God is the true shepherd who gathers his flock under the righteousness of Jesus (Jeremiah 23:1-6). He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46). Jesus provides light in the darkness and rescues his people from their enemies (Luke 1:68-79). The King of the Universe has reconciled all things to himself through the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:11-20). Like the criminal that was crucified beside him, he remembers those who humble themselves, acknowledges his holiness, and call upon him in faith (Luke 23:33-43). In him, we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Jeremiah 23:1-6 Luke 1:68-79 Psalm 46 Colossians 1:11-20 Luke 23:33-43
“Jesus has risen (Acts 10:34-43)! God’s love for us is unshakeable. In the most desperate situations, he will be victorious (Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24). Let us then also walk in new life, putting away the old things (Colossians 3:1-4). Let us celebrate with the two women at the tomb Jesus’ triumph over death. He is risen, as he said (Matthew 28:1-10).” -Thomas Oden, Ancient Christian Devotional
God made us and we are His (Psalm 100), the sheep of His pasture who worship Him and take comfort in his guidance (Psalm 95). Our Good Shepherd will look after, and search for, His lost sheep (Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24). We pray for wisdom and enlightenment so that we may know Christ better (Ephesians 1: 15-23), longing for Christ to come and say, “You who are blessed, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world (Matthew 25:31-46).”
“Even when circumstances are overpoweringly difficult, God “turns deserts into pools of water, and parched land into springs of water” (Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37). We desire to live worthy lives (1 Thess. 2:9-13), not for the praise of other people but in order to please God (Matt. 23:1-12) and to walk in the light rather than the darkness (Micah 3:5-12, Psalm 43)” -Thomas Oden, Ancient Christian Devotional
The glorious life of the Trinity created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1-2:4a). God’s creation is spectacular and demonstrates that He has not abandoned His creation, but continues to sustain all life (Psalm 8). In the light of this gift, Christians are called to gratitude, peace, and love (2 Corinthians 13:11-13). We can find hope in Jesus’ promise to never leave us as we baptize, teach, and live in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:16-20).
“On Pentecost, we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-21). Through Christ, we are given the living water of the Holy Spirit, poured out on believers on Pentecost, so that we might “thirst” no more (John 7:37-39) and that we might use the spiritual gifts we are given to his glory (1 Corinthians 12:3b-13). We look at the wonders of creation and cannot help but praise God for his wisdom, originality and the beauty of the world around us (Psalm 104:24-34, 35b).”
The Ascended Christ Sends His Spirit and Makes us One
Before ascending into heaven, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to empower his followers until his return (Acts 1:6-14). This promise gives us the strength to pray and follow God, even in the midst of suffering and anxiety. These things may last for a little while, but we are encouraged to stand firm knowing that Christ himself has prayed for us (1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11). Though orphans, he has promised us a home (Psalm 68: 1-10; 32-35). He has granted us eternal life and the fellowship of other believers, even while we wait (John 17:1-11).
Permit us not, O Lord, to hear your word in vain. Convince us of its truth, cause us to feel its power and bind us to yourself with chords of faith and hope and love that never shall be broken. We bind to ourselves today, you our God: your power to hold us, your wisdom to teach us, your word to give us speech, your presence to defend us, this day and every day; in the name of the blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to whom be the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever and forever. Amen.
Today Roman Catholics and Anglicans mark the Feast of Leo the Great (Bishop of Rome, died 461). In a time of great cultural upheaval, he became known for uniting political and spiritual authorities. His writings provided the church with the language necessary to unite around common ideas about the nature of Christ at the Council of Chalcedon, and his role as a mediator in violent political conflicts helped to spare many lives. He is well known for his meeting with Attila the Hun, convincing him to hold off a few years before attacking Rome, then negotiating for less bloodshed when the Vandals later destroyed Rome.
Here is a brief passage from his Christmas Day sermon (In Nativitate Domini) titled, “Christian, Remember Your Dignity.”
“Let us then, dearly beloved, give thanks to God the Father, through His Son, in the Holy Spirit , Who for His great mercy, wherewith He has loved us, has had pity on us: and when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5), that we might be in Him a new creation and a new production.
Let us put off then the old man with his deeds: and having obtained a share in the birth of Christ let us renounce the works of the flesh. Christian, acknowledge your dignity, and becoming a partner in the Divine nature, refuse to return to the old baseness by degenerate conduct. Remember the Head and the Body of which you are a member. Recollect that you were rescued from the power of darkness and brought out into God’s light and kingdom. By the mystery of Baptism you were made the temple of the Holy Ghost: do not put such a denizen to flight from you by base acts, and subject yourself once more to the devil’s thraldom: because your purchase money is the blood of Christ, because He shall judge you in truth Who ransomed you in mercy, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit reigns for ever and ever. Amen.”
-Leo the Great
Resources for engaging the Revised Common Lectionary