This Sunday I, and many others, will preach according to the RCL readings. The gospel is Matthew 1:18-25. Whoops, that's the reading for Christmas Day, isn't it? No. I have checked again: that is the reading for Sunday 19 December, 2010. But shouldn't it be a Christmas Day reading only and not six days beforehand? Fair point, but do not worry, there are fine readings from Luke's Gospel for Christmas Eve/Day services. Wait. Just hold on a minute there. I am sure this is the Year of Matthew (beginning with Advent, not on 1 January 2011). Surely there would be a Matthew reading for Christmas Day in the Year of Matthew? Well, there is: if you have Morning Prayer. What? Matthew-without-eucharist or eucharist-without-Matthew? Looks like it.
Seems strange, but I suppose it is one of those quirky things whereby in the Year of Matthew there is not a Matthew gospel reading on Christmas Day but in the Year of Luke there is a Matthew reading. Er, stupid. In the Year of Luke (last year) it was Luke readings all the way through: last Sunday before Christmas, Christmas Day.
Let me be clear here for local readers: as a paid up licensed clergyperson of ACANZP which includes rubrics about 'appointed' readings in its liturgies, I am a supporter of lectionary adherence. But I struggle to understand some things about the RCL readings. I do not understand some of its omissions: they look, for all the world, like 'politically correct' decisions (but that is a topic for discussion on another day). Here, I do not understand why the Year of Matthew does not drive forward the gospel reading chosen for one of the great festivals of the church calendar.
I get it, that on Christmas Eve/Day, Luke's Gospel provides a longer birth narrative yielding a better set of consistent (from one gospel) readings than Matthew's briefer account. I understand the choice for Luke year on year. But I think it is a poor consequence that in the Year of Matthew pretty much every preacher is going to feel a need to explain why Matthew 1:18-25 is the reading for six days before Christmas. When we explain we lecture, when we lecture we lose the attention of our congregations.
Who is in charge of revising the RCL?
It is not our General Synod.
What? There is something in the life of our church in which we are beholden to decisions made elsewhere in the world? Quelle horreur! How unAnglican to submit to a written document controlled by others beyond the shores of our fair islands and the control of our General Synod.
Advent (or Early Christmas) Blessings!