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Monday, November 30, 2009



Second Sunday of Advent | December 6, 2009

Malachi 3:1-4 or Baruch 5:1-9
Luke 1:68-79 (78)
Philippians 1:3-11
Luke 3:1-6

Prayer of the Day

Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son. By his coming give to all the people of the world knowledge of your salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. Prepare the way | of the Lord.
All flesh shall see the salva- | tion of God. Alleluia. (Luke 3:4, 6)


1. CONTEXT: Luke 3:1-6

The 2nd and 3rd Sundays of Advent feature John the Baptist as the immediate forerunner of Jesus. The gospel reading comes just after the narrative of Jesus' childhood and Luke's statement that Jesus grew in wisdom, stature and grace (2:56), and it resumes the story of John, who grew strong in spirit (the Spirit??) down to the time when he became a public figure in Israel (1:80). Chapters 1-2 are sacred history, and John stands at the turn of the ages.

The formal synchronism (3:1 f. ) integrates this sacred history into world history. It is as dramatic as the passage in Thucydides (ii.2) which dated the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War and was the model for such synchronisms in Hellenistic histories. (No single era was universally recognized). John bursts, so to speak, into the world scene with the announcement of a baptism of repentance which the evangelists regard as fulfilling a basic message of Second Isaiah.

Luke quotes Isaiah 40:3-5 from the LXX more fully than do Matthew and Mark, though vs. 6 includes only part of Isaiah 40:5. This is part of the passage that begins, "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God," and it proclaims a highway for the return of the exiles from Babylon. The Essenes of Qumran understood the text to read "prepare the way of the Lord in the desert" (MANUAL OF DISCIPLINE, 8:13-16) and as referring to the life work of their community. Luke's gospel is, among other things, a story of the "way of the Lord," as Jesus and his disciples move toward Jerusalem, and in Acts the Christian movement is "the Way."

John's preaching is the immediate background of Jesus' ministry,
and the liturgy places it at this point because the Baptist's message is part of the preparation for the coming of the Lord. John is the climax of the old order and the herald of the new.

There are historical problems about the movement he inaugurated and which continued independently for some time (see, e.g., John 3:22-30; Acts 19:1-6), but they are not relevant here.

1a. TEXT: Luke 3:1-6


1 - Ἐν ἔτει δὲ πεντεκαιδεκάτῳ τῆς ἡγεμονίας Τιβερίου Καίσαρος,

ἡγεμονεύοντος Ποντίου Πιλάτου τῆς Ἰουδαίας, καὶ τετρααρχοῦντος τῆς Γαλιλαίας Ἡρῴδου, Φιλίππου δὲ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ τετρααρχοῦντος τῆς Ἰτουραίας καὶ Τραχωνίτιδος χώρας, καὶ Λυσανίου τῆς Ἀβιληνῆς τετρααρχοῦντος,
2 - ἐπὶ ἀρχιερέως Αννα καὶ Καϊάφα, ἐγένετο ῥῆμα θεοῦ ἐπὶ Ἰωάννην τὸν Ζαχαρίου υἱὸν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ.
3 - καὶ ἦλθεν εἰς πᾶσαν [τὴν] περίχωρον τοῦ Ἰορδάνου κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν,
4 - ὡς γέγραπται ἐν βίβλῳ λόγων Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου, Φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, Ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου, εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ.
5 - πᾶσα φάραγξ πληρωθήσεται καὶ πᾶν ὄρος καὶ βουνὸς ταπεινωθήσεται, καὶ ἔσται τὰ σκολιὰ εἰς εὐθείαν καὶ αἱ τραχεῖαι εἰς ὁδοὺς λείας:
6 - καὶ ὄψεται πᾶσα σὰρξ τὸ σωτήριον τοῦ θεοῦ.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London


John the Baptist Prepares the Way

3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene,
2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.
3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord, [1]
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

[1] 3:4 Or: crying, Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord

Lk 3.1 - The fifteenth year of Tiberius can be reckoned from his accession [thus A.C. 28-9] or from his association in the principiate with Augustus [26-7]. Pontius Pilate was prefect of Judaea, 26-36. Herod Antipas became tetrarch ("ruler of one fourth' of his father's kingdom) in 4 B.C. Aretas, king of Nabataean Arabia, made war on him in 36 because he had divorced Aretas' daughter in order to marry Herodias. Antipas was banished to Lyons in France in 39. Philip ruled Ituraea, northeast of Galilee, and Trachonitis, south of Damascus, from 4 B.C. to A.D. 33 or 34. It was he who rebuilt Paneas (Caesarea Philippi). The exact identity of this Lysanias and his dates are not quite certain; Abilene was a mountainous region west of Damascus.

Lk. 3:2 - Annas ceased to be high priest in A.D> 15 but bore the title as an honorific and he continued to be influential. Caiaphas was the high priest in Jesus' time (18-36 or 36). There is a nice contrast here between John and the high priests whose reputation was bad. We do not know the source of Luke's chronology, and there are uncertainties about it, especially in regard to Quirinius (2:2) and the vague statement that Jesus was "about 30 years old" (3:27), yet all the evidence tends to place Jesus' ministry about A.D. 28-30. The point is that Luke regards his story as firmly fixed in time.

Lk. 3:3 - baptisma metanoias eis aphesin hamartion - evidently from Mark 1:3, a baptism that expresses and accompanies repentance...The latter Greek greek word denotes a complete change of mind, but it represents the Hebrew root SHUB, to turn (completely away from sin and in the direction of God's will)....Josephus (ANTIQUITIES xviii. 5.2) explains that the baptism was for purification of the body, the soul having been previously purified by righteousness. This is Hellenistic idea but it fits with Jewish concepts of purification. But see also Ezekiel 36:25: Isaiah 1:16-18.

Lk.3:5 - The picture is that of a superhighway from Babylon to Judah, but the language of course is poetic. Luke might understand the valleys and hills, especially the crooked and straight, as metaphors of a changed life.

Lk. 3:6 - soterion tou theou - Luke is especially fond of "salvation" and related words; Jesus is the SOTER, savior (2:11: Acts 5:31; 13:23), as God is in the Old Testament. The word originally suggested rescue from danger, sickness,etc. and is common in secular Greek also. In the New Testament these words have transcendent associations.

3. STRATEGY: Luke 3:1-6

Perhaps a few congregations would be interested in a discussion of the relation of sacred history to secular history, which are two ways of looking at events. The gospel story is not located in Shangri-La!
It may be worthwhile, at least in passing, to point out that these things were "not done in a corner" (Acts 26:26). Palestine was strategic then, as it is today, and the imperial authorities were interested in what happened there, though they paid little attention to John and Jesus.

Luke's chronology is partly reponsible for the calculation of the Christian era by Dionysius Exiguus, monk and canon lawyer of the 6th century. He was inaccurate because the era begins four years after Herod's death. But from a Christian perspective, the concept itself is correct; since then everything has been different.

Christians regarded this new state of affairs as the fulfilment of prophecy. The homilist may reflect that while prophecies "come true" it is always in an unexpected way; better, we believe, than an ancient prophet could have imagined.

The theme of the forerunner is a fertile one. Someone prepares the way, and because of this the Coming One is better recognized and understood.
It is true of great historical figures, and of ourselves as well, that we depend on those who have gone before us, and that we in turn prepare for the life and work of someone else. The gospels present Jesus as affirming
the validity of John's ministry (Luke 7:24-28: 20:1-8) but they give different examples of John's attitude to Jesus "Are the one who is to come or are we to look for another?" (7:20), but in John 3:22-30 the Baptist is only the "friend of the bridegroom."

The baptism of repentance is another theme. Repentance is also a precondition of Christian baptism. As in the case of John's rite, it also creates a renewed community which prepares for God's Reign.

Exegete - Sherman E. Johnson, PhD, STD

4. REFERENCES: Luke 3:1-6

Danker, F.W. LUKE: Proclamation Commentaries, 2nd Edition. Ed., G.
Krodel. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987.

Johnson, Sherman E. THE YEAR OF THE LORD'S FAVOR. New York:
Seabury, 1987.


The following hymns fit Advent 2 and the day's pericopes:


Specific hymns on John the Baptist may be apt for either Advent 2 or Advent 3, especially if the focus will be on his role as forerunner:


Again, Hymns on the Kingdom may be appropriate throughout the Advent Season (see Hymn Suggestions for Advent 1).


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Tischrede Software

Dartmouth,MA 02747-1925



Y E A R C -- Sherman Johnson, PhD, ThD

LEXEGETE / Year C / Gospel of Luke


About Year C

An Introduction to the Pericopes from St. Luke

by Sherman E. Johnson, PhD, STD


Gospel readings for Year C are provided mainly from Luke. The exceptions are some of the great festivals and fasts and Sundays after Easter. Several pericopes parallel to passages read in Years A and B are omitted, and the scheme richly supplements the story in the other gospels. Congregations hear portions of Luke's Infancy, Passion and Resurrection

narratives, and may be able to appreciate the distinctive character of his


Thus about ten parables, not found elsewhere, appear in the post-Pentecost season, and the Prodigal Son is at Lent 4. [Note: In finding Propers in the Book of Common Prayer, add two numbers to the Pentecost numbering; thus Pentecost 2 equals Proper 4, et cetera.) Year C exhibits concern for:

the "least of these," i.e., outcasts, women, Samaritans and Gentiles in Pentecost 4, 6, 17, 23 and 24;

Luke's emphasis on prayer and personal religion (Pentecost 9 and 10); and his distinctive selection of traditions on wealth and holy

poverty (Epiphany 6, Pentecost 11, 15, 18 and perhaps 19).

Several of Luke's themes can be considered conveniently with pericopes from the second readings. (O.T. readings differ in the Lutheran Book of Worship,LBW, and Book of Common Prayer, BCP. Sometimes they harmonize with the gospel or with the epistle.)

The second readings consists mainly of parts of books not read in Years A and B, but are not a mere catch-all. For example parts of Revelation in the Sundays of Eastertide give visions of the glorified Christ, worship in heaven, and the new Jerusalem.

PROCLAMATION - The first business of the Church and its preachers is to proclaim Good News. Year C is rich in setting forth both parts of this, the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and Jesus' message of the Reign of God.

The gospel ABOUT Christ appears in many forms throughout the year.

Luke's gospel implies it everywhere, but here (and in Acts) salvation comes through repentance and forgiveness of sins. Luke never says that the Cross itself is a saving event; this we find in the other gospels and in Paul. Early forms of the Church's proclamation are read on Palm Sunday (Phillipians 2:5-11); Easter (Acts 10:34-43; in the BCP only, Acts 5:29a, 30-32); January 1st (Romans 1:1-7). A more developed theology appears in part of Ephesians (Christmas); 3:1-12 (Epiphany); 2 Timothy 2:8-15 (Pentecost 21); Colossians 1:11-26 (Christ the King); and especially at Christmas, Titus 3:4-7; 2:11-14 (BCP only), pericopes that combine God's redeeming grace with the call to righteous living in eloquent words.

The gospel OF Jesus, the Reign of God, is supremely important in Luke's theology. The tone of Luke is set by Jesus' announcement in the Nazareth synagogue (4:14-32, Epiphany 3 and 4, LBW; 2 and 3, BCP). The canticles in Luke 1-2 are part of the background of this, but only the Magnificat is read (Advent 4). The primary task of Jesus' disciples is to be heralds of the Kingdom (10:1-20, Pentecost 7: cf., 9:60, Pentecost 6).

It is even more important that Jesus' actions exhibit God's Reign in action through his association with outcasts (7:34, 36-50; Pentecost 4),

Gentiles (Pentecost 2), Samaritans (Pentecost 6) and women (Pentecost 4, 9). This theme is also emphasize in the three parables of the lost in Chapter 15 (Pentecost 17, Lent 4) and that of the Good Samaritan (Pentecost 8).

In short, as F.E. Danker has said in his commentary on LUKE (1987), the gospel of Jesus in Luke is one of liberation from sin, sickness and death, from conventional religion and from the world's oppressivestructures,

This is seen in the BENEDICTUS (1:70-76) and especially in the Nazareth scene (4:18). Zacchaeus is restored to his dignity as a son of Abraham (19:1-10, Pentecost 245); cf. 13:16, where the crippled woman is a daughter of Abraham. The kings and potentates of the world lord is over their subjects and are given the title of BENEFACTOR (22:25, Maundy Thursday), but Jesus is the true benefactor.

JUSTIFICATION - appeared in Year A (Pentecost 2), and Year C affords another opportunity to expound it, for most of Galatians is read in Pentecost 2-7 (see especially Pentecost 4), and Phillipians 3:2-16 (Lent 5) also bears on the doctrine. Luke did not completely apprehend Paul's view of justification, but the parables of Chapter 15 and the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax-Collector (Pentecost 25) contain teachings of Jesus that support it.

Paul links justification intimately to the message of the Cross and Resurrection. It is significant that much of Colossians is read in Year C, especially in Pentecost 8-11, for this letter (whether written by the mature Paul or a very early disciple of his) supplements the Christology and doctrine of the new life in Romans and Galatians and relates the Incarnation to the Cross and creation (1:11-26, Christ the King). Another aspect of redemption through the Cross is disclosed in 2:6-15 (Pentecost 10); the Cross is triumph over the world's powers. Note also 3:1-4 (Easter; in the LBW, only in Year A).

ESCHATOLOGY pervades all the New Testament. The lectionary faithfully brings this out, and one can see that there is no single unified form of the future hope.

Luke's tradition of Jesus' words, especially with reference to his role as Son of Man, relates the last things to the problems of the believer. Thus the homilist has an opportunity to show that the true function of biblical eschatology is to give warning and to teach Christians to be alert and alive in hope, not to satisfy curiosity about when the end of the age will come (Luke 17:20f.).

No one can tell when the absentee master will return and therefore one must be on the watch (12:32-30, Pentecost 12). No one who prays should be discouraged; the question is whether the Son of Man when he comes will find faith on earth

(18:1-8a), Pentecost 22). Do not be led astray by those who claim that the time is near (21:5-19, Pentecost 26).

Actually the end of the world for the individual comes at the time of death. The rich man has forgotten this (Luke 12:13-21, Pentecost 11). Jesus himself lives in a time of crisis: he has come to cast fire on the earth (Luke 12:49-56, Pentecost 13), and therefore "business as usual" is inappropriate for anyone. The New Testament in most places teaches the general resurrection and the final judgment, but Luke puts alongside this an eschatology of space (not now/then, but here/there), relating to Hades, earth and heaven.

Thus Jesus assures the penitent bandit that he will be with him in paradise (23:35-43, Christ the King). Like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, all live to God (20:37, Pentecost 25). There is a similar picture in 16:19-31 (Pentecost 19), but the main point of that parable is that signs cannot compel belief.

Paul's letters also reflect more than one kind of future hope. A more primitive type of this is expressed in 1 Thess. 3:9-13 (Advent 1) and parts of 2 Thess. (Pentecost 24-26), and developed further in parts of 1 Cor. 15 read on Sundays after the Epiphany. Paul speaks of Christ's "appearing" in Colossians 3:1-4 (Easter) and of his hope that he will attain the resurrection from the dead in Phillipians 3:10 (Lent 5), yet in Phil. 1:23 he would now prefer to depart and to be with Christ, and it is not quite certain what he thinks about the future life in 2 Cor. 5:1-5.

THE NEW LIFE - Justification, redemption and reconciliation are aspects of a radical change into a new life. Paul's primary portrayals of this different existence in Romans 8 and 2 Corinthians 4-5, but these are related to the ethical passages, Romans 12:1-15:6 and 2 Corinthians 4:1-6:10. "Morals," "ethics," and " paraenesis" seem terms too cold to denote the style of life made possible by life in Christ, which Paul finds suffused with joy and triumph.

In Year C, as in A and B, there are abundant materials. Luke points to the New Life through his stories and parables of healing and forgiveness: it is opened up for the Prodigal Son and Zacchaeus.

Teaching on discipleship focuses on its radical demands, e.g., 9:51-62 (Pentecost 6); 12:49-56 (Pentecost 13); 13:22-30 (Pentecost 14); 14:25-33 (Pentecost 16): 17:1-10 (Pentecost 20, obedience brings no special credit). Yet the reward is very great (12:37f., Pentecost 12). One who gives also receives. The Seventy-two can accept hospitality (10:7, Pentecost 7) as Jesus does also (Pentecost 4,9,24; cf. also 11:37), and one has the impression that there is a friendly give-and-take in the gospel ministry among the villagers.

This style of life requires humility (14:1, 7-14, Pentecost 15) but one can read between the lines to see that truly humble person, like Jesus has an enhanced dignity. This pericope also exhibits Jesus' deep concern for the poor. Luke has a special love for holy poverty and distrust of wealth (12:13-21, Pentecost 11; 16:19-31, Pentecost 19; 16:9-13, Pentecost 18; cf. 6:20f., 24f.).

Examples of how Jesus dealt with individuals apply to all relationships, not merely those of pastors. He is sensitive to both Martha and Mary, and with gentle humor praises the one without putting down the other (10:38-42, Pentecost 9). He refuses to be a judge or divider (12:13 f., Pentecost 11). One perennial problem of God's justice is disposed of in 13:1-9 (Lent 3); the massacred Galileans and those on whom the tower of Siloam fell are not necessarily sinners more than anyone else.

The epistle readings contain much material on Christian attitudes and behavior but deal with quite different situations in the early Church. Luke (like Acts ) emphasizes the power of the Spirit, and Paul's discussion of spiritual gifts in I Cor. 12-14 (Epiphany 2,3,4 or 5) is of special importance. The author of the Pastoral Epistles, when compared with Paul, seems often to be a conventional sobersides, but he is living in a different social situation when the first excitement of the gospel has given way to a time when Christians in family units are living in the midst of outsiders and must not give offense to them. The lectionaries omit the stern patriarchal admonitions and concentrate on moral and spiritual advice to pastors (Pentecost 17-22) and at the end contain some farewell words from Paul which some scholars believe are fragments of actual lost letters but in any case exhibit his spirit (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18, Pentecost 23). One should note also l Timothy 1:15; 2.5f.; 6:14-16; 2 Timothy 2:11-13 as examples of proclamation.

Finally, one remembers that the early Christians were always in danger of persecution, and warnings of this in the gospels are supplemented by some noble passages in Hebrews read in Pentecost 12-15.


PROCLAMATION : Aids for Interpreting the Lessons of the Church Year,

Series C, 8 volumes. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1973-4.

Danker, F.W. LUKE (Proclamation Commmentaries). Philadelphia:

Fortress, 1987, see esp. pp. 6-17.

Johnson, S.E. THE YEAR OF THE LORD'S FAVOR. New York: Seabury,

1986, esp. pp. 169-178,227-230,236-9,251-5.

Kaesemann, E. PERSPECTIVES ON PAUL. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971, pp.

70-78, on Justification.


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Dartmouth,MA 02747-1925



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