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Christmas 1B 1st Reading

Katie Savage

It’s difficult, especially this first week following Christmas Day, to think of Christmas as a whole season and not as a singular day. We’ve worked so hard, on wrapping and cooking and gathering and chatting. We have navigated parties and dinners and late-night mall runs. We’ve passed out presents and consumed unhealthy amounts of eggnog. And, on the day after Christmas, we let out a sigh of relief. Because we’re tired. It is, often, too easy to move on.

But passages like these beg us not to. This is a passage filled to the brim with images that shout not to be ignored or passed over: glittering wedding garments, a fruitful and burgeoning garden, a lit torch. All of these images do what the best literary devices are meant to do: they put the feeling under our fingertips for things that are ordinarily abstract and out of our reach. And it is wise for the pastor to unpack these images for her congregation, for each one beckons us to pause, still, and remember, still, the truth of what God has done in Jesus.

Patricia Tull puts it this way: “what shimmers throughout these five verses is the unavoidable visibility, the unquenchable luminosity, of God’s deeds and their results. They are as festive as celebrative clothing, designed to be admired by all. They are no longer seeds covered by earth, but have sprouted in God’s garden for all nations to see. They shine like the dawn and blaze like a torch in a darkened room, visible across the world. This is no secret, but a redemption that will not be overlooked.”[1]

It is no wonder that this passage is designated for this first Sunday after Christmas, the first Sunday after celebrating the incarnation of God. A passage that dwells in awe of God’s goodness, and teaches us to do the same. To not let this season of celebration pass us by too quickly.

It is also worth noting that it is this sixty-first chapter of Isaiah (v 1-2) that Jesus uses in announcing his ministry in a synagogue in Nazareth. So, while the actual, historical speaker is unclear (we know that he is, as he says “anointed”), at least when looking ahead we can associate the speaker with Jesus.

If we consider this passage’s role in the history of Israel, it serves a “coming home” passage. The captives in Babylon have been set free and the people are rejoicing. It is a reunion of sorts, and the wedding imagery speaks to not only the joy of God and God’s people at this longed-for deliverance, but also to a promise for the future.

The people will need this inspiration and hope because the land they return to needs some restoration, too. The people are called to play a part in the restoration of the land, and so the clarion call in 62:1-3: “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch […] You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” On this beautiful passage, Katherine C. Calore writes, “even before the birth of Christ, God’s word was made flesh in those laborers who rebuilt temple and city, in those worshipers who sang and prayed, in those prophets who proclaimed a living Word, and in those families who lived and loved in trust that the word of God already dwelt among them.”[2]

Let us, in our own time, in this week after the incarnate birth of our Lord, take up the same call and task. Let us become hands and feet of Jesus, bringing about the restoration of our