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Second Sunday after Christmas - 2021


The Second Sunday after Christmas Day

Psalm 37 (v.1-6)

Noli aemulari

FRET not thyself because of the ungodly : neither be thou envious against the evil-doers.

2. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass : and be withered even as the green herb.

3. Put thou thy trust in the Lord, and be doing good : dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

4. Delight thou in the Lord : and he shall give thee thy heart’s desire.

5. Commit thy way unto the Lord, and put thy trust in him : and he shall bring it to pass.

6. He shall make thy righteousness as clear as the light ; and thy just dealing as the noon-day. 

The Collect

ALMIGHTY GOD, who hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word; grant that the same light enkindled in our hearts may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 61.1-3

Psalter: Psalm 85, 87 | 90, 91

{Epistle Reading: Philippians 2.12-18}

Gospel Reading: St. Matthew 2.19-23 

This is from my pastoral letter for this last week: 

It’s confession time. This morning in my devotions I realized something I’d never really pondered. Since the time I was baptized in the Mediterranean Sea just south of Tarsus, Turkey, I have avoided Psalm 91. What I mean is that I would read it, and then rush past. The reason is because the chief slanderer, the arch-adversary misused it to tempt our Lord. He took it and waved it in front of Jesus as his offer of sunshine and success, health and wellness (Matthew 4:5-7, Luke 4:9-13). For almost 40 years I have found that Psalm, with all of its promises of deliverance, and disease-free living a hard pill to swallow. 

But this morning, not only did a see what I had been doing for decades, I also recognized that Psalm 91 must be read with Psalm 90, and all of its dusty descriptions of shortness of life (90:3-6), secret sins (90:7-8), insubstantiality (90:9-12), and suffering (90:13-17). Hard on the heels of such a stiff Psalm comes one that initially feels like the polar opposite. But Psalm 91 is all about the person who dwells in the shelter of the Most High and takes refuge in him (91:1-2, 9-10, 14-16). In a way, Psalm 91 is the answer to the closing prayer of Psalm 90 in verses 15-17. 

But Psalm 91 is also about our Lord Jesus, after his death and burial. Now, raised from the dead – body, blood, bones, toenails, and hair, gloriously transformed and never again subject to misery or mortality! But more, it is the promising picture of what we also can expect when our Lord returns to judge the living and the dead, to raise his own to “the resurrection of life” (John 5:29). Therefore, in the here-and-now, it adds fiber and fortification to our souls and hearts. This is what we will experience with our Lord unendingly, and we can feel it commencing now…sometimes…sort of. But as long as we live in the world of Psalm 90, it will only be tid-bits of Psalm 91 popping up unexpectedly. But still, it adds fiber and fortification to our souls. 

And this is what lies behind Paul’s courage in Philippians, when, while all isolated in his confinement, living with walled-barriers and imposed “social distancing”. And yet he can say, “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (1:20-21). Here was a man living with a Psalm 91 faith in a Psalm 90 world, because he was confident in his Lord who is Psalm 91 in the flesh!

And that’s where we want to be, and on our better days, we are. It’s also why we happily sing, during this Christmas season, the words of “Good Christian Men, Rejoice!” And especially that third verse:

“Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;

now ye need not fear the grave: Jesus Christ was born to save!

Calls you one and calls you all to gain his everlasting hall.

Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!”


Oh, dear brothers and sisters, in this Psalm 90 world, let us live with a Psalm 91 faith because of our Lord. In this way we can “rejoice, with heart and soul and voice” because “now ye need not fear the grave: Jesus Christ was born to save! Calls you one and calls you all to gain his everlasting hall. Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!”

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