Monday, December 29, 2014

Second Sunday after Christmas Day (B), January 4, 2015 - John 1: (1-9) 10-18

Mike Chapman: Christ Child (1999)
Trafalgar Square, London
And the Word became flesh
And the Word lived with us,
And though John knows no creche,
And no first Christmas fuss,
Still he tells us this news
Of this Word in the world
So we'll be disabused -
Woman, man, boy and girl -
Of the notion God lives
In a place we must find!
Au contraire! What God gives
Is the world now defined
Where we fully receive -
By the Maker's embrace -
Every love now conceived,
Every grace upon grace.

Scott L. Barton

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bonus Poem: December 28

Sunday, December 28

All over the country
Grandparents are collapsing
In their chairs. My wife says,
Start the fire? I'll finish
This load of dishes, and we'll
Just read all afternoon?
I say that sounds good to me.
But soon the fire, crackling,
And the dishwasher, running,
And the unspoken glances,
All seem to say that it
Is going to be way too quiet here,
At least until next Christmas.

Scott L. Barton

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

First Sunday after Christmas Day (B), December 28, 2014 - Luke 2:22-40

Simeon with the Christ Child in the Temple
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Do you know that riotous Christmas song
About outrageous gifts from a lover?
"On the first day of Christmas my true love
Gave to me" - and then the gifts no one craves:
A partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves,
Three French hens. And on it goes to the end,
With four calling birds, and five golden rings,
Six geese a-laying, seven swans a-swimming,
Eight maids a-milking, nine ladies dancing,
Ten lords a-leaping, eleven pipers piping,
And finally twelve drummers drumming -
Gifts by someone joyously, extravagantly in love.

Joseph and Mary brought two turtle doves
(or maybe pigeons), a token, really,
But a sign, dedicating their son to the Lord.
And then like the beginning of a raucous song,
They hand their son off to old Simeon,
And you could have knocked them over with a feather
What with all he told them about what the child meant,
Whereupon no sooner does he hand the baby back
When old Anna utters more astonishing words.
Thus it begins, chapter after chapter
Of teaching and healing and kidding and prodding -
Until we all laugh with joy at this outrageous, outrageous gift.

Scott L. Barton

When the time came for their purification according to the law of
Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as
it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be
designated as holy to the Lord’), and they offered a sacrifice
according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of
turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was
righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the
Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s
Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when
the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was
customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God,
‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
   according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
   which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
   and for glory to your people Israel.’

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said
about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This
child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of
many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe
of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for
seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of
eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with
fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began
to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for
the redemption of Jerusalem.
The Return to Nazareth

When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child
grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was
upon him.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Nativity of the Lord (B), December 24/25, 2014 - Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)

Rembrandt van Rijn,
The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds


"It's the big night!"
Is what my father used to say,
And then in June,
It was, "Tomorrow's the big day!"
- Thus, the solstice
Always arrives for me with mirth,
Which may be what
We need to hear about this birth
Announced each year!
The angel told with twinkling eyes
- Thus, cast out fear -
So they would laugh with great surprise;
Despite the dark,
This same news called to you this night
Begs to be told,
That Love may be our solstice light.

Scott L. Barton

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, 
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” 
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Fourth Sunday of Advent (B), December 21, 2014 - Luke 1:26-38 (see also 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16)

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunciation (1898),
Philadelphia Museum of Art
How can this be? How can this be?
There's nothing I can possibly see
To prove that to this world might come
Some hope where life is surely undone
By all the darkness, grief and pain
Which at this time assuredly reign.

What's this you say? What's this you say?
You've something even more to convey?
O my! This news you now declare
Is that through me there will come to bear
The saving grace that people need,
A rule of love to come now indeed?

Thus, as her forebears, Mary learned
The thing we want, for which we most yearn,
Comes not because we make it so;
Such wisdom now we're called to forego,
Embracing, rather, gifts, amazed
That obstacles still leave God unfazed.

Scott L. Barton

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

+ + +

Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Third Sunday of Advent (B), December 14, 2014 - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

Vie de Jesus Mafa: John the Baptist preaching (1973)

Advent Recipe in Three Steps, 2014

Start with:
I am not the Messiah.
I am at an utter loss about racism.
I won't pretend it doesn't exist,
and don't ask me how to end it, either,
in Ferguson, in Staten Island,
in my own home town, and in me,
how we might straighten out the mess
that so long ago slavery began.

Add, while singing:
Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
O Lord, how shall I meet you?
People look east,
Prepare the way, O Zion,
The desert shall rejoice,
My soul cries out with a joyful shout,
Wild and lone the prophet's voice,
O come, o come, Emmanuel.

Don't forget:
I will neither give up, nor despair.
I will trust the one who is to come
and who always finds a way.
I will not let my spirit be quenched,
nor despise the prophets,
but give thanks in all things,
abstain from every evil,
and hold fast to what is good.

Bake to perfection. As long as it takes.

Scott L. Barton

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.


There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Second Sunday of Advent (B), December 5, 2014 - Mark 1:1-8

Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665): 
St John the Baptist Baptizes the People, 
Musee du Louvre

We're now in Year B, and Mark's very first sentence with no verbs in it makes it a bit unclear just what "the beginning" is; but maybe it's not just the first chapter. Maybe it's even his whole book. I thought of Julie Andrews singing "Doe, a Deer, a Female Deer" in The Sound of Music, and the poem took off from there. Keep the tune in mind as you read the poem, and have fun!

Let's start at the very beginning,
A very good place to start;
When it's Matthew it's genealogy,
When it's Mark it begins with John the B.,
John the B.,
The one Isaiah wants us to see,
John the B.,
He won't grace your Christmas tea:

In the wilderness he cried,
"God forgives I now proclaim,"
People from the countryside
And the capital all came;
They confessed and were baptized
By the wild and crazy guy,
Even so, he still surprised,
Saying one will come not I!

(So stand by!)

Thus, the good news has begun,
Mark's whole book is just the start,
For the story's hardly done,
Each of us can play a part;
Jesus is the one who came,
He's the key for your life's scale,
Make his love your constant aim,
For his grace today prevails -


Lives Christ and loves! and, yes, Christ gives!
Gives, Christ, and yes, loves, and Christ lives.

Scott L. Barton

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”