Second Sunday of Christmas: January 3, 2021
December 15, 2020 by Rev. Dr. Neal Presa
Merchants and homeowners here in north county San Diego have tried for months during the COVID-19 pandemic to let the general public know that they are still open for business and that homes are for sale. It’s not enough to have signs on a lawn advertising this or a banner on the storefront. I have much respect for the dancing signage person who holds up a giant placard, whether in the hot sun, cold temperatures (read: San Diego cold is 60 degrees!), or rain (read: San Diego precipitation is one month per year), there they are holding up the “Open House” or “Great Deal This Way” signs as they flip the placard in the air, twirling it like a baton in a marching band, dancing on the sidewalk doing flips, doing all sorts of body movements to draw pedestrians and motorists to pay attention.
The lectionary texts for this Sunday are about words that invite us not merely to listen, but to see. And the reason they have this effect is that the words are not staked to the ground as a static message, but the words are living, and so the call is to behold.
For Jeremiah, this was a long season of sorrow for Israel in the midst, and in the aftermath of Jerusalem being ransacked and brought captive and exiled in Babylon. This was a time of great upheaval, being scattered, homeland pilfered and occupied, families and communities separated, a future unknown. Thus saith the Lord in this circumstance, see verse 7 – the Lord guides the prayer of God’s people: “Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel.” In such dire times, the Lord offers the very words to pray when it is difficult to even utter the words to pray, let alone to be in the mode to pray. Yet the prayer is for the purpose of Israel to behold what God is doing and going to do – see verses 8-9 – invitations to see that the Lord will summon God’s people, gathering them. This promise continues beginning in verse 10, but rather than a prayer to the Lord, the word switches to a proclamation and a witness. Here again, the Lord provides the words for God’s people, who are to testify in the coastlands saying “He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.” And as that word is proclaimed by God’s people, they are invited to behold what is happening and will happen – those in the remnant community and those who have been exiled will be gathered in singing, food provision will be abundant, dancing and rejoicing will be the activities, and contentment will pour forth to priest to people to the whole community.
For the Johannine community, we find the familiar “In the beginning was the Word” – the Word who became flesh as Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth, the One who is light, the One who was rejected, the One who dwelt among us. Notice verse 18 – the interrelatedness of God the Son and God the Father: only God the Son has seen God the Father, and God the Son who is close to the Father’s heart, is the One who has made God known. Do you see?
We see God as we “see” God’s Word. Hear God’s Word. But not just hear. See. The key to God’s Word is not just listening; it’s seeing. Because in seeing, we testify, “Thus saith the Lord.” Why? Because the Lord who speaks is the Lord who acts, the Lord who acts is the Lord who lives. It’s not enough for us to just talk; it’s when our breath has heart, feet, and hands that, then, the world can see the Word feeding, freeing, embracing, protecting, serving, praying, dancing, singing, mourning, rejoicing, suffering, eating, fellowshipping, worshipping. The Word is living. Thus saith the Lord.