Now Connects ‘Before’ and ‘After’

“The God of gods will reveal himself” (Psalm 84:7b ).

A “Second Sunday after Christmas Day” will occur only about four years out of seven. It is to be regretted that these lessons are read less often than they might, for they are rich with a variety of meaning.

Jeremiah exults over the faithful remnant that has survived the exile of the people of God, now returning to their homeland. As in other places in the prophets, it is described how the faithful will be brought back from captivity. Especially comforting is the promise that this delivery will occur, for, as God says, “I am a father to Israel.” The psalm presents one of the most peace-filled, comfortable images in the psalter — the image of a sparrow nesting her young by the altar of God, completely free from danger. This image is followed by a description of the people of God as pilgrims refreshed with rainwater and climbing to the heights where God reveals himself to them.

The lesson from Ephesians rhapsodizes over the faithful who, now in Christ, have been “chosen” and “destined in love” to be the children of God. For the gospel lesson there are three passages to select from: the flight into Egypt, the finding of Jesus in the Temple at the age of 12, and the coming of the magi to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Each of the lessons draws us back from the “results” of salvation described in the first lessons to a stage in Jesus ‘ life after his birth but before the beginning of his public ministry.

In the lessons from Matthew, we see uncompromising, death-dealing opposition to the newborn. The lesson from Luke shows Jesus’ transition from childhood to adulthood in an event that is the first great sign that he is conscious of his Messiahship; this lesson is especially valuable since it is the only passage anywhere in Scripture that shows Jesus as a boy. In this narrative Jesus makes his way to the temple in a critical step toward his eventual revelation to the people as the Messiah. The teachers of the law he engages and his parents who find him are both caused to wonder about him, for their world has been stretched by their encounter with Jesus.

In all three gospels we catch a glimpse of Jesus’ ministry as it is after he is born but before he is publicly manifested. In these incidents, described with minimal detail, we can see anticipation of the future.

Look It Up

Compare the images in Psalm 84 to those in Psalm 23 — both of idyllic beauty, comfort, and hop e. Note especially Psalm 84:5 and Psalm 23:2 and 4. Why are these two psalms among the most beloved of the Psalter?

Think About It

Consider how the lessons point toward the future by showing what happened after Jesus was born, but before he begins his public ministry. Even in these years, he is pursued by death, manifested to Israel, and sought by Gentiles.

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