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December 31 - First Sunday in Christmas


Merry Christmas!

I'm sure all of you have spent a busy week since we last gathered.

Last Sunday most of us attended two services - one in the morning, and a beautiful festive one in the evening. We heard the bell choir, the regular choir, a jazz trio, and the woodwinds orchestra. We sang all the familiar Christmas carols. And then we went home to celebrate Christmas in whatever manner we usually do.

Walter and I drove to Pittsburgh - leaving early Christmas morning - to be with my sister and her husband, my two nephews, and their families. It is so pleasurable to watch a 2 1/2 year old open his gifts and be surprised and delighted at what he finds. The true Christmas spirit shows in the eyes of a child.

In our Gospel text for today, Mary and Joseph and Jesus have been in Jerusalem attending the Passover Festival which is usually in late March or early April. After it is over, they leave for home. Everyone was walking in small groups on the roads. Mary and Joseph assumed that Jesus was walking with friends, somewhere in the large group of people.

After a day's traveling, they looked for him and could not find him anywhere. Can you imagine the panic that would set in if you were to look for your son or daughter after a day's journey and couldn't find them?

What happened to him? Did he get lost? Was he hurt and lying somewhere on the road? Or did something more terrible happen to him? They asked everyone, but no one had seen Jesus. They retraced their steps, going back to Jerusalem to look for him there.

After three days, Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the Temple, sitting among the scholars, listening and asking questions. The relief at finding him must have also been mixed with great annoyance. Do you realize what you have put us through? We could not find you, we searched everywhere, we did not know what happened to you.

Jesus calmly tells them, "Did you not know that I would be in my Father's House?" The House of God? He was in the Temple learning from the Rabbis and scholars. All the men present were amazed at his great understanding and his ability to answer whatever questions they asked. At a young age, he was able to thoroughly understand the discussions they were having, AND was able to join in to those discussions.

Jesus went with Mary and Joseph. He left the Temple and went home with them. After that, he was obedient to them.

When Jesus was in the Temple learning from the scholars, he was learning his Father's work and the Godly things he needed to know. Mary and Joseph did not understand that their son was a "special" son, who was destined to do great works and to bring his Father's message to all.

The story of Jesus in the Temple is familiar to us all. Learning it first in Sunday School, we can all picture this boy of about twelve, in the Temple, asking his elders many questions, listening to and participating in these discussions. This story is one example in which Jesus' early life showed signs of his coming greatness.

Jesus and his family were devout in observance of Passover, traveling to Jerusalem for the annual festival. Jesus refers to God as "my Father." "I am in my Father's House." Was he becoming aware of his unique relationship with God? Was he becoming aware of his later submission to his Father's will, and accepting his unique role in the story of salvation? It appears that at this early age, Jesus somehow realized his unique position and his future.

Today's Gosepl gives us an insight into the family life of Jesus, a devout Jewish family observing Jewish laws. It shows that Jesus was developing physically, mentally and spiritually, due to the family life that he had.

Our first reading, from Samuel, shows another family, that of Samuel. Samuel, as you may recall, lived with Eli from whom he learned the Lord's teachings. His parents Hannah and Elkanah traveled each year visit him, his mother bringing him a new robe to wear for each coming year. Eli would bless both parents because they had given their son Samuel to the Lord.

Each year, Samuel's mother made him a new robe, a robe for the coming year, a robe for the New Year.
Our second lesson, a reading from Colossians, is often used at weddings as it sets a pattern of Christian family life based on mutual forgiveness. The reading tells us that we are God's chosen ones. We should clothe ourselves, we should put on a new robe, a new robe for the new year, with the great qualities which reflect the Lord's presence.

We should be compassionate, kind, humble, meek, and patient. We should forgive one another just as God has forgiven us. We should take upon ourselves the qualities of God. Compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and above all, LOVE.

This reading could very well set the tone and be an example of our New Year's resolutions for 2007. All of us should try to live our lives in the coming year so we are more like God.

We should try to be forgiving to anyone who has hurt us. After all, God forgives us for all our sins. He forgives us for our wrongdoings. We should learn to forgive others also. This is NOT easy to do. If someone says something to hurt us, or slights us, or is nasty to us, the most natural reaction is to do the same thing to them; "an eye for an eye." It is MUCH harder to forgive them, to turn the other cheek. But this is what God expects us to do. He wants us to live in His image. He is forgiving, therefore we must be also.

Clothe yourselves with love. Be loving in all that you do. Let love shine from you.

Let the peace of Christ live in your hearts. We share this Peace each week with one another when we say "The Peace of the Lord." We are telling everyone that we wish them God's Peace throughout the coming week.
We are asked to be thankful for what we have, not for material gifts, but for the spiritual ones we share.
Be thankful for each other, for friends.

Be thankful for a beautiful church in which to worship each week.
Be thankful we have lovely music.
Be thankful we have a wonderful new Pastor this year.
Be thankful for ALL of God's blessings.
Be thankful that God is always with us, watching over us, caring for us, forgiving us.
Be thankful that we can gather each week to share the "Body and Blood of Christ."
Be thankful we know God and His teachings.
Be thankful of everything we have received.

Let the Word of Christ dwell in our hearts. Sing psalms and hymns to God with gratitude for all that we have received, for all that HE has given us.

An, whatever we do, do it in the name of the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father.

This year, as we make our New Year's Resolutions, let's not make the usual ones, "to watch less TV," "To read more," "To lose wight," "To exercise." Let this second reading from Colossians become the New Year's Resolutions for us all.

"Show kindness, compassion, humility, meekness and patience. Forgive one another. Fill your heart with love toward all. Share God's Peace with everyone. In all that we do, be thankful for all that we have. Sing praises to God, worship Him each week. Share His Body and Blood each week with your sisters and brothers in Christ. Let the word of God dwell in our hearts. And whatever we do, do it in the name of the Lord.