The Second Sunday after Christmas takes up themes, and even borrows a reading, from earlier Sundays. It does so to deepen the sense of celebration whenever God is revealed among God’s people. This is especially poignant in the passage from Jeremiah and in today’s psalm. The figure of Wisdom also appears, in readings from the book of Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon, conveying how God can become accessible. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Jesus fulfills the providential purpose of God as the Anointed, while John’s Gospel identifies Jesus as God more emphatically than any other Gospel.
The First Reading
Celebrate God’s Restoration of the People Israel!
The prophet Jeremiah announces God’s intention to restore the people Israel after they were disciplined in their time of exile. Images of well-being and renewal pile one on top of another to proclaim the Lord’s compassionate rescue of the people from foreign powers. Not only Israel itself, but all the world sees the power and protection that God gives to God’s people.
The Lord declares:
Shout out joy for Jacob and raise a shout over the foremost among the nations!
Announce, give praise, and say: Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel!
Look: I am bringing them from a north land
and gathering them from the far reaches of the land.
Among them are the blind and impaired,
women both pregnant and in childbirth;
it is a great gathering that returns.
They come weeping; at their pleading I will show them the way.
I will lead them to streams of water on a level path—they will not stumble there;
so have I proven to be Israel’s father and Ephraim is my first-born.
Hear the proclamation of the Lord, nations! Declare on the distant shores; say:
The one who scattered Israel will gather them again
and will guard them as a shepherd with the flock.
For the Lord has ransomed Judah and taken them back from a power too strong for them.
So they will come and raise a shout on Zion’s height; they will stream to the Lord’s goodness:
to the grain and to the wine and to the oil, to the flocks and herds.
Their very being will be like a watered garden; never again will they wither.
Then a young woman will dance with joy—young and old men together.
So I will turn their grieving to celebration;
I will comfort them and make their joy greater than their grief.
I will fully satisfy with richness the very being of the priests
and my people will be satiated with goodness
pronouncement of the Lord.
or Sirach 24:1-12
Wisdom’s Dwelling in Zion
The Scriptures of Israel sometimes personify Wisdom, with Wisdom appearing as the feminine aspect of God. The book of Sirach, alternatively called the book of Ecclesiasticus or Ben Sira, describes Wisdom as active in creation along lines similar to the book of Proverbs, chapter 8. In that text, Wisdom states that God created her before the creation of the earth; during God’s act of creation, Wisdom stood beside God, “like a master worker.” Here the author of the book of Sirach more particularly celebrates the deep and joyous association of Wisdom and Jerusalem.
Wisdom proclaims herself, she boasts in the midst of her people;
she opens her mouth in the assembly of the Most High and boasts in the presence of God’s power:
“I emerged from the mouth of the Most High and blanketed the ground like a mist;
I established a dwelling in the highest skies, and my throne in a pillar of cloud.
I alone encircled heaven’s sphere and walked in the bottomless depths.
Among the sea’s waves, every land, and every people and nation, I staked a claim.
Among them all I considered sheltering—in whose inheritance should I lodge?
Then the creator of all commanded me; the one who created me settled my dwelling.
God said, ‘Establish your dwelling in Jacob and receive your inheritance in Israel.’
Before time, from the beginning, God created me, and I shall not disappear for all time.
I had ministered before God in a holy dwelling, and so in Zion I was established.
Accordingly, in a beloved city God settled me; my authority was in Jerusalem.
I took root among a glorified people, in the Lord’s portion: God’s inheritance.”
God Protects Zion and Its Inhabitants
God deserves praise for protecting the people of Israel (verses 12-14), for exerting great power over all creation (verses 16-18), and for revealing the divine law that sets Israel apart from the nations (verses 15, 19-20). Just as God’s power over creation is eternal, so must be God’s protection of Israel and God’s law. That law appropriately shapes the lives of the people of Israel in the same way that God’s word continually orders creation.
- Extol the Lord, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion.
- For God strengthens the bars of your gates,
bringing blessing upon your residents in your midst.
- God—who creates peace within your borders,
satisfying you with choice wheat;
- who sends divine speech to the land—
how quickly God’s word runs!—
- who spreads out snow like wool,
scattering frost like ashes.
- God flings down hail like crumbs;
God’s freezing blast, who can withstand?
- God issues a word and it melts;
exhales and the water flows.
- God declares a word to Jacob,
statutes and ordinances to Israel.
- God has not done so for any other nation;
divine ordinances they know not.
or Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21
In Praise of Wisdom for Deliverance and Guidance
Scripture often portrays Wisdom as a feminine figure associated with God in heaven. The following reading praises her as the force behind Israel’s deliverance from Egypt at the Red Sea and as Israel’s guide through the wilderness. Not only does Wisdom accomplish these things for Israel, she also grants Israel the power to sing God’s praise for the victory God has won for the people.
- Wisdom has delivered a holy people and a blameless seed from an oppressive nation.
- Wisdom entered into the very being of the Lord’s servant—Moses—and stood against fearsome kings by wonders and signs.
- Wisdom rewarded the upright for their labors, led them in a wondrous way, became protection for them by day and a blaze of stars by night.
- Wisdom carried them across the Red Sea and led them through overpowering waters.
- Wisdom drowned their enemies and churned them back up from the bottomless depths.
- Therefore the righteous laid waste to the ungodly and praised in song, Lord, your holy name and cheered in unison your victorious hand.
- For Wisdom opened the mouth of the mute and made plain the speech of babblers.
The Second Reading
Redemption in the Anointed
The Epistle to the Ephesians deliberately brings together many themes that the apostle Paul addressed in his correspondence with several communities of believers. The epistle takes a long view, discerning God’s purpose as it emerges over time. God desires the unification of heaven and earth so that the children of God can enjoy their full redemption.
God, source of blessing, father of our lord the Anointed Jesus, has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the celestial realms by means of the Anointed. God chose us by means of the Anointed before the foundation of the world, so that we could stand holy and blameless before God in love. God destined us, by the pleasure of the divine will, to be made God’s own children through Anointed Jesus—praise the glory of God’s grace, extended to us by means of the beloved! In the Anointed we have redemption through his blood, forgiveness of transgressions by the wealth of his grace, abounding to us in all wisdom and intelligence. God made the mystery of the divine will known to us by God’s pleasure as set out by means of the Anointed, to bring together everything in him as the fulfillment of time unfolds: everything in heaven, everything on earth, by means of the Anointed.
In accordance with the purpose of the One who effects everything by deliberate intent and will, we, who have long hoped in the Anointed, have been allotted and destined to become the living praise of the divine glory. You also heard the word of truth, the message of your salvation: you believed and were sealed with the holy Spirit of promise, which is the initial realization of our inheritance—the accomplished redemption that makes us the living praise of the divine glory.
John 1:[1-9], 10-18
The Word Uniquely Revealing God
The opening of John’s Gospel introduces a theme that became dominant in Christian theology: the understanding that the world encounters the force of its creator in the person of Jesus. For that reason, the Gospel begins with a description of how God shaped the world, stressing that God did so by means of “the word,” a term that in Greek (logos) refers to the meaning and purpose of a speaker’s words. “The word” refers not only to the specific terms a speaker uses but also to the speaker’s choice of language. Here, however, the speaker is God, so that the spoken word brings reality itself into existence. As this reading develops, Jesus is identified as God—first as the “light” and then as the “word” of God, now embodied in a specific person.
[At creation: The word, so close to God that it was God. At creation, close to God, everything existed through the word. Apart from it not one thing existed which has ever existed. Life was by the word, and life was the light of humanity. The light shines in the darkness, and darkness does not grasp it.
There was a person sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness, so he could testify concerning the light, so that all would believe through him. He was not the light, but came so he could testify concerning the light.]
The light was true, which enlightens every person coming into the world. It was in the world, but, although the world existed through it, the world did not recognize him. He came into what was his own, and his own did not accept him. Whoever did accept him—to them he gave authority to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were begotten not from bloodlines, nor from the will of flesh, nor from the will of a man, but from God.
The word became flesh and resided among us; we saw his glory, glory as of an only child close to a father, full of grace and truth. John was witness to him and announced: “This is the one of whom I said, ‘The one who comes after me is ahead of me, because he was prior to me.’” From his fullness we all received: grace piled upon grace—Law given through Moses, and grace and truth coming through Anointed Jesus. Nobody has ever seen God. The one divine word, cradled in the Father—this one has interpreted God.