Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lectionary Notes

Two Notes on the Octave Day of Christmas
(New Year’s Day)

Whether the day is known as The Octave Day of Christmas and the Circumcision of Christ, Being New Year’s Day (as in the Book of Common Prayer), the Octave of Christmas, the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God (as in the current Roman rite), or The Naming of Jesus (as in the BAS), the same Gospel passage is read, Luke 2.15-21. I wonder if it might not be best to call it the Octave of Christmas and let the complex of themes that arise from the nativity gospel all have their place in our thoughts.
Apart from some questionable jokes and sophomoric suggestions about hymns appropriate to the feast of the Circumcision, it is a theme that should not be allowed to fade into obscurity. In For All the Saints Fr Reynolds suggests that the only reason St Luke mentioned the circumcision of Jesus was that “it fulfilled the last word of the Annunciation, when the angel told the Virgin Mary that the son she would bear should be named Jesus.” The statement in Galatians that the Son of God was “born of woman, born under the law” seems to me to warrant us giving more weight to the circumcision.
For the history of the feast on January 1 and its various names, see:
The first reading in the BAS, Numbers 6:22-27, is the “Aaronic Blessing”. This Priestly Blessing is still recited by the Kohanim (descendants of Aaron) during certain Jewish services. This blessing has found its way into popular culture. Mr Leonard Nimoy has said that in Star Trek he derived the hand gesture associated with the Vulcan phrase “Live long and prosper” from the gesture of the Kohanim while reciting this blessing. For further information on this bkessing and its use in current Jewish ritual, see and .
May God bless you all in the coming year.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas 2008

A Christmas Alone

This year, for the first time, I was unable to be with my family on Christmas Day. Spending Christmas by myself was not so bad, probably because I was not really alone, but I do not think it is the ideal way of spending the holiday
On Christmas Eve there were two celebrations of the Holy Eucharist at the Church of St Columba and All Hallows, where I am Priest in Charge; between the two masses I was very kindly invited home by parishionners who fed me with conversation, tea, and Christmas cake. The attendance was moderate, but the feeling was good, and gratifying remarks were made about my preaching. When all was over I got home at a good hour and tried to watch Alistair Sim as Scrooge on television until I had to go to bed, defeated by the commercial breaks.
On Christmas morning I went to St Matthias’, Bellwoods, for the Sung Mass of Christmas Day. As I was waiting for the streetcar I noticed a man who frequents my end of Queen Street; I give him something from time to time. It struck me that not to do something on Christmas day would be terribly shaming, so I crossed the street to wish him a merry Christmas with a small but useful gift. Mass was lovely, and Fr Kennedy preached a good sermon. Afterwards some friends asked if I had plans for Christmas Dinner, saying that I was most welcome; but by this point I had already thawed the game hen for my own dinner, and felt I had to decline. Moreover, I had been invited out for dinner on Boxing Day, and there was no danger of missing good fellowship!
Home again, I watched the Queen’s message and then napped. Then I cooked a Cornish game hen stuffed with olives following a recipe adapted from Apicius. While it was cooking I called my brother’s home in Ottawa to wish them a merry Christmas and spoke to my Mother. I was thankful that I was only separated by distance, and not estranged from family, as many are. Then after dinner and a quiet evening, I slept. Once or twice in one's life a quiet Christmas Day is a good idea. One should probably not make it a habit, however, for Christmas delights in fellowship. That is why the heart of the celebration is at Church.

On Boxing Day, I went to celebrate the 12:30 Eucharist at St James’ Cathedral. Despite the alternative date provided in the new Church Calendar, the Cathedral keeps St Stephen Protomartyr and the other feasts on the three days after Christmas Day. Many familiar folk were at this mass, including the Bishop of Toronto. (Whenever I see the bishop at a cathedral celebration, I am particularly glad to have remembered that I was on!) In the evening I went for dinner at the home of dear friends, and could not have wished a more festive evening.
So I passed the first days of the Christmas festival in 2008, and though I was often by myself, I was never alone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lectionary Notes

A Note on the Nativity of our Lord: Christmas Day

The Lectionary provides three sets of readings for the Eucharist at the Midnight, in the Early Morning, and during the day on Christmas. With so much material, I do not propose to comment on all the readings, but urge you even more strongly than usual to refer to the notes at the RCL Commentary site from the Diocese of Montreal (see the link at the left).
At St Columba and All Hallows we will be hearing the first set at the earlier family service and the third set, the traditional readings of the Christmas Mass, at Midnight.
In my own preparation for Christmas this year I have been reading some of the Seventeen Sermons on the Nativity by Lancelot Andrewes. In line with the question which I have recommended as a question to ponder in Advent, some passages from Andrewes’ fifth sermon on the Nativity help us to meditate of the Angel’s words to the Shepherds, which declare what Child this is: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” I offer you these passages to consider in the last days of preparation for Christmas.
"The Angel addeth farther, 'A Saviour Which is Christ', For many saviours had been born, many had God sent them that at divers times had set them free from divres dangers of their enemies; Moses, from the Egyotians; Joshua, from the Canaanites; Gideon, from the Midianites; Jephtha, from the Ammonites; Sampson, from the Philistines. And indeed, the whole story of the Bible is nothing else but a calendar of saviours that God from time to time still stirred them up.
"But these all were but pety Saviours. there was One yet behind that was worth them all. One that 'should save His people from their sins' (Mat 1.21); save not their bodies for a time, but their souls for ever, which none of those saviours could do.
"And there is yet more particularity in this word Christ: three offices did God from the beginning erect to save his people by; and that by three acts—the very heathen took notice of them—1.Purgare, 2. Illuminare, 3. Perficere. 1. Priests, to purge or expiate; 2. Prophets, to illuminate or direct them; Kings, to set all right, and to keep all right in that perfection which this would admitteth. And all these three had their several anointings. Aaron the Priest (Lev 8,12) Elisha the Prophet (1 Kgs 19.16), saul the King (1 Sam 10.1). In the Saviour which is Christ, His will was all should meet, that nothing in Hum might want to the perfecting of this worl. That He might be a perfect Saviour of all, He was all. “A Priest after the Order of Melchizedek,” (Ps 110..4) a Prophet to be heard when Moses should hold his peace, (Deut 18.18); a King to save His people, 'Whose name should be Jehova Justitia nostra' (The Lord is our righteousness; Jer 23.6). David’s Priest. Moses’ Prophet, Jeremy’s King.
"And these formerly had met double, two of them in some other; Melchizedek, King and Priest; Samuel, Preist and Prophet; David, Prophet and Kimg. Never all three but in Him alone; and so, no Perfect Christ but He; but He all, and so perfect. By His Priesthood to purge, expiate, and 'save us from our sins, being a propitiation to God for them,' (1 John 2,2); by His prophecy to illuminate and save us from the by-paths of error, 'guiding our feet in the way of peace,' (Luke 1.79); by His Kingdom protecting and conducting us through the miseries of this life, till He perfect us eternally by Himself in the joys of His Heavenly Kingdom. Rightly then, 'A Saviour which is Christ.'"
[Lancelot Andrewes; Sermon V on the Nativity, Preached before King James I at Whitehall, on Tuesday the 25th Day of December, AD 1610, being Christmas Day.]
May the Good News of Christmas come to you as new this year, and its joy dwell in you all your days.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, Year B
21st December, AD 2008
The Annunciation

On the Fourth Sunday the Advent tone shifts from John Baptist’s call to repentance to the tender account of the Annunciation of the Lord Jesus to our Lady Mary. The Collect prays that we may embrace God’s will as Mary did, and rejoice in the salvation declared in the coming of the Lord Jesus. It is for this reason that the Sentence of the day in Years B and C is Luke 1.38, Mary’s acceptance of thw Angel’s Message, and the great role to which God has called her.

The Readings

[Don't forget that there are helpful notes on these readings at rhe RCL Commentary site: the link is at the left.]

The First Reading: 2 Samuel 7.1-11, 16.

The events of this passage took place shortly after David, now king over all Israel, captured the city of Jerusalem (2 Sam 5) and brought the ark of the Lord to rest in his new capital (2 Sam 6). Now at peace on all sides, and living in a fine palace of cedar, David is ashamed of the tabernacle in which God was worshipped and wishes to build a temple, but God wills that he establish an everlasting dynasty. The key to understanding the passage is the wordplay on the various meanings of the word house): in vv 1 and 2 it means ‘palace’, in vv. 5, 6, and 7, it means ‘temple’; in vv 11 and 16 it means ‘royal house’ or ‘dynasty’ (like the house of Tudor or Windsor). It is not often that word play translates from language to language, but in this case it does: the same Hebrew word carries the same variety of our “house”.
Although God promises that David’s house and throne will be established for ever, it was seemingly not so. In 587 or 586 B.C., it fell to the Babylonians. The conviction that God’s promises cannot fail led to the expectation that the kingdom would be restored under a descendant of David. In today’s Gospel St Luke sees the promise to David ultimately fulfilled in the universal and eternal kingship of the Lord Jesus. It is with this in mind that we can make the Psalm our prayer of prauise and thanksgiving for what God gave us in Jesus Christ
Here are some oints worth noting in this passage : The prophet Nathan latrer plays an important role in David’s great sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam 12) and Solomon’s succession as King (1 Kings 1).
It may be of interest to note that the word “tabernacle” is in Latin the diminutive of “taberna”, which means a rude hut or dwelling, a tent; but also came to mean a place of business, a shop, and eventually gave us the word tavern.

Psalm 89:1-4, 19-16.

The caption given in the New Oxford Annotated Bible is “A King prays for deliverance from his enemies.” This psalm may be a source for the account in the first reading. In it the psalmist recalls the covenant God made with David (1-4) and rehearses the terms of the convenant God once made with him (19-26). There seems to me to be no good reason why the selection ends at verse 26 and does not continue at least until verse 39 at least. From the last twenty verses it appears that the Psalm was written afer the defeat of a king, or even after the fall of the house of David.

The Epistle: Romans 16:25-27.

This passage is the concluding benediction of the letter; however, it is not absolutely certain that it belongs at the end of Romans. In the oldest text of the epistle we have, it is found after 15.33. In other MSS it is found after 14.23; others lack it entirely. From the language and ideas (such as mystery) in this passage, some scholars believe that it is a later fragment that scribes have included in Romans. Nonetheless, the evidence seems sufficient that the editors place it here (see further in the RCL notes). I mention this because it is surprising that there are not more serious problems like this in the text of the New Testament, but that it is in general very reliable.
The theme of a mystery, that is a truth long hidden but now revelaed to and through the Apostles, is important for our reading of the first lesson and the Gospel for today. In the coming of Jesus a depth of emaning, hitherto unknown , was revealed in God’s promises to David. Knowledge of this should establish our faith, as in Christ we come to a right knowledge of the whole of scripture.

The Gospel: St Luke 1.26-28.

When the Angel Gabriel (“My master is God”) appears to Mary. and salutes her as highly favoured. she is frightened. (It is interesting to note, in light of the way angels are so often depicted in art, that when they appear they have to say, “Fear not!” Someone said that the angels in are look more likely to say “There, there.”) Gabriel but the angel reassures her, declaring that she has found favour with God, and shall have a son who is to be named Jesus. He is to be called theSon of God and he shall reign on the throne of David for ever. In answe to Mary’s question how this can be, the angel tells her that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and informs her of Elizabeth’s comdition. Thereupon Mary meekly accepts the message
There are two parts to the message this passage conveys about the child who is to be born. First, St Luke wants us to believe that Jesus is born from God. This is why the Scriptures and Creeds of the Church affirm that Jesus was conceived and born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit: “the virginal conception” is “the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own” [The Catechism of the Catholic Church]. As St Thomas Aquinas teaches, it was also a sign that we are reborn in Christ "not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13), and, following St Augustine, that "It behooved that our Head, by a notable miracle, should be born, after the flesh, of a virgin, that He might thereby signify that His members would be born, after the Spirit, of a virgin Church.” {Summa Theologica, Pars IIIa, Q. 28 Art 1.]
Secondly, he wants us to undertand the role of the Christ in salvation history. As we read in 2 Samuel, God had promised David an eternal house and throne. Hence the expectation that a descendant of David would once again rule the house of Jacob. Luke sees this expectation fulfilled in a wondrous way in Jesus Christ, whoc will reign over God’s people for ever.
I conclude with a comment of interest from the theologian C. B. Moss on the Virgin Birth:

It has, however, been suggested that the story of the Virgin Birth is based on a misunderstanding of Isa. 7:14 ("Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel"), and that the argument was, "The Messiah was to be born of a virgin; Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah; therefore He must have been born of a virgin; therefore He was born of a virgin."
But this objection will not bear examination. The Hebrew word in Isaiah does not mean a virgin, but a young woman, married or unmarried. It is not a prophecy of the Messiah, and no emphasis is laid on the mother’s virginity. It is a prophecy of an Assyrian invasion, and the point is that before the child, who is shortly to be born, is old enough to know right from wrong, the Assyrians will have destroyed Samaria and Damascus, and the population will be reduced to famine rations (butter and honey). There is no evidence that anyone ever referred this passage to the Messiah until the writer of St. Matthew’s Gospel did so (1:22), but he was fond of taking passages of the prophets out of their context and referring them to incidents in our Lord’s life. It was the event which caused the reference, not the reference the belief in the event. In St. Luke’s account which is probably the older of the two, there is no reference to this passage in Isaiah. [The Christian Faith pp 111-112]

Note: Texts of Sermons are occasionally published on my blog Sermonets for Christianets. Click on :My Sermon Blog"at the left. Since some parishioners asked, the Sermons for Advent II and Advent II have now been posted.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for the Third Sunday of Advent, Year B
Sunday, 14 December, 2008

Advent III: Gaudete Sunday
Although the penitential character of Advent has not quite disappeared, it is no longer generally regarded as a “little Lent”. In some ways this is a pity, for it is a good principle that we should prepare for the joy of a feast by self-examination and restraint, and putting away the festive airs and indulgences. I suspect that a more serious Advent might be a more pointed contrast and corrective to the anticipation of Christmas festivity that now marks all of December in Western culture. This appears to be a minority opinion, however, and I only raise it because the old name for this Sunday marked it as a relief from the sombreness, just as Mothering Sunday does at Mid-Lent. In the good old days (or bad, depending on your point of view) it was only on Advent III that the organ was played and flowers decorated the altar and rose-coloured vestments could be worn.
The name Gaudete comes from the Introit for the day in the old Missal, whose Antiphon is Philippians 4.4, Rejoice in the Lord always (Gaudete in Domino semper). That epistle was also read this Sunday, which is possibly why it was chosen for the Introit. For some reason the reading seem to have been bumped to the next Sunday in early English uses, a practice which was carried over into the Book of Common Prayer. In the revised liturgy, Philippians 4 is read only in one year of the cycle, but other passages are read in other years which urge Christians to rejoice, as in this Year B the reading from 1 Thessalonians begins with the words “Rejoice always!”

Although the traditional theme of this Sunday is Joy, the Sentence — or Alleluia verse—taken from the first reading proclaims the sending of the Messiah or Christ (both words mean the Anointed One) to declare God’s favour and salvation to the poor, his comfort to those who mourn. If we think about this for a moment, it should be clear that it is because of this good news that we rejoice, and Joy is truly the theme of this Sunday.

The Collect, in its prayer that things that hinder our love of God may be removed from us, calls us to self-examination; for individuals are hindered in loving God in different ways, and to make this prayer their own must be aware of their own situation. Two points are noted below where the readings today suggest further interpretations and applications of this prayer in our Christian life.
The Readings
I am happy to welcome new readers of this blog from the Church of St Columba and All Hallows in East York. where I have the honour to be Interim Priest in Charge. This is a good occasion to mention Chris Haslem’s Commentary on the Revised Common Lectionary from the Diocese of Montreal, which has such excellent comments on the readings that I do not need to repeat them here. I hope that you will consult these RCL notes; a link can be found on the left hand side of this page.
The first readings, Isaiah 61.1-4, 8-11, is a consolation of the people who have returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. Compare it to the Servant Songs of chapters 42-53 or Isaiah, and in particular of 50.4-11. The passage, especially the two opening verses, has particular importance for Christians because it was this passage which Jesus read in the synagogue in Nazareth and declared that in his ministry the prophecy found fulfillment.
Note the joy with which this passage ends, as the prophet recognizes the good things God has done. Verse 10 my sould shall exult in my God can easily be read as a prophecy of the joy with which our Lady was filled (the Magnificat, Luke 1.47-55).
Psalm 126 also comes from the time of the return from Babylon. This deliverance was beyond belief (“we were like them that dream”); but as life returned to normal it seemed to be hard and disappointing, Then the people cried to the Lord to restore their fortunes, and the psalm ends on a note of hope, confidence, and joy.
We may note that the Negev is the desert to the south of the land of Israel. The “watercourses” are the riverbeds which only flow with water after the seasonal rain. This is a symbol of our souls, which without the grace of God are dry and lifeless. God’s grace is an ever-flowing spring (see John 4.14), but it is within our power to turn away from the source or even damn up our lives so that his grace is hindered. This is a point where we might remember the collect for the day, and the things that hinder out love of God.

1 Thessalonians 5.16-24. The final chapter of 1 Thessalonians is very good to read in Advent St Paul has been explaining the sort of people Christians ought to be as they await the coming of the Lord Jesus, just as we ought to consider every year what kind of people we should be as we prepare to celebrate his coming and birth. The last thing the Apostle speaks of is the spiritual life. We are to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in everything” because this is what God wants for us in Christ.
We do not have space for more than a brief comment on joy. Just as in Christian language, Love is not the emotion but a way of acting towards others regardless of how we feel (“a policy”, as Madeleine L’Engle put it), Joy is not simply feelings of happiness or delight, but is more deeply-rooted in the knowledge of God and doing God’s will (see John 15.10-11). Indeed, joy might be something new and strange, so that one has to learn to recognize it. To take the first steps in knowing Joy one must turn to God in prayer, and study his teachings, especially the words of Jesus, and try to carry them out in your daily life. Then our souls will be refreshed like the watercourses of the south when the spring rains come.

John 1.6-8, 19-29. This is the Gospel reading in the Prayer Book for Advent IV. It is also known to those who love classic English church music from that wonderful anthem by Orlando Gibbons, This is the Record of John.
As we heard last Sunday, the preaching of John the Baptist and his call to a baptism of repentance had stirred up the whole countryside. St Luke informs us that “all questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ”. The religious authorities at Jerusalem (whom St John calls “the Jews”, v. 19) sent to inquire into John’s ministry. We must not assume that this inquiry was malicious: it was the responsibility of the council to investigate purported prophets and judge whether they were true or false.
When John denied that he was the Messiah, they asked whom he claimed to be. The coming of Elijah before the Day of the Lord was foretold in the third chapter of Malachi, while Deuteronomy 18 spoke of the coming a prophet like Moses. People later affirmed that Jesus was this prophet (John 6.14, 7.40). At John’s further denial, they asked who he said he was, and he replied in the words from Isaiah quoted in all the Gospels, “I am the voice crying in the wilderness”. John 3:26-30 should be read along with this passage.
Here we see one important lesson to learn from John the Baptist as the forerunner of the Lord. It is that John points away from himself and towards Christ. Like John the Baptist, the Church and its members must learn to say, we ourselves are nothing, we only matter if we point you to Jesus. As we pray that God will remove from us the things that hinder love of him, let us remember that when we do not keep God’s commandments, we may easily hinder the love of other people for God.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Useful Resources

Some Resources for Advent
There are hundreds of websites to do with Advent and Christmas. Here are just a few that looked interesting and useful. They are in no particular order. You can find many more by going to "seasonal resources" at Anglicans Online.
The Season of Advent: Anticipation and Hope by Dennis Bratcher [The Colours of Advent ; The Spirit of Advent ; Evergreens and The Advent Wreath; Celebrating Advent ; An Advent Reflection
Full Homely Divinity : Resources for Anglican Parish Life
Lift Up Your Hearts: Advent, Christmas & Epiphany Resources
This blog from the Scottish Episcopal Church has daily postings for Advent and more.
A calendar with spoken word and music from the BBC
A history of the Advent Calendar
Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament

Friday, December 5, 2008

God Moves in a Mysterious Way ...

This week I received an unusual comment on my notes for Advent I. It was from a person in India who began by saying very clearly that he (I believe) was not commenting on my notes but was trying to reach my younger brother, Dan.

Dan is an animator, and some time back had been in India, and in particular in Mumbai. From what he saw he produced a cartoon entitled 'Construction worker's slum with the luxury condo's the workers built in background Bombay, India' which my correspondent wanted to use on the conver of the magazine published by Evangelical Fellowship of India Commission on Relief based in New Delhi. He was seeking Dan's contact information.

The obvious thing to do was to pass the note on directly to Dan. It was more efficent than to send an email address to India, and more respectful of Dan's privacy. As it turned out, he was more than happy to give permission for use of the cartoon, because of his concern for the poverty and need, and our correspondent in India was very happy.
That is an effect I would never have thought this blog would have. If the cartoon raises awareness of the needs of poor workers, then I will be glad to have done a little something to help, even if all I really did was provide an avenue for contact. I'd like to see the cartoon sometime.

Lectionary Notes

Some Thoughts on the Second Sunday in Advent, Year B
7th December 2008

An Advent Question
Advent is our time of preparation for our annual remembrance of the birth of Christ for Christmas. Although there is great pressure all around us to begin Christmas celebrations as soon as we can, there is much to be gained by holding off. How often do hear folk ask what is the meaning of Christmas, or where the true meaning of Christmas gone and how we can get it back?
In many of us are very busy with the outward preparation for Christmas: decorating homes and offices, shopping for gifts, cooking and baking. In the midst of all this preparation, the prayers and readings of Advent —at least those of the Eucharist on the four Sundays — can help to keep our hearts and minds fixed on the one whose coming we celebrate.
May I recommend a simple question to keep in mind that will keep the Advent preparations focussed? You know it, it is the opening of a very beautiful Christmas hymn: “What Child is this who, laid to rest, On Mary’s lap is sleeping?” If we make this question the focus of Advent prayer and meditation, by the time we come to the creche on Christmas Eve we will be ready to contemplate the story it depicts.
The Three Advents
We are well used to thinking of the first Advent of our Lord, when he came in humility to be born for us at Bethlehem, and looking ahead to the his second coming in glory to judge the world; but as Peter of Blois, who lived from about 1135 to about 1200, said in an Advent Sermon
"There are three Advents of the Lord: the first to take our flesh; the second to our soul; the third to judgment. The first at midnight the second in the morning, the third at noon.”
The first Advent has been; the third is yet to come; the third is in our loves. In the second Advent our Lord comes to us in the Spirit, and if we welcome him, takes possession our souls, and gives us new life. We mst keep this in mind when we hear the words of Isaiah : Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
In one sense this means that I must be sure that the way is open for him to me. And this is why in the Gospel today we hear of John’s Baptism for the remission of sins. In sin I turn from the way of God to go my own way. It is not that Christ won’t come to me, but that I block his way, being blind to his coming and deaf to his voice.
In another sense, when we hear these words we must ask ourselves whether we are preparing a way for the Lord to come to his people or are blocking him

With all these things in mind, it is clear why the particular Sentence ot Alleluia Verse was chosen for today, for it contains a very clear promise and a very clear command: The promise is that “All flesh shall see the salvation of God”, that is to say, the salvation of God comes to all people; it is most obviously fulfilled in the proclaiming of the Gospel in all lands and nations. The command is to prepare the way of the Lord, as.
The Readings
As always you would do well to look at the notes at the RCL Commentary Website; a link is in the left-hand margin.
In each year of the Revised Common Lectionary the Four Sundays of Advent follow the same pattern.
The Gospels of the first Sunday all concern the Coming of the Son of Man in glory to judge the world;
The Gospels of the Second and Third Sundays concern the John the Baptist, the Forerunner of the Son of Man and his testimony to Jesus
The Gospel of the fourth Sunday concern the annunciation of Jesus’ birth to Joseph (Year A) and Mary (Years B and C).
Today our first reading [Isaiah 40.1-11] is the opening of the second part of the Book of Isaiah; it is a prophecy of the return of Israel from exile in Babylon. The prophet sees it as a new Exodus (the wilderness, the desert) and a promise that God himself will be shepherd of his people. This, as we remember was a theme through the last Sundays of the Chiurch year. Another passage of Isaiah which is closely related to this one is Isaiah 35.1-10 (read on Advent 3 in year A).
The Advent focus of this passage is made clear because it was used by John the Baptist, as seen in today’s Gospel.
The Psalm [85.1-2, 8-13}, like the first lesson, looks to God’s mghty acts of salvation as assurance that he will continue to show loving kindness to his people.
With the Epstle reading from Second Peter [2 Peter 3.8-15a] we return to the theme of Christ’s coming in judgment. We must not forget that this, too, is answer to the question “what child is this?” for Christ was not always a child, and he did not come to give only a superficial love and peace. He came to meet the needs of the human race at the very roots of sin and death, and to restore God’s loving and merciful rule. That cannot be without judgment.
Moe immediately, this passage says two things to us. The first is that although the promised coming may seem delayed, it is not. All things, and the end of the story, are in the hands of Christ. If we are given time, it is so that we may turn to him and learn his ways. The other thing is that if we are to be his people, knowing that he is to judge, we must ask ourselves, How then shall we live? At Christmas, we may put this another way: our Lord came in humility to become an infant, which is a sign of his giving all he had for our sake. How then shall we live?
I have to confess that I am not sure what is meant by "waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God" (verse 12). Most early modern translations (such as the Authorized Version of 1611) give it as hastening unto; some more recent versions give vehemently desiring. Hastening seems to be the most literal version, but what does it mean? What can we do to hasten the day of God? This would be an excellent question for a Bible Study Group. Another question that comes from this verse is: what difference is there, if any, between the "day of the Lord" and the "day of God"?
The Gospel passage [Mark 1:1-8] is very straightforward, and I do not think I need to add anything to the notes in the RCL Commentary.
I am looking forward to being at The Church of Saint Columba and All Hallows this Sunday to begin a time as Interim Priest in Charge. The Church is at 2723 St Clair Avenue East, just east of O'Connor Drive, in East York. The Holy Eucharist is celebrated at 8:30 a.m. (said) and 10:00 a.m. (sung)