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The First Sunday of Christmas

1 Samuel 2.18–20, 26
Colossians 3.12–17
Luke 2.41–52

To get the full picture of what is going on in the reading from 1 Samuel, we really need the verses that the lectionary chooses to leave out. The story is actually about different kinds of sonship. The contrast is between Samuel, who is not Eli’s own son, but who is growing up to reverence Eli, the temple and God, and the men who are Eli’s own sons, but who see the whole religious cult as something to be exploited for their own benefit. These ‘natural’ sons will die, but Samuel, the son by grace, will grow up to serve God’s purpose for his whole people.

The passage from Luke, too, is about different kinds of sonship. Jesus’ parents are expecting one kind of behaviour, due to them as his parents, but he has chosen another road, that reflects his true parentage, and he is amazed that Mary and Joseph have not noticed whose ‘son’ he is. We are told of Jesus, as of Samuel, that he increased in ‘divine and human favour’, both flourishing in their new ‘families’. This tension between the family of birth and the family of God’s grace is a significant undercurrent in Jesus’ message, and those who live in a world where it is culturally acceptable, if a bit uncool, to be a Christian, should remember those many Christians throughout the world who still have to make the choice between being children of God and children of their parents...

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