A bit of a curve here on the second Sunday after Christmas. We’ve been in tandem with Isaiah and the Gospel text for the week up to now. So why shift to Ephesians for this last part of the series? Because we need the blessing. OK, also because the lectionary shifts to Jeremiah and to the prologue of the Gospel of John, which we may have just covered on Christmas Eve or Day. Since there was a change coming anyway, why not make a big change and listen in on Paul’s opening words to the church in Ephesus?
We’re wrapping up Christmas this week. Some may have already packed everything away; others may still be sitting in the glow of the lights and tinsel. But the goal isn’t to shuffle it all away, but rather to embrace the fullness of the community that we have become – incorporating the new but becoming one in Christ.
It is not, however, about self-congratulations that we gather. Yes, indeed we are blessed. But we are blessed in order to bless the source of blessing. Paul tells us that the gift we have received, the gift of new life, is so that we might live for the praise of God’s glory. That’s what this worship experience is about – praising God. Yes, of course, every worship service includes praise. But this week, praise is the beginning and the end. And in the heart is the call to praise, to a life of praise.
This is what living the celebration means: living a life of praise. But now our circle is wider because of the company who have come and stayed. Maybe that company includes neighbors and new potential members. But certainly the company is the renewed spirit of Christ who dwells among us in new and dynamic ways. That is why we need to be careful and not speak of a return to normalcy. We aren’t returning to anything; we are going forward. We are embracing the new thing that God is doing in our midst. We celebrate the new community that we have become. Even if it is the same people, we are renewed and revived by our attention to the Advent and Christmas season. We didn’t endure all that went before; we were transformed by it.
What that transformation looks like is still being worked out. Maybe the time apart and online has made us a new community, longing to see one another face to face. We took that for granted before. Now it is the core of our being. Maybe if we took “a sabbatical” during the pandemic and didn’t meet or do very much online, now we are looking forward to becoming a new community of faith born out of separation and distance. You might even consider a name change, perhaps temporarily at least. Instead of First United Methodist Church, you can become New First United Methodist. New Trinity, New St. Paul’s, New Wood Street; find a way to celebrate the newness of your fellowship.
Maybe you want to save that for next week, after 2021 begins. More on that in our next series! In the meantime, plant a seed of hope as you cling to the promise of a new community, a new blessing. Rejoice in the fellowship of one another as you live into what God is doing in your midst. And then lift your voices and sing God’s praise, maybe literally, maybe spiritually, if that is still too risky. But let your hearts be glad as you live the celebration.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.