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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 11, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 18, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 25, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…

The Holy Name January 1, 2012

Numbers 6: 22-27
Psalm 8
Galatians 4: 4-7
Luke 2: 15-21

This is a rare occasion, when we have the opportunity to celebrate the feast of The Holy Name on a Sunday.  This day was formerly called the Feast of the Circumcision. As a Jewish boy, Jesus would have been taken to the Temple when he was eight days old to be circumcised and to receive his name. This would have been a family celebration similar to our sacrament of baptism, a time to thank God for the blessing of this child and to observe the ceremony of his naming, the sign of his identity.

Our reading from the Book of Deuteronomy is about blessings and it is a blessing with which we are all familiar. Let’s look a little more deeply at its meaning. “The Lord bless you and keep you. The original Hebrew meaning is, “The Lord strengthen you and guard you.” The next phrase is, “The Lord make his face to shine upon you.” Hebrew scholars tell us that the meaning here is similar to the expression, “His face lights up when she comes into the room.” The sense of this is that God’s face lights up at the sight of each of us. God loves us that much. Think of that—God’s face lights up at the sight of you.

“The Lord lift up his countenance upon you.” Scholars tell us that, in the ancient world, this means to look someone in the eye. God looks us in the eye. When we are really close, when we are trying to communicate deeply, we make eye contact; we look into each other’s eyes.

The final blessing is God’s shalom. Theologian Beth Tanner writes, “This is a word that is often underestimated today, for it is so much more that the absence of war; it is a state of completeness in all aspects of our lives, of happiness and fulfillment and the achievement of our full humanity. It can only happen in the presence of God, when we have been blessed by our Creator, God, with love and grace. It is a blessing that fits well on the day when we celebrate the naming of Jesus in the Temple and Mary as the Mother of God, both of whom teach us what it means to stand face to face with God.” (New Proclamation 2011 p. 50.)

Our reading from Galatians tells us that Christ has come to show us the way to live, to make us children of God, once again emphasizing our closeness to our loving God.

The gospel for today tells the story that means so much to us. The angels have announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds. Shepherds are the little people. On the social scale, they are at the bottom. But the Good News is shared with them first. The shepherds then go to Bethlehem to see Jesus. They share the good news with Mary and Joseph and with the other people there at the manger.

Then comes that wonderful and terrible sentence: “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” A momentous thing has happened. Did she have any idea where this would lead? That it would lead to a criminal’s death on a cross? We know that, when it came to that point, she stood at the foot of that horrible instrument of torture and kept vigil while her son went through that torture. She walked the journey with him to the end. Mary is a person of great courage and strength.

The gospel tells us that the shepherds went back to their flocks, praising God.

And then, just as any ordinary Jewish parents would do, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple to be named and blessed and welcomed into the congregation of the faithful.

Such an ordinary thing to do, just following the law, just being faithful. No fanfare. No trumpets.

God comes among us as one of us, just an ordinary child born to ordinary parents. The angels announce this birth to a bunch of shepherds. We are so used to hearing it that it is difficult for us to absorb what a paradox this is. God comes among us as one of us.

We are children of God. That is our identity. God’s face lights up when God sees us.  Jesus is our brother. He is our Savior, and he is our brother. We are that close. We are called to follow him, to live lives like his.

But it all started just as it did with us. God came among us as a baby born to two very ordinary, everyday people, Mary and Joseph. Two average people, people of deep faith and great courage. People just like you and me.

I hope we will take some time to think about these things. That God loves us ordinary people so much. That God calls us to follow God and then walks the journey with us, right beside us. That God is as close as our breath. That God is here among us, and the face of God lights up when God sees us.

May the rest of your Christmas season—all six days of it—be filled with the presence and love of God.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

                                                                   Amen.