The following material was written by the Rev. John Shearman (email@example.com) of the United Church of Canada. John has structured his offerings so that the first portion can be used as a bulletin insert, while the second portion provides a more in depth 'introduction to the scripture'.
INTRODUCTION TO THE SCRIPTURE
Christmas 2 - Year C
Jeremiah 31:7-14 Scholars tell us that this passage contains ideas not
found in Jeremiah's prophecies, but which are very prominent in Isaiah 40-
66, the work of an unknown prophet of the exile in Babylon. It promises
Israel's return from exile in many foreign lands and the re-establishment
of the nation to everyone's joy and prosperity. This redemptive action
will result from nothing other than God's gracious goodness.
Psalm 147:12-20 The second of five Hallelujah psalms which close the
Psalter celebrates the special relationship Israel had with God. Its
message is summed up in the words of v. 20: "He has not dealt thus with any
other nation; they do not know his ordinances."
Ephesians 1:3-14 In writing to the Colossian congregation threatened by
a destructive heresy, Paul opened his letter with some very kind and
generous words. He praised them for remaining faithful to the gospel and
the Christian way of love as Epaphras had taught them. He prayed that they
would continue to grow in their knowledge of God's will and strong in their
witness to the faith as they had first received it.
This is still an appropriate message for us who are so easily persuaded by
the attitudes and practices of our own culture to adopt some other
alternative than the Christian way.
John 1:10-18 Looking at Jesus from the perspective of perhaps sixty
years after his death on the cross, John assessed what the coming of Jesus
into the world really meant.
For those who believed in him and accepted the grace and truth now
available through Christ, it meant a new life of spiritual power as the
children of God. So also it may be for us as we begin a new year of living
in God's grace.
Jeremiah 31:7-14 One of the most obvious revelations of the current
Christological debate is the strength of the literalist approach to
scripture, even in the mainline churches. Here is a passage which offers
an excellent opportunity to discuss in a sensible way, the composite nature
of the scriptures as we presently have them and the still valuable
spirituality of the message conveyed in the words. God as the gracious
providential Protector and Redeemer of Israel IS the story of the Old
Testament to which all the priestly, prophetic and poetic voices
contributed, no matter where they appeared throughout Israel's history.
Thus the editors who put together the Book of Jeremiah could include a poem
from the later, but unknown, prophet of the Exile among the oracles of the
prophet whose ministry ended when Jerusalem was devastated by the
Babylonians in 586 BC.
Psalm 147:12-20 From the temple liturgy for the New Year or the Feast of
Tabernacles comes this Hallelujah Chorus celebrating God as the Creator of
the universe and Sustainer of Israel. It is believed to have been composed
as a liturgical psalm in the early 4th century BC. The influence of the
prophetic oracles of the unknown prophet of the Exile (Isaiah 40-66) can be
detected in several places.
Ephesians 1:3-14 John C. Kirby, formerly of McGill University, Montreal,
makes a strong case that this prayer at the beginning of Ephesians, "both
in language and in form, is patterned after the Jewish berakoth", a prayer
of praise and blessing of which there are numerous examples in the Old
Testament. He points out that some scholars divide these poetic verses
into stanzas having separate themes. OTOH, Kirby suggests that the ideas
so tumble over one another as to defy such analysis. He accepts the view
of another scholar, Masson, that "the tone of wonder and awe which runs
through the whole passage, the slow meditative style, the solemnity of the
language, the repetition of the phrase 'to the praise of his glory,' which
is the main purpose of all berakoth, show us the origin of this way of
approaching God. Thoroughly Christian in content - though many of the
ideas have been taken over from Judaism they have been baptized into Christ
- it is yet thoroughly Jewish in attitude."
John 1:10-18 What the gospel meant to John's audience certainly would not
be what it may mean to us 1900 years later. He was writing for a
Hellenistic culture from a Hebraic perspective.
He chose the word LOGOS to describe Jesus which he may well have drawn from
Philo, the Alexandrian Jew steeped in Greek thought who was a contemporary
of Jesus and Paul. His emphasis in this passage is to focus attention on
both the continuity and the discontinuity between Israel's tradition and
that which the Christian gospel was bringing to the Greek-speaking world.
In his "New Testament Words," (Westminster Press, 1974) William Barclay has
a helpful comment on the way John used this word as a bridge between the
"In Jewish thought we have two great conceptions at the back of
the idea of Jesus as the Word, the LOGOS of God. First, God's
word is not only speech; it is power. Second, it is impossible
to separate the ideas of Word and Wisdom; and it was God's Wisdom
which created and permeated the world which God made....
"The idea of a mind, a LOGOS ruling the world fascinated the
Greeks... It was the LOGOS which put sense into the world.
Further, the mind of man himself was a little portion of this
LOGOS.... This conception was brought to its highest peak by
Philo, who was an Alexandrian Jew, and who had the aim of joining
together in one synthesis the highest thought of Jew and
"Now we can see what John was doing when he uttered his
tremendous statement, 'The Word was made flesh.' (i) He was
clothing Christianity in a dress that a Greek could
understand.... (ii) He was giving us a new Christology.... (a)
Jesus is the creating power of God come to men. He does not only
speak the word of knowledge; he is the word of power. He did not
come so much to say things to us, as to do things for us. (b)
Jesus is the incarnate mind of God. We might well translate
John's words, 'The mind of God became a man.'"
copyright - Comments by Rev. John Shearman and page by Richard J. Fairchild, 2006
please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these resources.