Monday, December 19, 2016

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day (Proper I)

The Collect of the Day
O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light:  Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns now and for ever.  Amen.

The First Reading:  Isaiah 9:2-7
In its original context, this passage is an oracle of hope for the kingdom of Judah. The first verse of chapter nine speaks of a “former time” and a “latter time.” The former time is probably the failed leadership and oppression under King Ahaz (735—715 bce). The promise is now his son, Hezekiah (715—687 bce), prophesied to be a true king of David’s line. Christians have long interpreted the “child…born for us” to be Jesus. Whatever the interpretation, this is a poetic statement of the capacity of God to bring newness out of despair, and light out of darkness.

9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. 3 You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. 4 For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. 6 For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Psalm 96
Psalm 96 is an “enthronement psalm,” celebrating the rule of the Lord. Along with Psalms 93, 95, 97, and 99, it may have been originally used at the fall new year festival at which there was a symbolic (re-) enthronement of God. As a response to our first reading this psalm is primarily about the newness God can bring.

1  Sing to the Lord a new song; *
sing to the Lord, all the whole earth.
2  Sing to the Lord and bless his Name; *
proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.
3  Declare his glory among the nations *
and his wonders among all peoples.
4  For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; *
he is more to be feared than all gods.
5  As for all the gods of the nations, they are but idols; *
but it is the Lord who made the heavens.
6  Oh, the majesty and magnificence of his presence! *
Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary!
7  Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples; *
ascribe to the Lord honor and power.
8  Ascribe to the Lord the honor due his Name; *
bring offerings and come into his courts.
9  Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; *
let the whole earth tremble before him.

The Second Reading:  Titus 2:11-14
Titus was a colleague of Paul, who had been sent on mission to Crete at the time of this letter.  The letter is important because in it Paul provides a basis in theology for living in the way of Jesus.  In this brief passage, Paul proclaims that the purpose of the incarnation (“God has appeared”) is to establish in us a way of life that is attentive to our actions in the present and expectant of God’s complete manifestation in the future. Note that the word translated “salvation” can also be translated “healing.”

The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

The Holy Gospel:  Luke 2:1-20
(May be Luke 2:1-14)
Luke begins his birth story by setting it in historical context. The historicity of this “registration” is unclear, but it serves to set up the juxtaposition of the Emperor who was called “lord” and “savior,” under whom the Empire lived in “Pax Augusta,” with the child who was born in weakness who will also bear these titles and be the One who brings true peace. That shepherds were the first to receive the news is an important sign that the gift of this Messiah, the Lord, is for all.

2:1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:  11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved. The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2016, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843,  All rights reserved.

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