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December 26, 2021

Year 2 - Week 17 (December 26, 2021 - January 1, 2022)

Day 1 (Monday)

Isaiah 40:1-31

In this week between Christmas and the New Year, as we do not have Sunday School this coming Sunday, we will hold off one more week on continuing the story of Abraham and his family. Instead, we will read a passage from the prophecy of Isaiah, in which the prophet begins to speak of the coming Incarnation of the Lord, and of the prophet who will proclaim His Coming in the desert. This reading is the perfect bridge between Christmas and the Lord’s Theophany, and also provides words of comfort and encouragement as we leave behind one year and begin the next.

God’s People Are Comforted

40 Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

3 A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

6 A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.

9 Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”

10 See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure,
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?

13 Who has directed the spirit of the Lord,
or as his counselor has instructed him?
14 Whom did he consult for his enlightenment,
and who taught him the path of justice?
Who taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?

15 Even the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as dust on the scales;
see, he takes up the isles like fine dust.
16 Lebanon would not provide fuel enough,
nor are its animals enough for a burnt offering.
17 All the nations are as nothing before him;
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

18 To whom then will you liken God,
or what likeness compare with him?
19 An idol? —A workman casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold,
and casts for it silver chains.
20 As a gift one chooses mulberry wood
—wood that will not rot—
then seeks out a skilled artisan
to set up an image that will not topple.

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to live in;
23 Who brings princes to naught,
and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.
24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when He blows upon them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

25 To whom then will you compare me,
or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them,
calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength,
mighty in power,
not one is missing.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.

30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should point out that this text is the source of the words of St. John the Baptist when he is asked who he is, and what he says about himself, that “he is the voice of one crying, ‘in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord.’” With this, then, we begin immediately to prepare for the Feast of Theophany, but more than that, throughout the passage the Prophet is turning the priorities of the world upside-down, affirming the Lord’s care for His people, the foolishness of those who pursue power or wealth or give worship to idols, and concluding with the reminder that it is those who wait on the Lord, those who put their trust and their hope in Him, who will find fulfillment and joy in the end. This reading, then, is also perfect for the celebration of the New Year, as we reflect on what our priorities should be. Let us seek the Lord above all, that we may be counted among His Faithful, now and into eternity.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?

Day 2 (Wednesday)

Abba Poemen on New Year’s Resolutions

Abba Poemen was a monastic saint in the early days of monasticism, and lived out in the Egyptian desert. He was a contemporary with such figures as St. Anthony, St. Macarios, St. Moses the Ethiopian, and St. Pachomios. Their life and sayings were foundational to the lives of many of the most important saints of the Fourth Century, including St. Basil the Great and St. John Chrysostom. Most of what we know of them is preserved in collections of brief sayings; the greatest number of sayings are attributed to this Abba Poemen. (Abba is a word that means “father”). The monastic rule that is still practiced in the Orthodox Church is built on the experience and wisdom of the Desert Fathers.

Abba Poemen

Abba Poemen heard of someone who had gone all week without eating and then had lost his temper. The old man said, “He could do without food for six days, but he could not cast out anger.”

Abba Poemen said about Abba Pior, “Everyday he makes a new beginning.”

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should mention that it is indeed easier to do “spiritual” feats than it is simply to keep our temper and walk in love toward one another. And that the right way to live is not to dwell on the past, whether we have done well or have done badly, but instead to begin each day fresh, looking to God for mercy, and walking in faithfulness, humility, and repentance.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?

Day 3 (Friday)

1 Peter 4:1-19

We will take one more week looking at the 1st Epistle of St. Peter to the Church at large, but will return to the Gospel of Mark next week. We saw St. Peter last week urge the Faithful to be prepared to suffer, even when they did good, even BECAUSE they did good, because the Lord Himself had suffered these same things. This is a general principle in the Christian life, but it also tells us that the Church in his time was actively experiencing persecution, and lets us know that one of his reasons for writing is to encourage them and guide them in this difficult time. We will see him continue this theme here.

Good Stewards of God’s Grace

4 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), 2 so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. 3 You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry.

4 They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. 5 But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.

7 The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.

11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

Suffering as a Christian

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker. 16 Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name. 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinners?”

19 Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should point out that St. Peter expects the Christians to live in a different way from those around them, that their lives should be changed because of their Faith. It is not acceptable for Christians to continue to live ‘in drunkenness, carousing, passions, and idolatry.’ St. Peter, indeed, expects Christians to be hated by those around them precisely because they refuse to take part in these things any longer. He urges them to stand firm and remain faithful, even when they are hated and tortured and killed, remembering that God is Faithful, and will reveal them as victorious if they suffer with Christ in this world. He urges them, however, to be certain that they do not commit actual crimes, such as murder or theft, but to rejoice if they are punished for being Faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. And so to should we live.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?


Year 2 - Week 17 (December 26, 2021 - January 1, 2022)

Day 1 (Monday)

Isaiah 40:1-31

In this week between Christmas and the New Year, as we do not have Sunday School this coming Sunday, we will hold off one more week on continuing the story of Abraham and his family. Instead, we will read a passage from the prophecy of Isaiah, in which the prophet begins to speak of the coming Incarnation of the Lord, and of the prophet who will proclaim His Coming in the desert. This reading is the perfect bridge between Christmas and the Lord’s Theophany, and also provides words of comfort and encouragement as we leave behind one year and begin the next.

God’s People Are Comforted

40 Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

3 A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

6 A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.

9 Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”

10 See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure,
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?

13 Who has directed the spirit of the Lord,
or as his counselor has instructed him?
14 Whom did he consult for his enlightenment,
and who taught him the path of justice?
Who taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?

15 Even the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as dust on the scales;
see, he takes up the isles like fine dust.
16 Lebanon would not provide fuel enough,
nor are its animals enough for a burnt offering.
17 All the nations are as nothing before him;
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

18 To whom then will you liken God,
or what likeness compare with him?
19 An idol? —A workman casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold,
and casts for it silver chains.
20 As a gift one chooses mulberry wood
—wood that will not rot—
then seeks out a skilled artisan
to set up an image that will not topple.

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to live in;
23 Who brings princes to naught,
and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.
24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when He blows upon them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

25 To whom then will you compare me,
or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them,
calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength,
mighty in power,
not one is missing.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.

30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should point out that this text is the source of the words of St. John the Baptist when he is asked who he is, and what he says about himself, that “he is the voice of one crying, ‘in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord.’” With this, then, we begin immediately to prepare for the Feast of Theophany, but more than that, throughout the passage the Prophet is turning the priorities of the world upside-down, affirming the Lord’s care for His people, the foolishness of those who pursue power or wealth or give worship to idols, and concluding with the reminder that it is those who wait on the Lord, those who put their trust and their hope in Him, who will find fulfillment and joy in the end. This reading, then, is also perfect for the celebration of the New Year, as we reflect on what our priorities should be. Let us seek the Lord above all, that we may be counted among His Faithful, now and into eternity.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?

Day 2 (Wednesday)

Abba Poemen on New Year’s Resolutions

Abba Poemen was a monastic saint in the early days of monasticism, and lived out in the Egyptian desert. He was a contemporary with such figures as St. Anthony, St. Macarios, St. Moses the Ethiopian, and St. Pachomios. Their life and sayings were foundational to the lives of many of the most important saints of the Fourth Century, including St. Basil the Great and St. John Chrysostom. Most of what we know of them is preserved in collections of brief sayings; the greatest number of sayings are attributed to this Abba Poemen. (Abba is a word that means “father”). The monastic rule that is still practiced in the Orthodox Church is built on the experience and wisdom of the Desert Fathers.

Abba Poemen

Abba Poemen heard of someone who had gone all week without eating and then had lost his temper. The old man said, “He could do without food for six days, but he could not cast out anger.”

Abba Poemen said about Abba Pior, “Everyday he makes a new beginning.”

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should mention that it is indeed easier to do “spiritual” feats than it is simply to keep our temper and walk in love toward one another. And that the right way to live is not to dwell on the past, whether we have done well or have done badly, but instead to begin each day fresh, looking to God for mercy, and walking in faithfulness, humility, and repentance.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?

Day 3 (Friday)

1 Peter 4:1-19

We will take one more week looking at the 1st Epistle of St. Peter to the Church at large, but will return to the Gospel of Mark next week. We saw St. Peter last week urge the Faithful to be prepared to suffer, even when they did good, even BECAUSE they did good, because the Lord Himself had suffered these same things. This is a general principle in the Christian life, but it also tells us that the Church in his time was actively experiencing persecution, and lets us know that one of his reasons for writing is to encourage them and guide them in this difficult time. We will see him continue this theme here.

Good Stewards of God’s Grace

4 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), 2 so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. 3 You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry.

4 They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. 5 But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.

7 The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.

11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

Suffering as a Christian

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker. 16 Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name. 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinners?”

19 Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should point out that St. Peter expects the Christians to live in a different way from those around them, that their lives should be changed because of their Faith. It is not acceptable for Christians to continue to live ‘in drunkenness, carousing, passions, and idolatry.’ St. Peter, indeed, expects Christians to be hated by those around them precisely because they refuse to take part in these things any longer. He urges them to stand firm and remain faithful, even when they are hated and tortured and killed, remembering that God is Faithful, and will reveal them as victorious if they suffer with Christ in this world. He urges them, however, to be certain that they do not commit actual crimes, such as murder or theft, but to rejoice if they are punished for being Faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. And so to should we live.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?