Isaiah 52: 7-10
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.
Hebrews 1: 1-4
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
O sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvellous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
have gained him victory.
The Lord has made known his victory;
he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.
John 1: 1-14
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him,
and without him not one thing came into being.
What has come into being in him was life,
and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
He came as a witness to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He himself was not the light,
but he came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone,
was coming into the world.]
He was in the world,
and the world came into being through him;
yet the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who received him, who believed in his name,
he gave power to become children of God,
who were born,
not of blood or of the will of the flesh
or of the will of man,
but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory,
the glory as of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth.
you have given us your only-begotten Son
to take our nature upon him
and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin:
grant that we, who have been born again
and made your children by adoption and grace,
may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
by Dr Rowan Williams
"The Lord is our righteousness"
That, says the prophet, is what the long-awaited saviour will be called. To get some sense of what this means, we need to set aside a lot of the associations that the word ‘righteousness’ has for us today. It often sounds a bit judgemental and superior. But for the Jewish prophets, it meant being fully in harmony with the way things were.
To be righteous was to be in a truthful and fitting relationship with what was real–with God and with God’s world.
No wonder, then, that Jesus tells us that it is ‘blessed’ to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness. We long to be at home with what’s real, not to live in little worlds of our own invention. And the gift that is there for us in the coming of Jesus is the gift of a renewed and restored relationship to what is real.
We are all in one way or another stuck in little worlds of our own invention, stuck in an unreal, self-centred, short-term frame of reference, and we need to be pulled out of these fantasies into the light of reality – like the shepherds being startled and shocked by the blaze of light filling the night sky, so that they set off with a cleansed and renewed vision, eager to see what God is doing, to see the truth and respond to it.
All our service of and attention to the world’s needs grows out of this. We see freshly; we see the dignity and beauty of human beings denied, frustrated, disfigured all around us, and we sense arising in us a hunger to see more fully the truth of what God has given in each and every person, and to welcome the gifts they offer us.
"The Lord is our righteousness": what does this mean? That in the Spirit of Jesus, we begin to see with God’s own eyes the full glory of the world God has made and to respond with love and delight.
Rowan Williams is Chair of Christian Aid and former Archbishop of Canterbury