text and others in this section refer to Ephraim (v. 9), one of the northern tribes of Israel after their secession from the Davidic king of Judah in 922 BC. Consequently Old Testament scholars conclude that parts of these oracles (including the one we now consider) were originally addressed to the Northern Kingdom and then expanded by the prophet or an editor to apply to Judah. Rather than being a troubling insight, this loosening of the promises in our text from their original historical context entails that God’s promises are not the result of a last-minute feeling of passion on God’s part but have been part of the divine plan from the outset, are unconditional (Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, pp. 351-352). These themes are evident in the lesson’s rejoicing over the salvation [yasha, or "giving safety to"] of the remnant of Israel from all over the world (vv. 7-8, 10). He is identified as Israel’s Father [ab] (v. 9; Hosea 11:1). Yahweh is prophesied as ransoming [gaal, also translated "to free"] Jacob, redeeming/freeing [padah] the people (v. 11), leading them to become radiant over Yahweh’s goodness [tub] (v. 12). As a result his goodness will be praised, leading to joy and to bounty in the restored homeland (vv. 13-14).

Application: The lesson opens the way to sermons on God (and so Christ) redeeming or freeing the faithful . Justification by Grace or a Classic View of the Atonement (Christ overcoming the forces of evil) will receive most of the attention in these sermons. A related homiletical approach might be to note how for the Old Testament salvation involves freedom (Social Ethics). The praise and joy with which the Psalm concludes and these works of God stimulate keep us firmly grounded in the joy of the Christmas celebration continued this day.

Ephesians 1:3-14
The text is a thanksgiving for blessings showered on the whole created order, offered in a circular letter written by Paul from prison late in his career or by one of his followers who had a hand in assembling a collection of his epistles. The latter prospect is made likely by the fact that the letter includes vocabulary and stylistic characteristics different from the indisputably Pauline writings. It may have been written to and for a later generation of Christians, as the writer claims to have heard of the recipients’ faith and love towards all faithful (1:15). Thanks are offered to God the Father of Christ for blessings showered on us in heavenly places (realities behind and above the material universe) (v. 3). Reference is made to our election [proorizo, predestinate] in Christ before the foundation of the world, an election to holiness (vv. 4-5, 11). In him redemption [apolutrosis, literally "loosing away"] through his blood is given by grace [charis] (vv. 7-8a). With wisdom God is said to have made known to the faithful the mystery of his will set forth in Christ (vv. 8b-9). This will is that in the fullness of time [pleroma ton kairon,an eschatological image] all things in heaven and earth be gathered up in Christ. In him we obtain an inheritance (vv. 10-11). This could refer to the Church as the Body of Christ or to all the world being redeemed in him, and it could also refer to a cosmic Christ whereby all created realities are understood to be absorbed in his deity. The Holy Spirit, said to be given to seal [sphragizo] or as a pledge of our redemption, seems to be given with faith in Christ (vv. 13-14).

Application: Several options present themselves with this text. It provides an opportunity to describe the idea of the Cosmic Christ, that the whole universe is embodied in the exalted Christ and so reflects his love, or that he is present everywhere we go and are. Providence, Creation, and Justification by Grace should be stressed in such sermons. Other possibilities include sermons on the church as Body of Christ or Eschatology.

John 1:(1-9) 10-18
The Prologue of the last of the four Gospels to be written, probably not composed until the last two decades of the first century. It is very different in style in comparison to the other three (so-called Synoptic) Gospels. In fact it is probably based on these earlier gospels. The book has been identified with John the Son of Zebedee, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and this claim was made as long ago as late in the first century by the famed theologian of the early church Irenaeus (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 144). It is likely that it was written by a disciple of John. Hints of that possibility are offered by the first post-biblical church historian Eusebius of Caesarea who claimed that the book was written on the basis of the external facts made plain in the gospel and so John is a “spiritual gospel” (presumably one not based on eyewitness accounts of the author) (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 1, p. 261). Its main agenda was probably to encourage Jewish Christians in conflict with the synagogue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (20:31).

The gospel’s emphasis on the Incarnation (the deity of Jesus Christ) is made evident in that this is a theme of the orologue. The Logos [Word] is said to have been in the beginning and with God, identifying God with the word (vv. 1-2). (If the author’s use of Logos is drawing on Stoic or Greek philosophical suppositions, what is connoted here is that the essence of the word is rationality and that the things of the world that came into being through the word reflect this linguistic rationality. Also see commentary on the Wisdom of Solomon text, above.) All things are said to have come into being through the word. He is the light [phos] of all people which the darkness [skotia, which may correspond to its Hebraic equivalent term choshek, which connotes "oppression") cannot overcome (vv. 3-5). Apart from Christ both the physical and spiritual dimensions of reality would recede into nothingness.

Reference is made to John, who came as a witness to the light, but not himself the light (vv. 6-9). This point may have been to mitigate competition that existed between followers of John and the Christian community to whom the gospel was addressed. The text proceeds to report that the word came into the world, but the world did not know him, that his own people did not accept him. But to all who received Christ it seems that he gave power to become children of God who are born of God and not of human will (vv. 10-13). Then it is proclaimed that the word became flesh and lived among us, full of truth and grace. In testifying to him, John said that the Word was the one who he had said ranks ahead of him (vv. 14-15).

From the fullness of the word it is reported that grace [charis] upon grace (that is a limitless amount of grace) was received (v. 16). The law [nomos] is said to have been given through Moses, but truth and grace come through Jesus Christ (v. 17). No one has seen God, the Johannine author notes. But his only Son who is in the bosom [kolpon] of the Father (in complete communion with him) and has made him known (v. 18).

Application: A number of sermon possibilities present themselves. Sermons on the Cosmic Christ (see Application for Second Lesson) are one possibility. Other include what it means to call Jesus the word (Christology), how like John we are to subordinate ourselves to him (Sanctification), Christ’s conquest of oppression (Atonement and Social Ethics), or his embodiment of salvation by grace.

Leave a Reply

  • Get Your FREE 30-day Trial Subscription to SermonSuite NOW!
    Chris Keating
    The Double-Dog Dare Days of August
    August’s lazy, hazy dog days quickly became a deadly double-dog dare contest between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, the supreme leader of North Korea. Both nations have been at odds with each other for nearly 70 years. During his working golf vacation in New Jersey last week, President Trump responded to North Korea’s rhetorical sword-rattling by launching a verbal preemptive strike of his own.
         Call it the Bedminster bombast, or the putt that rocked Pyongyang. But the duel between the two countries is more than fodder for late-night comedians. It’s a deadly standoff with history-changing repercussions.
         There is no vacation from matters of national security, or the orations of war. Indeed, much of the war of words between Washington and North Korea seems to confirm Jesus’ counsel in Matthew: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” The contrasts between these barbed exchanges and the biblical understanding of peacemaking offers an intriguing opportunity to hear Jesus’ words in a world filled with double-dog (and even triple-dog) dares....more
    Feeding The 5,000
    The assigned Gospel text for this week skips over a couple of sections in Matthew's story. Matthew 14:34-36 cites Jesus' journey to Gennesaret. The crowds of people recognized him immediately and all of the sick came to him for healing. Just a touch of Jesus' garment brought healing to many. The crowd in Gennesaret recognized Jesus. They came to him in their need....more
    Wayne Brouwer
    Religious balkanization
    One dimension of religious life we have in common across faith traditions and denominational lines is the incessant divisiveness that split our seemingly monolithic communities into dozens of similar yet tenaciously varied subgroups. A Jewish professor of psychology said of his tradition, "If there are ten Jewish males in a city we create a synagogue. If there are eleven Jewish males we start thinking about creating a competing synagogue."...more
    C. David McKirachan
    Jesus Is Coming, Look Busy
    Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
    I had a parishioner who would walk out of the sanctuary if he saw a djembe (African drum) out in front to be used in worship.  I asked him about it, in a wonderfully pastoral manner, and he told me that things like that didn’t belong in worship.  I said that it was in the bible to praise God with pipes and drums (I think it is).  He told me he didn’t care what the Bible said, he knew where that thing came from and he wouldn’t have it.  I asked him why things from Africa would bother him.  He told me that he knew I was liberal but that didn’t mean he had to be.  I agreed with him but cautioned him that racism was probably one of the worst examples of evil in our world and I thought he should consider what Christ would think of that.  He asked me who paid my salary, Christ or good Americans....more
    Janice Scott
    No Strings Attached
    In today's gospel reading, Jesus seemed reluctant to heal the Canaanite woman's daughter. He told her that he wasn't sent to help foreigners, but only his own people, the Chosen Race. The words sound unnecessarily harsh, but perhaps this is an interpretation unique to Matthew, for this story only appears in Matthew's gospel, which was written for Jews....more
    Arley K. Fadness
    Great Faith
    Object: Hula Hoop or circle made out of ribbon, twine or rope
    What an amazing morning to come to church today. I am so glad to see you and talk to you about a wonderful story from the bible. Let me begin by showing you this circle. Now let's get into this circle. (Physically, all move into the circle) It's fun for us all to be together in this circle. We don't want anyone to be left out. To be left out is to be sad. To be kept out is even more sad and painful....more

Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen