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.


Felicity Pickup said...

Fascinating.This one's a winner. thanks for getting it ut on Friday.

William Craig said...

You should probably thank the snow!