THE SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT IN YEAR A
5 DECEMBER 2010
1-9: The Future King
In the closing verses of Chapter 10, Isaiah has used imagery of forests and tree imagery; the Lord will cut down Assyria. Now he turns the imagery to the house of David; from what seems a mere stump will come new growth, a new Branch. Compare Job 14.7-10.
Jesse was the father of David (see 1 Samuel 16). The oracle of the new Branch promises a king from his line, but he will be a king of a new kind. The Spirit of God will rest in him as it did on David (1 Samuel 16.13). The note is recalled in the Servant Song of Isaiah 61.1 which was in turn the text of the first sermon of the Lord Jesus at Nazareth (Luke 4.18).
The Branch of Jesse is one of the most important images of Advent, being found in the great ‘O’ Antiphons, of which we will have more to say next week
Six gifts of the spirit are listed in v. 2: wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of (that is, proper respect for) God. In the old Greek translation, ‘piety’ was read in this passage instead of ‘fear of the Lord’; with the mention of fear of the Lord in verse 3, this gives the traditional Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost (see the prayer in the Order for Confirmation in the Book of Common Prayer, page 560).
The promised King will bring perfect justice; from perfect justice comes perfect peace. In verses 6-9 the images of peace among animals speak of the restoration of the ideal state of harmony God originally intended, before humans revolted against him. See also Ezekiel 47:1-12 (water flowing from the Temple).
This king (“root of Jesse”, v. 10) will be a rallying point not just for Judah but for all peoples: they will see his achievements and “inquire” of God’s glory as reflected in him. This verse is quoted in today’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans. It is perhaps not too far-fetched to think of the Lord crucified when Isaiah says that ‘the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples’
The patience and steadfastness of Christ teaches Christians to bear with one another so that gthey can live in unity with one another by God\s grace, and together glorify God. In reading this prayer we need to bear in mind that the Church at Rome was mixed, composed of Jewish and Gentile Christians.
St Paul goes on to ground this unity in the example of Christ, who came to fulfill the promises that God truly made to the patriarchs of Israel (v. 8) but shows with several quotations from the Scriptures that the salvation he came to bring was for the Gentiles as well. The quotations are: Verse 9: Psalm 18.51; 2 Samuel 22.50. Verse 10: Deuteronomy 32.43. Verse 11: Psalm, 117.1. Verse 12: Isaiah 11.10
John the Baptist: Forerunner of the Lord.
Verse 2: Repent. Commentaries often say that the Greek word [μετανο-έω] literally means `return` or `turn around`. In fact the basic meaning of the verb is to perceive afterwards or too late, and secondarily to change one's mind or purpose. The noun μετάνοια is a change of mind or heart, which then gains the sense of repentance, regret. (The Latin paenĭtentĭa , ae,whence our ‘penitence’ and ‘repentance’ is ultimately from a noun poena, meaning indemnification, compensation, satisfaction, expiation, punishment, penalty and itself from the Gr. ποινή, ἄποινα, quitmoney, fine. So this sense of pentience is about what it costs you, whereas the other is about finding the right way to be and act) Anyway, John Baptist calls the people to return to the way of life called for by God`s covenant with Israel. The kingdom of heaven: Matthew uses this expression in place of kingdom of God which is found in the other synoptic Gospels.
Verse 3: this is he that was spoken of… All the Synoptics (cf. Mark 3. i ; Luke 3. 4) refer here to Isaiah 40.3, but they use the quotation differently, as can be seen in Luke`s version which is the Sentence for this Sunday. They also all follow the Greek version in reading `the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare…”’, whereas the Hebrew is ‘A voice cries, “Prepare ye in the wilderness the way…”’: In the fourth gospel John applies the prediction to himself (John 1.23). As royal travellers sent messengers (Harbingers) ahead to clear the roads from obstruction, and even to form roads where none existed, so the prophet represents divine Providence as preparing the way for captive Israel to return to their own land. Just so the mission of John was to open a way for the Messianic King.
Verse 4: The description of John Baptist echoes the description of Elijah in 2 Kings 1.8.
Verses 7-10: John sees many representatives of the two main religious parties of his day, and rebukes them. These are the Pharisees and Sadducees. Mark omits this address to the Pharisees and Sadducees, but Luke applies it to the multitude. They cannot expect to ‘get by’ simply on being members of the chosen people; they must repent, return to the way of life God expects of them and show it in ‘fruits’ worthy of repentance
Verses 11-12: John speaks of the one who is to come after who will bring not only repentance (a baptism in water like John’s), but a complete cleansing and a new life (baptism in the Holy Spirit and in fire, which was indeed fulfilled on the day of Pentecost).
THIS WEEK’S CALENDAR
Sunday 5 : The Second Sunday of Advent
On this day in 1792 died Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Monday 6 : The Commemoration of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, c. 342; National Day of Action on Violence against Women
It is perhaps not unfitting that Nicholas, the fourth-century Bishop of Myra in what is now the south-west corner of Turkey should have given his name to the great symbol of Christmas giving, Santa Claus. For Nicholas was remembered for deeds of kindness and generosity on land and sea. In the Middle Ages his relics were stolen and moved to Bari on the east coast of Italy, where they remain in the Cathedral. See http://www.thebookofdays.com/months/dec/6.htm
On this day was born Henry VI of England, 1421
Tuesday 7 : The Memorial of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, 397
Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, was a great champion of the orthodox faith, even bold enough to stand up to emperors in the cause of truth. It was Ambrose who baptized the great St Augustine of Hippo. He also gave us the expression ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do’. Remind me to tell you about that sometime.
On this day in 43 BC Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman orator, was assassinated.
Wednesday 8 : The Memorial of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Although even the names of the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary are known to us only from legend; the desire to mark and celebrate the great moments of the life of the woman whom God chose out of all the world to be the mother of his Son was as strong as it is easy to understand. Jeremiah sang of God’s calling him before he was formed in the womb and consecrating him as a prophet before he was born; how much more should this be true of the Mother of the Saviour.
On this day in 1542 was born Mary, Queen of Scots, at Linlithgow
Thursday 9 : The Memorial of the Prophets of the Old Testament
We remember and celebrate the Prophets of the Old Testament among the saints of Christ, as Father Reynolds writers, ‘because they recalled Israel; and Judah to God’s covenant and uttered the word of God’s justice so that the people might return and seek redemption from the Lord.’
Friday 10 : Feria; UN Human Rights Day
Feria is a term used in the Church calendar to mean a weekday.
Saturday 11: The Commemoration of Clement of Alexandria, Priest, c. 210 (Transferred from December 5th)
Clement of Alexandria was a theologian of the second century, a priest and head of the Christian Academy in Alexandria which had been founded to instruct new converts in the faith. He taught there until persecution forced it to close; he then went to Asia Minor where he died in around 210. His writings are very valuable in helping us to understand the teaching of the early church.
Women’s Fellowship Breakfast Group at St Columba and All Hallows today!