Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lectionary Notes for Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A

Readings for Fourth Sunday in Advent, 12/22/13:
Isaiah 7:10-16, Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19, Romans 1:1-7, Matthew 1:18-25

Isaiah 7:10-16:
  • "Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also?" This is such a uniquely worded statement - an expression of exasperation from Isaiah, perhaps. I bet we do wear God out sometimes, with all our antics.
  • Ahaz doesn't want to put God to the test, which is, I guess, how we might feel in a similar situation. We're afraid of testing God. But who better to withstand the test? We're so afraid of being angry at God, questioning of God, demanding of God. We're so afraid it is as if we don't think God can withstand all of our emotions. That would not make for a very powerful God, would it? So test God, if you need to. Ask for signs and directions. God is up to the test.
  • "Emmanuel." God with us. So simple, so much meaning.
  • "before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good . . ." Interesting statement if you take the passage as a prophecy of Jesus' coming. This implies a child who is not born with all the knowledge and perfection of an adult divine-one, as some might like to believe. Just a thought.
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
  • "let your face shine, that we may be saved." I like this - God's shining face can save us. twice emphasized. Think about Moses' face shining after he'd visited with God on the mountain - the brilliance and glory of being in God's presence.
  • "how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?" Is God ever angry with our prayers? Probably, when they are so self-centered and calling on God to bring harm to those we deem enemies. But if we interpret God not doing what we ask for as God's anger, I think we've got it wrong...
  • "you have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure." Again, what beautiful imagery - very poetic. I'm not sure I agree with the theology expressed - but good writing! :)
Romans 1:1-7:
  • This is a strange sort of text selection - mostly preamble, and very little 'story' or 'meat', so to speak. So what's being said here?
  • A lot about the nature of Christ in a small space though - Christ is: fulfilling in the gospel of God what was written in the prophets/scriptures of the Old Testament. A very explicit claim. Also, reference to Christ's being descended from David's line.
  • "including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ." A sense of belonging is very important to us, to humans. It's nice to belong - and we can belong to Jesus Christ. We're called to belong to Christ.
Matthew 1:18-25:
  • This is the first very explicit Advent text, probably what our congregations have been waiting for(!), in that it is clear that we're talking about Jesus' birth. We don't have to read between the lines here. But the straightforward nature of them doesn't mean they have less to say to us. Remember - it is still Advent here, not Christmas. This text has Jesus' birth at the end, but it's not quite Christmas yet. Live into that tension!
  • "unwilling to expose her to public disgrace" - call me a skeptic, but I wonder if Joseph also wanted to avoid public disgrace for himself. After all, if he ditched Mary - she would still be pregnant, but without a spouse - how would that help her out? It would get him off the hook, though, wouldn't it? The harder path was for Joseph to stick by Mary's side. Fortunately, a messenger from God helped him out with a tough decision!
  • "God is with us." Again, Emmanuel, as in Isaiah. God is with us. The people then, and perhaps too much so today, see God as "up there" and very separate from human affairs. But Jesus' coming promises that God is with us. Here. Now. With. Us.
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