Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for the Week of Advent IV in Year A
Sunday. 19 December 2010

The theme of the last week in Advent (which in fact is seldom a whole week), as both the Sentence of the day (Matthew 1.23) and the Collect express, is the birth of Jesus to the Blessed Virgin Mary, chosen by God to be the mother of his Son.

First Reading : Isaiah 7.10–16
Tiglath-Pileser III, King of Assyria (745–727 BC), was the great power in Middle East; he received tribute from King Menahem of Israel (2 Kings 15:19) and defeated his successor Pekah (15:29). Pekah had allied with Rezin, king of Syria (Aram) against Ahaz of Judah (735-715 BC), who had refused to join them in a league against Assyria. Ahaz appealed for Assyria's help. Tiglath-Pileser took Damascus, killed Rezin of Syria, and deported the Aramaeans to Kir (16:9). He also seized the northern half of Israel, and deported the Reubenites, Gadites, and Manasseh to Assyria (1 Chron. 5:26) [See 2 Kings 16.1-20].
In the midst of all this, God sent Isaiah to meet Ahaz and tell him that he may have confidence if he trusts in God, but ‘If you will not believe, surely you will not be established” [Isaiah 7.1-9]. In proof of this Ahaz may ask any sign and it will be given him. Ahaz refuses; to which God responds with a sign, but not for Ahaz; it will be one to speak to future generations.
10. It may be that Ahaz’ indecision between the courses offered by his advisers and by the prophet prompted the offer of a sign.
11. A sign [’owth, אוֹת] was not necessarily something miraculous (see Isaiah 37.30).
12. Ahaz’ refusal of the offered sign probably indicates that his mind is already closed. Rashi’s commentary says more bluntly: ‘and I will not test: I do not wish that His Name be hallowed through Me.’
13. Rejected by Ahaz, the Lord now declares that he will give a sign to the House of David.
14. The young woman: English versions of Scripture have traditionally followed the Greek and Latin versions in translating the Hebrew word ‘alma עַלְמָה by the word virgin. But in Hebrew ‘alma is not the technical term for a virgin; that is bĕthulah בְּתוּלָה. ‘Alma does seem elsewhere to mean a young unmarried woman, but not necessarily a virgin when she is with child. Moreover, the significance of Isaiah’s prophecy lies in the child, not in His manner of birth. The child promised will guarantee the dynasty’s future (note again ’the house of David’ in v. 13; cf v. 2) and for this reason can be called Emmanuel (with us is God). It has carefully to be observed, however, that the Jews did not expect the Messiah to be born of a virgin. Consequently, this verse could not have given rise to the idea of the Virgin Birth, as has been alleged. The Virgin Birth was first believed in, and then Isaiah's words were taken to be a prophecy of it. We cannot go into this matter in any further detail here; the parish Library has a copy of Raymond Brown’s The Birth of The Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke, in which a proper discussion may be read, The questions of how we are to understand prophecy and how St Matthew used this verse in the Gospel are discussed on pages 143-153. Note the article, The young woman, which seems to imply a known individual. That this was perhaps a wife of Ahaz would fit the prophesy as spoken to the House of David.
PSALM 80.1–7, 16–18 (2-8, 18-20)
In the New Oxford Annotated Bible, this Psalm is described as A Prayer for Deliverance from National Enemies. A most notable feature is the refrain in verses 3, 7, and 20. The prayer, stir up your strength and come to help us (v. 2), is the true prayer of Advent, and is answered in the coming of Jesus Christ.
v. 1-3: A cry for help. You that are enthroned upon the cherubim: see 1 Sam 4.4, where the ark of the covenant is described.
vv. 4-7 describe the nation’s woe. God seems to have forgotten his people and left them to their enemies.
vv. 16-18 are a promise of faithfulness in the future. The man of your right hand, the son of man is a personification of Israel, but may also refer to the promised Messiah.
Though Romans is the first epistle in the New Testament, was not the first to be written. It was probably written in 57 AD, when Paul was near the end of his third missionary journey around the Eastern Mediterranean. It was addressed to the church at Rome. This opening salutation is based on the usual formula of ancient letters, ‘N. to N., Greetings’, which —because it is addressed to a Church he has not visited—is here expanded to introduce himself and his teaching.
v. 13. among all the Gentiles, see v. 13, also 11:15; Galatians 1:15-16; 2:7-9.

The account of Jesus’ nativity in the Gospel according to St Matthew is in fact an account of the Annunciation of Jesus to St Joseph. There is no narrative of the Nativity itself; Matthew only refers to it. A useful comment on this passage would be too long for these notes; we will make a few brief points and refer you to Brown’s Birth of the Messiah or some other good commentary for further information.
The Nativity is described from the side of Joseph, but it does not rest necessarily nor probably on Joseph's own account thereof.
18. When … Mary had been betrothed to Joseph: among the Jews of those times marriage had two stages ; there was first a formal exchange of consent before witnesses; later the husband would take the bride into his home. The first stage would in our terms constitute a legal marriage, since it could be dissolved only by divorce and any sexual relations with another person would be adultery. However, the bride would continue to live in her parents’ home for about a year before the next stage. Before they came together, that is, the second stage, "before they came to live together in the same house". of the Holy Spirit; this is the evangelist’s comment; this explanation is not yet known to Joseph. To him it is a painful discovery.
19. righteous is considered a better translation than just by most commentators, since it implies objective morality; Jospeh was a man who kept the law. His actions, however, also show kindness, and as Anderson points out, love. Joseph was not willing to expose Mary to public disgrace; Anderson: ‘A bill of divorcement was necessary to make the divorce legal. Ordinarily this was given in public before the authorities. He resolved to make a private arrangement. Probably he would give her the bill of divorcement without informing the authorities, as a mere oral agreement would not have been a legal divorce. He was probably stretching the law to its utmost. So strong, was his love—the spirit of Jesus' home.’
20-23: On the appearance of the Angel and Matthew’s citation of Isaiah 7.14, see Brown.
25. until she had borne a son: older versions often have ‘her firstborn son’; the evidence of the better manuscripts show that this was a later addition, possibly influenced by the accopunt in Luke 2.
Sunday 19 - The Fourth Sunday of Advent; O Clavis David
On this day: in 1813 at Montreal, James McGill died, leaving £10,000 to found a university; in 1902 was born Sir Ralph Richardson, English actor (d. 1983)

Monday 20 - Feria; O Oriens
On this day: in 1192 King Richard I (Lion-Heart) was captured and imprisoned by Leopold V of Austria while returning to England from the Third Crusade; in 1864 the Canadian militia was sent to guard against possible Fenian raids.

Tuesday 21 - Feria; O Rex gentium
St. Thomas, Apostle, in the Prayer-Book Calendar
On this day: in 1118 was born Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (martyred 1170); in 1804 was born Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (d. 1881); in 1894 Mackenzie Bowell 1823-1917 became Prime Minister of Canada after the death of John Thompson. A Senator, Bowell was Canada's 5th Prime Minister; he served to April 27, 1896.
The Winter Solstice occurs today at 23:38 Coordinated Universal Time or 6:38 pm local time.

Wednesday 22 - Feria; O Emmanuel
On this day in 1893, the opera Hänsel und Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck was first performed. In Japan today the birthday of the Emperor Akihito is celebrated.

Thursday 23 - Feria; O Virgo Virginum
On this day in 563 the great church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was dedicated for the second time after being destroyed by earthquakes; in 1814 the Treaty of Ghent was signed, ending the War of 1812.

Friday 24 - Feria; Christmas Eve
This is the traditional time to decorate your home for Christmas.

Today, the twenty–fifth day of December, unknown ages from the time when God created the heavens and the earth and then formed man and woman in his own image. Several thousand years after the flood, when God made the rainbow shine forth as a sign of the covenant.
Twenty–one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah; thirteen centuries after Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt. Eleven hundred years from the time of Ruth and the Judges; one thousand years from the nointing of David as king; in the sixty–fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel.
In the one hundred and ninety–fourth Olympiad; the seven hundred and fifty–second year from the foundation of the city of Rome. The forty–second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus; the whole world being at peace,
Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary.
Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
This is the first day of Christmas.
Also born this day: Sir Isaac Newton, natural philosopher, in 1642

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