This week on Sunday we celebrate the first Sunday in the Octave of Christmas or the put more simply the first Sunday after Christmas. Many of us see it as an anticlimax, a time of letdown after the Big Day, when we have gathered all the family and shared all the gifts and eaten all the food. Far too often, this is a day when "Sabbath” means that we are resting up to prepare for the upcoming New Year blowout. However, as the Church we mark our New Year from the First Sunday of Advent and our Scripture then offers us a different vantage point.
Sunday, after all, is always an Easter feast, a remembrance of the Resurrection. Therefore, we are called today to put Christmas and Easter together for the first time this year. This enables us to see the birth of Jesus in the wider light of his whole life story, as one who was born, who lived, suffered, died, and lives still. We Christians celebrate him as Immanuel, "God with Us," the one who came and walked among us to teach us how to live in this world.
This, in turn, forces us to take another look at this world of ours, seeing it as the world into which Jesus himself was born. Jewish society of his time was a society that differed in many ways from our own -- and yet, the world is ever the same. It is a world full of sickness and sin that needs the transforming Jesus. It is a world that cries out for great change in attitude to enable humanity to be the beloved not only of God but to each other. It is a world that is reaching for the hope and promise that we Christians ourselves believe we have received by faith in Christ. Due to that faith, we Christians have much to offer to the world today,
As "Christmas Christians," we experience the blessedness of life given to us by the birth of Jesus, the Son of God. As "Easter Christians," we celebrate the eternity of life given to us by what we call the victory of Jesus. It is something that allows us to stand together and bear witness to the power of God to touch and heal and transform. We celebrate the God whose spirit led to the bringing of good news, light into darkness, and freedom from bondage, healing from sickness, and gladness in sorrow, and alleviation from suffering.
We are reminded that we have received grace upon grace from God's fullness.
The abundance of God's love overflows in us and impels us to make Gods Presence known, through our own efforts to bring righteousness, peace, and justice into the world in which we live. On this particular Sunday Christians remember, this is not an easy proposition and never has been. The culture of violence that is celebrated in wider society is a problem for humans and from time immemorial, people whom God has chosen have used holy writings in unholy ways, not to bring people to God but to set as a bar against the gateway to faith.
We would do well to look again, because the situation is reminiscent of another one much closer to us in time and space. In our own nation's history, Melanesians, Indigenous people, Irish, Chinese, and various other ethnic groups have all experienced what it was like to be treated, by Christians, as lesser creatures. These people were considered unfit and forced to worship in the open or separate chapels." Their existence was seen as a deviation from some inflexible standard, against which they would always be measured and found at a disadvantage.
When freedom came, these people of faith could experience much more of the Christian life that the
Scripture. In the fullness of God's time, they could come to worship and
experience the fullness of membership in the household of faith. Like the
biblical people of the Exodus, they had made their way through the darkness of
bondage. They followed the light of Christ into the fullness of a freedom that
no human could give them and no law could diminish. St Paul
From that time, they were called, just as we are today called, to proclaim the righteousness of God and to celebrate the gift of life. In the words of the gospel hymnist, we "lift our hands in total praise," and worship the God who loved us into life, whose Son leads us through life, and whose Spirit sustains us throughout our faith journey. Just like Jesus, who brought us grace and truth in this world, we make God known in this world through our witness to God's love.
We strive to learn from those we consider different from us, instead of imposing our views and challenging them to prove themselves to us. We recognize in those "less fortunate than we" people who can teach us a great deal about the Providence of God. We grow in a trust that enables us to share our gifts and talents with one another, not out of our wealth but out of a poverty that recognises the Giver of everything we have.