- Date: January 9, 2022
- Bible Reading: John 2:1-11
- Free Resource: Praise Prayer (PK-2nd, NL)
- Unit Theme (December 26—January 16): Encountering the Messiah
- The Point: Jesus’ glory is revealed through a miracle.
Weddings are celebrations that interrupt our daily routines. While at a wedding, Jesus is asked to keep the celebration going. Jesus turns water into wine and the celebration gets even better.
We’ve just come out of a celebration-heavy season. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve all run together. These celebrations, as well as Easter, Independence Day, your birthday, and so many others, come, right on schedule every year. They help us mark the passing of time. They help us remember traditions, and tell the stories of a faith, a people, or a life.
These cyclical celebrations are wonderful, with layers of tradition, and creativity. In the church, these remind us of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah. They also remind us, annually, that the story of Christ is not over, and continues in us.
The thing is, if we let them, these stories can become stale. We sing the same songs, read the same stories, and serve the same meals over and over again. We can forget, or at least become apathetic about the presence of Christ in the world.
To counteract this, we have celebrations that interrupt the daily and yearly patterns of the church. Baptisms celebrate new life in Christ. Whether your denomination practices infant baptism, believer baptism (or both), this celebration is a reminder that new life is always happening. Funerals are reminders that death is not the end, and that life is eternal.
Then there are weddings. These celebrations of a union between two people before God and the community become spaces of communal joy. These gatherings interrupt everyday life and celebrate the couple’s joining together and their future together in the community.
Jesus Keeps the Celebration Going
A wedding then is the perfect place for Jesus’s first miracle in the Gospel of John. In chapter 2 of John, a wedding celebration has run out of wine. Jesus’s mother asks him to attend to this issue, and after some gentle bickering, he has the servants fill up six large stone vessels with water. And when they draw from these jars and take it to the head waiter, it has become a fine wine.
Just when it looks like this party is coming to an end, Jesus not only keeps the celebration going, but he also makes it better by offering up something new after the party has been going on for a while. This miracle offers a preview of a celebration that will only get better as it goes on. Just as weddings interrupt the day-to-day, year-to-year movement of life with new possibilities, Christ interrupts life with new possibilities through miracles, teachings, and, ultimately, his resurrection.
Celebrations and Interruptions
Worship and education at church can be very routine, so taking time to celebrate new life in ways that interrupt the regular schedule matters. The following suggestions are designed for faith communities to encounter Christ in the interruptions of life.
A Refreshing Baptism Reaffirmation
The new year often involves new beginnings. Many churches have baptismal remembrance or reaffirmation services that serve as a reminder that Christ has already offered us a new beginning. While this is often an annual service, consider adopting a new way of observing it.
As part of the worship service, dip an evergreen branch in a bowl of water and fling it on individuals (or the entire congregation) as a means of remembrance that startles, refreshes, and reorients them toward Jesus.
In January, people might be partied out, but why not surprise them an unexpected party. Whether it’s in a class, small group, or worship, shift the experience with light refreshments and a time to talk about new opportunities in the new year. Have people talk about how they will look for Christ in the new year, and how they plan to listen for God in their life.
Ring the Bells
Whether it’s a bell in a shop that says “Ring for Service” or ringing the church bells after a wedding, bells have an interrupting power that signals something is happening. As part of the class or worship, invite people to talk about how Jesus has interrupted their life and then ring a bell. You might use a handbell or a set of jingle bells. If your church has a large bell (or bell tower) you might use that.
Celebrations that Keep Going
No matter how you celebrate the New Year, the reaffirmation of baptism, or the interrupting power of Christ in our lives, know that the celebration extends on through our whole lives and into eternity. Carry this hope with you in your lives, knowing the celebrations will only get better.
Jonathan LeMaster-Smith lives with his wife, Shannon, in Hildebran, North Carolina (District 12 of The Hunger Games movies). He holds a Ph.D. in Christian Education and Congregational Studies from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary with a focus on Rural Ministry and Methodist Studies. His work includes presentations on Dolly Parton, articles on ditch lilies, and musings about the genius of mayonnaise.
During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: Sept 12 to June 5), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download the activity “Praise Prayer” from our Living the Word: Kids (PK-2nd, NL) curriculum which can be used with many ages in many contexts!