Scripture Introductions

Christmas 1 December 30. 2012 Scripture Introductions by Stewart Clarke
I like introductions, to honour the Scriptures and the interest and intelligence of our congregations, so I anticipate your editing, adapting and correcting my offerings. And may you have a wonderful holy season, and ”Happy New Year, “ remembering that we had our “New Year” the first of Advent! On the first Sunday after Christmas, we shift from the Christmas story to the “Child in the Temple.” (Next Sunday, we will come to the story of the wise men, which implicitly asks how old was Jesus supposed to be at the time of their arrival?! While we like to have both stories, Luke’s and Matthew’s, in the one setting for a Christmas pageant, they are traditionally separate![2]) So, with nativity 0n hold for now, we come to the story of Samuel. We don’t know how old he was, although his mother, who had waited and prayed so long for him, still makes him a robe as a present each year[3], when she and Elkanah visit the Temple[4]. As she had promised, he was dedicated to the Lord’s service, and was among the Temple servants, with a linen ephod, perhaps a sign of his status or responsibility. In the skipped verses, we learn that Eli blesses the parents, and Hannah bears three sons and two daughters (sequentially, I hope)! We are invited to compare this account with the story of Jesus in the Temple. Let’s listen to the account of Samuel, in 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26 (You may reserve your acclaim until after the Gospel reading, or use traditional words, or say something like: May we give thanks for the story of Samuel, and remember our own experience and dedication.)
The Psalm summons us to praise the Lord, along with, and, surely, in harmony with all Creation. Psalm 148 (VU p.870 or p.871)
The Epistle reading takes us into the centre of Paul's advice to the Colossian Church. He speaks to them as “chosen ones,” and, as if reminding them of the new clothes they donned after their baptism, he lists their spiritual clothing, culminating in love and the peace of Christ.[5] Let’s listen to Paul’s carefully worded message, in Colossians 3:12-17 May we give thanks for Paul’s message, and hold it close in our lives.
The Gospel reading tells of Jesus, on the threshold of manhood, going to the Temple with a group of worshippers. It is Passover, a time of year that will be vitally important in his life story. As any young lad might, he manages to upset his parents, even though he sees nothing out of line in what he has done. The closing line is parallel to the last line in the account of Samuel: both grew and matured in every way. [6] Let us rise [7] to honour and be open to the Good News for us in: (Or: Let us listen closely for the Good News for us in:) Luke 2:41-52 May we rejoice in the stories of Samuel and of Jesus, and, throughout our lives, grow in wisdom and in favour with God and people. It is appropriate to follow the readings with thanks and praise.
  1. Incidentally, considering the way that the reading from Tanakh (OT/Hebrew Scriptures) jumps from v. 20 to v. 26, I am reminded of how convenient it can be to have the reading printed out, as a single “script.” Of course, that reminds me that it is much easier to read if it is double spaced or, at least, space and a half. You can use a larger font. And I am then tempted to take one more step and remember how a radio script was easier to read if regular punctuation, which is not always that useful, were replaced with “/” for a short pause, “//” for a longer pause, and “///” for a shift, as with a paragraph. Pardon me for this rambling, please, it is a holy season.
  2. Since both stories are more about the meaning of the Infant event than its historicity, is there significance in the timing, after all?
  3. This is separate from, or in addition to, the “ephod,” which may have been a skirt or kilt! For the priests, at least, it would have had shoulder straps.
  4. Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, has disappeared from the story. She helped set the scene in chapter 1, but the focus shifts to Hannah, and then fully to Samuel, as Hannah, in her turn, is no longer essential to the story and her son steps to centre stage.
  5. Paul covers both how to treat others, and how to act when we are mistreated.
  6. The word, often translated, “men,” is, in NT Greek, non-gender, and may well be translated as “folk,” or “people.”
  7. I used to write, “stand, if we are able,” until I was reminded that this excluded some folk.
(Comments to Stew at