First Sunday After Christmas
Note: The following readings are used on the first Sunday after Christmas unless the readings for the Epiphany of the Lord are preferred.
|1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26||The boy Samuel in the temple||436: The Voice of God Is Calling
463: Lord, Speak to Me
|Psalm 148||Praise to God, the Creator||62: All Creatures of Our God and
95: Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow
96: Praise the Lord Who Reigns Above
126: Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above
139: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
147: All Things Bright and Beautiful
152: I Sing the Almighty Power of God
|Luke 2:41-52||The boy Jesus in the temple||430: O Master, Let Me Walk with
559: Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation
|Colossians 3:12-17||Doing all in the name of the Lord||63: Blessed Be the Name
64: Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty
438: Forth in Thy Name, O Lord
554: All Praise to Our Redeeming Lord
562: Jesus, Lord, We Look to Thee
606: Come, Let Us Use the Grace Divine
The first Sunday after Christmas is always close to the new year on the calendar. The new year may be coming; it may be New Year's Day. Either way, it is normal for people to consider whether they have accomplished their goals for the year that has past; and the new goals they will try to accomplish in the coming year.
As a boy, Samuel was given to God's service at the temple. This was in fulfillment of a covenant by his mother to God, who had given her a son in answer to her prayers. How hard it must have been for her to give up this child that she had longed for. Difficult or not, though, she honored her covenant. Her husband honored her covenant. Samuel honored her covenant. Most of all, God honored her covenant. Samuel grew in God's favor. He became the spiritual leader of Israel and anointed both Saul and David, the nation's first two kings.
Christ also came to earth in answer to prayers. Just as Samuel's mother had longed for a son, God's people had longed for the coming of the savior, the Messiah. God sent his son. He grew in God's favor. When Jesus came, some people recognized him and rejoiced. They fulfilled their covenants to God by honoring God's son. Others failed to recognize Christ as the son of God. Although God had performed, their covenants remained unfulfilled.
We are God's people today. Are we honoring our promises to God, or are we failing to recognize that the time has come for us to fulfill our covenants? It is a question that we have to answer as individuals and as the body of Christ in the world today. Many churches have traditions of holding "covenant services" at the beginning of the new year. Through worship and prayer, these services establish and renew covenants of commitment to God. The United Methodist Book of Worship indicates that the first celebration of a covenant service in the Methodist movement probably took place on August 11, 1755, when John Wesley used materials published almost a century earlier by Richard Alleine. He used it frequently in the following years, noting in his journal the comfort, blessing, and conviction manifested in worshipers who participated.
This week's featured hymn, Come, Let Us Use the Grace Divine, was written by Charles Wesley. Because of its focus on covenant and commitment, it is often used in conjunction with Covenant Services. As you read or sing the words, make them your own; use them to frame your spiritual new year goals and resolutions:
|1. Come, let us use the grace divine,
and all with one accord,
in a perpetual covenant join
ourselves to Christ the Lord;
Give up ourselves, thru Jesus' power,
his name to glorify;
and promise, in this sacred hour,
for God to live and die.
|2. The covenant we this moment make
be ever kept in mind;
we will no more our God forsake,
or cast these words behind.
We never will throw off the fear
of God who hears our vow;
and if thou art well pleased to hear,
come down and meet us now.
May we all know and experience the grace and peace of the risen Lord, Jesus Christ, throughout the coming year, and may we all be filled with conviction to fulfill our covenants as individuals and as members in the body of Christ.
God bless you--
|Passages suggested are from The Revised Common Lectionary: Consultation on Common Texts (Abingdon Press, 1992) copyright © by the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT), P.O. Box 340003, Room 381, Nashville TN 37203-0003. Reprinted with permission of CCT.|