Monday, December 19, 2016

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

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 62:6-12
This passage comes from the post-exile portion of Isaiah. Israel has returned to Jerusalem and the city is rebuilt. It is significant that the sentinels do not have the task of watching for enemies, but that of reminding the C to remember his promises, and to keep reminding him until the work is done! Verses 8-9 then are the Lord’s solemn oath that the promise will be fulfilled. The rest of the passage makes clear that the rebuilding of the city (and of the relationship between God and his people) is a two-way street. The Lord will do his part, but Israel must do its part. God will act, but Israel must enact. The final verse is a reiteration of the promise through the giving of a change in name. The final words are crucial for Israel’s future (and perhaps make this passage relevant to our celebration of Christmas:  You will be “not forsaken.”

62:6 Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have posted sentinels; all day and all night they shall never be silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest,
7 and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it renowned throughout the earth. 8 The Lord has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies, and foreigners shall not drink the wine for which you have labored; 9 but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the Lord, and those who gather it shall drink it in my holy courts. 10 Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones, lift up an ensign over the peoples. 11 The Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to daughter Zion, “See, your salvation comes; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” 12 They shall be called, “The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord”; and you shall be called, “Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.”

Psalm 97
Psalm 97 is an “enthronement psalm,” celebrating the rule of the Lord.  Along with Psalms 93, 95, 96, 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 joy brought about by God’s reign.

1   The Lord is King; let the earth rejoice; *
let the multitude of the isles be glad.
2   Clouds and darkness are round about him, *
righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.
3   A fire goes before him *
and burns up his enemies on every side.
4   His lightnings light up the world; *
the earth sees it and is afraid.
5   The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord, *
at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
6   The heavens declare his righteousness, *
and all the peoples see his glory.
7   Confounded be all who worship carved images
     and delight in false gods! *
Bow down before him, all you gods.
8   Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice, *
because of your judgments, O Lord.
9   For you are the Lord, most high over all the earth; *
you are exalted far above all gods.
10   The Lord loves those who hate evil; *
he preserves the lives of his saints
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
11   Light has sprung up for the righteous, *
and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.
12   Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, *
and give thanks to his holy Name.

The Second Reading:  Titus 3:4-7
Titus was a colleague of Paul, who had been sent on mission to Crete at the time of this letter. In this brief passage, Paul connects the incarnation with baptism. Both were profound acts of grace and mercy.

3:4 When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6 This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

The Holy Gospel:  Luke 2:1-20 (May be Luke 2:15-20)
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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