Today’s entry continues a series of short musings about lectionary texts that may soon appear in your line-of-sight. These entries may prove helpful in interpreting the appointed lessons with sensitivity to the realities faced by those who are older.
It seems appropriate to look at biblical texts from the viewpoint of older adults, who were among the original writers, hearers and subjects of Scripture. Not every lectionary text connects this way, but there are still surprising moments when these texts speak directly to those of us who are older!
December’s lectionary starts over the church year, examining a cycle of familiar themes. The coming of Christmas requires contemplation of more than shallow notions of redemption or readiness for Christ’s first arrival. The lessons invite us to start at the beginning—God’s love in Christ. Because these Sundays come at the end of a calendar year, though, we who are older also think about endings—our own included. An interesting viewpoint—beginnings and endings intermixed. Joy searching for sources beneath Christmas culture’s pleasantries. Gratitude for what’s most important. Satisfaction the runs deep. The themes and memes of December’s lessons, from the vantage point of older adults.
Sunday, December 1, 2019 (First Sunday of Advent, Cycle A, *CEV)
Isaiah 2:1-5 – Words especially important for those who have fought in wars: the yearning for peace. And a reminder that we continue to learn God’s will in our congregations (Zion).
Psalm 122 – Churches are places of peace; joy comes from “being down at church” The Greeting of Peace can be profound—perhaps the only time that some older adults are touched, hugged, smiled at and welcomed as worthy.
Romans 13:11-14 – We’re older now, so our salvation is closer. That makes it even more precious—we’ve waited years!
Matthew 24:36-44 – Older people know these two truths implicitly: There is a light at the end of every tunnel—it’s called “daylight!” Endings come quickly, welcomed or not.
Sunday, December 8, 2019 (Second Sunday of Advent, Cycle A, CEV)
Isaiah 11:1-10 – Our heritages are recapitulated in our children and grandchildren. How fortunate we are if our grandkids resemble this God-given leader/savior.
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 – We’ve experienced righteous leaders in the past, which makes our yearnings strong that God would grant us another!
Romans 15:4-13 – In our later years, “former days” stretch back decades. And with that amount of time, a bounty of remembered hope remains to carry us forward.
Matthew 3:1-12 – It’s good to remember the “wild ones” among us–those who have taken the risk to speak truth, to condemn evil, to warn and to call for repentance.
Sunday, December 15, 2019 (Third Sunday of Advent, Cycle A, CEV)
Isaiah 35:1-10 – Christ comes for those of us with weak hands, feeble knees—who are blind, can’t hear well and don’t get around very well any more. Yes, salvation is for us and things will turn around!
Psalm 146:5-10 – Widows, orphans (those who are alone), those bowed down, strangers within this culture, listen carefully: The Lord watches and lifts us up.
(Luke 1:46b-55 – Generations on generations carry forward the truth that God’s mercy continues. We who are old must continue to remember, recount and be glad about this good news.)
James 5:7-10 – Patience—a component of wisdom that comes with age—will be rewarded. True especially if you’ve been prophet-like during your life!
Matthew 11:2-11 – God’s messengers continue to speak out. As an older adult, which prophets/messengers do you look for in these times?
Sunday, December 22., 2019 (Fourth Sunday of Advent, Cycle A CEV)
Isaiah 7:10-16 – Signs of hope may be small, but when you’re older you know how to find them in ordinary people and situations.
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 – A prayer perhaps embedded deeply into the souls of older adults: “How long, O Lord? How long?” We are not alone in praying this way, yearning this way.
Romans 1:1-7 – Before we say anything else about the chaotic times, an example from Paul: In the middle of his own chaos, he offers good words—a benediction—to frame the situation. After decades of life, what special benedictions can older adults offer?
Matthew 1:18-25 – When you named your children, what did you hope would be their destinies? How has that worked out? Are you still hoping?
Wednesday, December 25 (Nativity of Our Lord, Cycle A CEV)
Particularly Appropriate for Christmas Eve
Isaiah 9:2-7 – Walking in darkness is a desperate, lonely way to live – perhaps familiar to some who are older. The light that shines on you, though, is Jesus. Still there.
Psalm 96 – After all these years, you know this is true: The idols of Christmas don’t work, don’t last. Instead, you’ve seen God’s marvelous works. Time and time again.
Titus 2:11-14 – On this holy night, remember what grace has taught you about living a godly life. Be glad!
Luke 2:1-14 (15-20) – An old, familiar story you’ve known for most of your life. What comes to mind when you recall the meaning(s) of these words over the years?
Particularly Appropriate for Christmas Day 1
Isaiah 62:6-12 – This nagging injustice may persist—not getting the rewards for your years of labor. During these latter years of your life, this assurance: This injustice will stop!
Psalm 97 – On this day—perhaps momentarily removed from life’s stark realities—two assurances: God’s power over evil is awesome, even fearsome. And God continues to rescue the faithful from the grasp of the wicked. How’s that been true for you?
Titus 3:4-7 – No matter how old we are, we still don’t deserve salvation in Jesus. Still, it’s a gift for all of us. The gospel is another nutshell.
Luke 2:1-7 (8-20) – (See above)
Particularly Appropriate for Christmas Day 2
Isaiah 52:7-10 – When it comes to working, God knows how to do it the old-fashioned way: Bare-armed! God’s salvation is tangible, tough, gritty, effective, close at hand.
Psalm 98 – Today is a day for noisy worship – trumpets, floods, singing hills. Today is a day for quiet worship—the quiet music of a lyre playing a new song! Which will you choose today? What “new song” in the middle of all the familiar ones?
Hebrews 1:1-4 (5-12) – All your life, this choice: Whose words are you going to listen to? Today another possibility: Listening to a baby. There’s more to him than meets the eye!
John 1:1-14 – “Wisdom” comes in the life and witness of Jesus. Wisdom comes to us as we grow older. Both are true; both give hope.
Sunday, December 29, 2019 (First Sunday of Christmas Cycle A, CEV)
Isaiah 63:7-9 – At the end of another calendar year, a reminder we’ve carried around all of our lives: God has lifted up and carried us for a long time!
Psalm 148 – Old folks and young people—along with the rest of Creation—praise God for what was, what is and what is to come.
Hebrews 2:10-18 – Because Jesus has been through much of the same life experiences as us, we are known by someone who knows….
Matthew 2:13-23 – Jesus was a political refugee, which calls to mind some of our own histories of displacement, being strangers, losing everything.
*CEV – Contemporary English Version