After Christmas, Year B

Musical Reflection
Young Man in America by Anaïs Mitchell

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Invocation

God of every creature,
whose Child was born
for all the world;
we praise you for the shepherds
who lived between earth and sky,
who, with animals and angels,
greeted the word made flesh:
may we share their urgency
to meet the promised child
with wonder and with joy;

Hidden God,
who made the face of Moses shine
with the gift of your friendship:
teach us the law of love,
carried by the breath of spirit
and planted in hearts of flesh
that we might be children again
and the world restored to you;

through Jesus Christ, who binds all things together, the Glory of God.
Amen.

First Reading
The World is a Beautiful Place
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t mind happiness
not always being
so very much fun
if you don’t mind a touch of hell
now and then
just when everything is fine
because even in heaven
they don’t sing
all the time

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t mind some people dying
all the time or maybe only starving
some of the time
which isn’t half bad
if it isn’t you

Oh the world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t much mind
a few dead minds
in the higher places
or a bomb or two
now and then
in your upturned faces
or such other improprieties
as our Name Brand society
is prey to with its men of distinction
and its men of extinction
and its priests
and other patrolmen

and its various segregations
and congressional investigations
and other constipations
that our fool flesh
is heir to

Yes the world is the best place of all
for a lot of such things as
making the fun scene
and making the love scene
and making the sad scene
and singing low songs
and having inspirations
and walking around
looking at everything
and smelling flowers
and goosing statues
and even thinking
and kissing people and
making babies and wearing pants
and waving hats and
dancing
and going swimming in rivers
on picnics
in the middle of the summer
and just generally ‘living it up’
Yes
but then right in the middle of it
comes the smiling
mortician

Second Reading
Children of the Epoch

by Wislawa Szymborska
translated by Austin Flint
We are the children of the epoch.
The epoch is political.

All my daily and nightly affairs,
all your daily and nightly affairs,
are political affairs.

Whether you want it or not,
your genes have a political past,
your skin is a political tone,
your eyes a political color,
What you say resounds,
what you don’t say is also
politically significant.

Even coming through the rye,
you walk with political steps
on political ground.

Apolitical poems are also political,
and in the sky there’s a moon
that’s no longer moonlike.

To be or not to be, that is a question.
Oh darling, what a question, give a suggestion.
A political question.

You don’t have to be human
to acquire a political meaning.
It’s enough to be petroleum,
cattle fodder, raw material.
Or just a conference table whose shape
was disputed for months.

In the meantime, people were killed.
Animals died,
houses burned,
fields grew wild,
as in distant
and less political epochs.

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Gospel Reading 1
Luke 2:15-40

When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what God has revealed to us.” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.

When eight days had passed, Jesus’s parents circumcised him and gave him the name Jesus. This was the name given to him by the angel before he was conceived.

When the time came for their ritual cleansing, in accordance with the Law from Moses, they brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. (It’s written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn heir will be dedicated to God.”) They offered a sacrifice in keeping with what’s stated in the Law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

A person named Simeon was in Jerusalem. He was righteous and devout. He eagerly anticipated the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. She had revealed to him that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Messiah of God. Led by the Spirit, he went into the temple area. Meanwhile, Jesus’s parents brought the child to the temple so that they could do what was customary under the Law. Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. He said,
“Now, O God, let your servant go in peace according to your word,
   because my eyes have seen your salvation.
 You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.
It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and a glory for your people Israel.”
His father and mother were amazed by what was said about him. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “This child is assigned to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that generates opposition so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your innermost being too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, who belonged to the tribe of Asher. She was very old. After she married, she lived with her husband for seven years. She was now an 84-year-old widow. She never left the temple area but worshipped God with fasting and prayer night and day. She approached at that very moment and began to praise God and to speak about Jesus to everyone who was looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
When Mary and Joseph had completed everything required by the Law of God, they returned to their hometown, Nazareth in Galilee.  The child grew up and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favour was on him.

Gospel Reading 2
John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word
    and the Word was with God
    and the Word was God.
The Word was with God in the beginning.
Everything came into being through the Word,
    and without the Word
    nothing came into being.
What came into being
    through the Word was life, 
    and the life was the light for all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.

A man named John was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him everyone would believe in the light. He himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light.

The true light that shines on all people
    was coming into the world.
The light was in the world,
    and the world came into being through the light,
        but the world didn’t recognize the light.
The light came to its own people,
    and its own people didn’t accept it.
But those who did accept the light,
        those who believed in that name,
    were empowered to become God’s children,
        born not from blood
        nor from human desire or passion,
        but born from God.
The Word became flesh
    and stayed for a little while among us.
We saw the Word’s glory –
    glory like that of a parent’s only child,
        full of grace and truth.

John testified, crying out, “This is the one of whom I said, ‘The one who comes after me is greater than me because this One existed before me.’”

From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace;
    as the Law was given through Moses,
    so grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God.
    God the only Child,
        who is at the Parent’s side,
        has made God known.

Musical Reflection
His Master’s Voice by Monsters of Folk

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Prayer
Alcuin of York, adapted

Eternal Light, shine into our hearts,
Eternal Goodness, deliver us from evil;
Eternal Power, be our support,
Eternal Wisdom, scatter the darkness of ignorance;
that with all our hearts and minds and souls and strength
we may seek your face and be brought to your holy presence;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


The Lord’s Prayer

Eternal Spirit,
Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother, Parent of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:
The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and testing, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
now and for ever. Amen.

Musical Reflection
Lead Me Home by Jamie N Commons

Blessing

May the God who brings heaven close to earth
give truth to our judgement
and flame to our longing
that our hearts might be ready
to be born again in love;

and the blessing of God Almighty,
the Holy Parent, the Holy Child, and the Holy Spirit,
be with us and remain with us always. Amen.

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Sources:

Artwork by Andy Freeberg

Invocation and Blessing from Prayers for an Inclusive Church by Steven Shakespeare

Musical Reflection Young Man in America by Anais Mitchell

Poem The World is a Beautiful Place by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Poem Children of the Epoch by Wislawa Szymborska

Musical Reflection His Master’s Voice by Monsters of Folk

Prayer by Alcuin of York

Lord’s Prayer from the New Zealand Prayer Book

Musical Reflection Lead Me Home by Jamie N Commons

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