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Monday, December 28, 2009

+ Second Sunday of Christmas + Y E A R C +

Lexegete™ | Year C | St. Luke

Second Sunday of Christmas

January 3, 2010

Jeremiah 31:7-14 or Sirach 24:1-12
Psalm 147:12-20 (12) or Wisdom 10:51-21 (20)
Ephesians 1:3-14
John 1:[1-9] 10-18

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, you have filled all the earth with the light of your incarnate Word. By your grace empower us to reflect your light in all that we do, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


O God our redeemer, you created light that we might live, and you illumine our world with your beloved Son. By your Spirit comfort us in all darkness, and turn us toward the light of Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. All the ends | of the earth
have seen the victory | of our God. Alleluia. (Ps. 98:3) Color: White

la. CONTEXT: John 1:[1-9] 10-18

Any effort to discuss the context of the Johannine
Prologue has to grow out of some theory not only of how
the gospel as a whole came to be written but also of the
relation of the Prologue to the rest of the gospel.
Bultmann (Gospel of John, pp. 16-18), for instance,
thought that the Prologue was a part of the Discourse
source which had originally come from a Gnostic community
around John the Baptist and that this source had been
edited in a Christian direction after the Evangelist was
converted. Haenchen (John I, 77),on the other hand,
believed that the evangelist, who edited his source away
from an emphasis on miracles as proof Jesus' identity,
introduced his gospel with an early Christian hymn. Still
others have offered the theory that the Prologue was
written after the gospel to serve as an introduction to it
(Harnack, reported in Schnackenburg, The Gospel According
to St. John, I, 221).

These notes will not try to decide whether the Prologue
came into existence independently of the rest of the
gospel. The canonical form of the gospel includes it and
thus (a) it must have made sense that way to whomever put
it into its present condition and (b) that is the
canonical form that the church accepts as authoritative.

This decision, however, means that the fascinating
question of whether some of the verses are poetic or
hymnic and others are prose insertions and thus later
redactions cannot be answered in as thoroughgoing a way as
they could be when they were part of an integrated theory
of the origin of the Prologue. The decision, however,
will not exclude issues of the background of the thought of the Prologue.

The position to be taken about the authorship of
the gospel as a whole will be similar to that advanced by
Raymond Brown in The Community of the Beloved Disciple.
The original tradition of the Johannine community came
through the Beloved Disciple, a disciple of Jesus who was
not one of the Twelve. Someone in that community wrote
that tradition down around A.D. 90, incorporating a higher
christology that had come into the community with a group
of Samaritan converts. The gospel was probably written
after the community had moved to Ephesus and also reflects
some gentile influence.

A modern context parallel to that in which the
gospel first appeared is the situation of contemporary
Christians who wish to profess the christology of the
councils as that is understood today from the standpoint
of a critical hermeneutic. We are surrounded by a secular
world that disbelieves in anything outside the sphere of
natural explanation, others who call themselves Christian
who have a much lower understanding of the person and work
of Christ, and still other Christians who hold the
historic faith in such an uncritical way that it is hard
to feel that they and we mean the same thing by the
affirmation. Anyone affirming the faith which developed
from the Johannine Prologue it bound to feel like a lonely

1b. TEXT: John 1:[1-9] 10-18

[ 1Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. 2οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν.
3πάντα δι' αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν
4ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων:
5καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν. 6Ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ, ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἰωάννης: 7οὗτος ἦλθεν εἰς μαρτυρίαν, ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός, ἵνα πάντες πιστεύσωσιν δι' αὐτοῦ.
8οὐκ ἦν ἐκεῖνος τὸ φῶς, ἀλλ' ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός.
9)ην τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν, ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον, ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον. ]

10ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἦν, καὶ ὁ κόσμος δι' αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ ὁ κόσμος αὐτὸν οὐκ ἔγνω.
11εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθεν, καὶ οἱ ἴδιοι αὐτὸν οὐ παρέλαβον.
12ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτόν, ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ,
13οἳ οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρὸς ἀλλ' ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν.
14Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας.
15Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ κέκραγεν λέγων, Οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἶπον, Ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν.
16ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἐλάβομεν, καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος:
17ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη, ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο.
18θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε: μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.

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

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

ESV Bible:

The Word Became Flesh

[ 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, [1] and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.]

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, [2] and his own people [3] did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, [4] who is at the Father's side, [5] he has made him known.

2. ANALYSIS: John 1:1-18

Jn. 1:1 - en archei en ho logos, kai ho logos en pros ton
theon, kai theos en ho logos -"In the beginning was the
Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"
(AILL, An Inclusive Language Lectionary) - The
"beginning" is the time before creation. Brown insists
that pre-existence in the Pauline hymns in Phil. and Col.
do not go back so far; in Col. 1:18, God's Son is "the
first- born of all creation" (Community, p. 46). As he
points out in The Birth of the Messiah (pp. 29-32), the
moment at which the divine identity of Jesus was made
clear is understood differently by different NT writings:
the resurrection, baptism, or birth.

John pushes that moment back before creation (cf.
Haenchen, I, 124).Although Johannine use of the term logos
(which occurs in the gospel only in the Prologue and only
in reference to the pre-incarnate Lord) has been studied
at various times in relation to OT concepts such as "the
Word of God" and against a range of Greek thought, most
scholars now consider it to be a development of the
concept of personified Wisdom as seen in Proverbs 8 and
Wisdom, as evolved through speculation on the Aramaic
concept of memra and Philo's understanding of logos.

The New English Bible says that the Word "dwelt with
God" and Brown translates "was in God's presence" (The
Gospel according to John, I,3). There is much debate about
theos without the article. Brown says "God," Haenchen
says "divine"; perhaps NEB handles it best by saying:
"what God was, the Word was." It is essential to remember
that we do not have a Trinitarian understanding, but only
the raw material that made such an understanding

Jn. 1:3 - panta di' autou egeneto, kai choris autou
egeneto oude hen ho gegonen -"all things were made through
the Word, and without the Word was not anything made that
was made" (AILL) - The Word not only pre-existed but was
the divine agency in creation (cf. Proverbs 8:22-31).
Haenchen (I,114) argues convincingly that ho gegonen
should end vs. 3 (as in KJV) rather than begin vs. 4;
there is little difference in meaning.

Jn. 1:4 - en auto zoe en, kai he zoe en to phos ton
anthropon - "In the Word was life, and the life was the
light all."(AILL) - "Eternal life" is John's basic term
for salvation; thus life and light are virtually
interchangeable. They belong to a series of antithetical
concepts that John uses to refer to the absolute good in
Christ and that which is outside it.

Jn. 1:5 - kai to phos en te skotia phainei, kai he skotia
autou ou katelaben -"The light shines in the darkness, and
the darkness has not overcome it." (AILL) - Haenchen
(I,114f.) makes much of the difference between the present
tense of phainei and the aorist of katelaben. He argues
that this verse is not a reference to the incarnate Lord,
but rather to the attempts of the Logos to offer salvation
to humanity before the incarnation, relating this passage
to the Wisdom myth in Enoch 42:2: "Wisdom went forth to
make her dwelling place among the children of men; and
found no dwelling place."

Brown, on the other hand, relates it to Gen. 3. In
either case it would appear that vss. 6-8 misunderstand,
treating vs. 4 in relation to the incarnation and thus
feeling it necessary to introduce John the Baptist at this
point. They also are more prosaic than the rhythmic vss.
before and after, which reinforces the impression that
they are redactional.

Jn. 1:10 - en to kosmo en, kai ho kosmos dictionary autou
egeneto, kai ho kosmos auton ouk egno - "The Word was in
the world, and the world was made through the Word,yet the
world did not know the Word." (AILL) - If vss. 6-8 are a
prose insertion, then 10 and 11 could still be referring
to the Word's pre-incarnate activity, as Haenchen argues.
But to agree with that, one would also have to admit that
vss. 12 and 13 are redactional. Brown, on the other hand,
thinks that 12a and 12b belong to the hymn the evangelist
is using for an introduction (ibid., I,11). For
preaching, the issue is not important since both
pre-incarnate and incarnate activity of the Logos are
referred to somewhere in the Prologue; both are taught in
the passage.

Jn. 1:14 - kai ho logos sarx egeneto kai eskenosen en
humin, kai etheasametha ten doxan autou, doxa hos
monogenous para patros, pleres charitos kai aletheias -
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of
grace and truth; we have beheld the Word's glory, glory as
of the only Child from [God]the Father [and
Mother]."(AILL) - As Bultmann says (ibid., p. 60), "Just
as the incarnatus est marks a turning point in the Mass,
so too here the character of the Prologue changes....Now
the riddle is solved, the miracle is proclaimed: the
Logos became flesh!" As Haenchen pointed out (I,119), the
Wisdom myth is left behind and the Christian experience of
Jesus Christ takes over.

As St. Augustine says in Confessions VIII.ix,13,
the Christian doctrine that he did not find among the
Platonists was that the Word became flesh. "Became
flesh," of course, means "assumed full humanity." If
space permitted, every word in the sentence could be
studied profitably, e.g., those that pick up and apply to
Jesus the OT concept of the Shekinah, the "tabernacling
presence of God's glory." Vs. 15 is regarded by most
scholars as a redactional interpolation. Thus 16 follows
14 in the original, whether it was written by the
Evangelist or his source. Vs. 17 makes the transition to
the story of the life of Jesus by mentioning Jesus by name
at last as the human being the Logos became. The
significance of the enfleshment of the Logos is the
subject of vs. 18.

3. STRATEGY : John 1:1-18

This Sunday provides a rare opportunity for
thoroughly theological preaching. The community has just
gone through the feast of the Nativity with the Lucan
focus on "sweet baby Jesus in the manger" that has
permitted the clustering of everyone's sentimentality.
This, of course, is not to blame Luke but to recognize
what so often happens in our society. By getting all
goose-fleshy over the scene in the stable, we are able to
avoid any consideration of its impact on our lives.
John's pushing the christological moment back before
creation does not allow such self- indulgence. (Unless,
God forbid, someone simply becomes intoxicated over the
language and renders it harmless by treating it as if it
were mere poetry--as if real poetry were ever "mere" and
was only supposed to sound good and not to mean anything.)

John reminds us that we need a christology that is
adequate to our soteriology, which, in turn, must be
adequate to our anthropology. Thus we can begin with an
analysis of the human condition and go on to see what it
would take to save us from that and what sort of Savior
would be necessary to do that. When that is done well, no
one is likely to imagine that the doctrines of the creeds
and councils were just something thought up by the
theologians to make it hard.

4. REFERENCES: John 1: 1-18

Brown, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah. Garden City,NY: Doubleday, 1977.

_______________. The Community of the Beloved Disciple. New York: Paulist Press, 1979.

_______________. The Gospel According to St. John, 2
vols. Anchor Bible Series. Garden City,NY: Doubleday, 1966/1970.

Bultmann, Rudolf. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, transl. G.R. Beasley- Murray, et al. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971.

Haenchen, Ernst. A Commentary on the Gospel of John, transl. R.W. Funk, 2 vols. Hermeneia Series. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984.

Schnackenburg, Rudolf. The Gospel according to St. John, transl. Kevin Smyth, vol. 1. NY: Herder and Herder, 1968.

5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: John 1: 1-18

NOT "Away in a Manger!" Most of the Traditional Christmas Carols would be inappropriate for a sermon such as is sketched above. Two possibilities are OF THE FATHER'S LOVE BEGOTTEN (HB 82, ELW 295) and JOY TO THE WORLD (HB 100, ELW 267). More christological hymns such as AT THE NAME OF JESUS EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW(HB 435, ELW 416) and WHAT WONDROUS LOVE IS THIS?(HB 439, ELW 666) are more to the point. GOD HIMSELF IS PRESENT (HB 475,LBW 249) and CHRIST IS MADE THE SURE FOUNDATION (HB 518,ELW 645, with the strong Purcell tune, Westminster Abbey), are other real possibilities for this Day.

Exegete: O.C. Edwards, PhD

Dr. Edwards is a member of the faculty emeritus of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and a priest (retired) in the Episcopal Church in America. His service to the church includes teaching at Seabury from 1974-1983 (President and Dean, 1974-83; Professor of Preaching, 1983-93) He holds degrees from Centenary College, A.B. 1949; STB, from The General Theological Seminary, 1952; STM, Southern Methodist University, 1962; MA, University of Chicago, 1963, PhD 1971; DD, Nashotah House, 1976; DD, University of the South, 2006


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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

+ C H R I S T M A S EVE + 2 0 0 9 +

Lexegete ™ | Year C | St. Luke

Nativity of Our Lord
December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve
Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96 (11)
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-14 [15-20]

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, you made this holy night shine with the brightness of the true Light. Grant that here on earth we may walk in the light of Jesus' presence and in the last day wake to the brightness of his glory; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. I am bringing you good news of great joy for | all the people:
to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messi- | ah, the Lord. Alleluia. (Luke 2:10-11)


1a. Context: Luke 2:1-14 [15-20]

To no other section of Scripture is the designation "sacred text" more
aptly applied. The passage 2:1-20 of St. Luke's Gospel is indeed sacred,
sacred in content and sacred in Christian tradition. One has to maintain
a steady gaze not to succumb to the many distractions introduced in
the course of history when the scene this Gospel presents is held
before it. [Ed. note: It is interesting, is it not, that for many years the old
Latin Mass generally concluded with a reading of the Prologue to John
designated as the “last Gospel.” Thus Roman Catholics were for centuries
exposed to this reading as an intrinsic part of all liturgy. This is a particularly
“catholic” approach to the centrality of the Word which is no doubt
unfamiliar to most Protestants.]

Our Gospel for this Christmas Day (theologically speaking, not only the
Nativity but the Incarnation of our Lord) is a portion of what New
Testament scholars term "pre-history," that is, events which serve
to introduce Luke's main story that begins with chapter 3. That story
is the account of the words and deeds of Jesus as the Christ, or Messiah.
Our Gospel is Luke's beautiful description of the long-awaited .Messiah's
Birth as he is expressly called in v. 11 by the angel.

Scholars have long debated the connection between chs. 1 and 2 with the
rest of Luke's Gospel. The chs. in question can indeed be omitted with no
damage to the intelligibility of the remainder of the account. On the other
hand, many and perhaps a majority of recent New Testament scholars
have concluded that the material in chs. 1 - 2, though perhaps composed
separately, is in harmony with the remainder of the Gospel and does much
to enhance it. (Which is stating the case mildly. Who can picture the
Church's witness to Jesus Christ without these chapters, especially 2:1-20!)

For the great majority of Luke's contemporaries, the birth of Jesus was an
episode that hardly deserved mention. For centuries ancient historians took
no notice. In startling contrast Luke views the birth of Jesus as taking
place "in the fullness of time" (Gal. 4:4). For him this "episode" is the
midpoint of all of history. Only from the standpoint of this "episode" does
Luke proceed to assemble the discreet happenings which lay before him into
a comprehensible whole, into history. That is why he connects the birth of
Jesus to world events. This is not due to what some suppose is Luke's bent as
a secular historian. In actuality, Luke's linkage is grounded in the conviction
that all events find their end and fulfillment in the history of Jesus
which alone is history in its deepest and fullest sense, that is, the deliberate
and intentional activity of God himself.

1b. TEXT: Luke 2:1-14 [15-20]


The Birth of Jesus Christ

2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when [1] Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, [2] who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths 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,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” [3]

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.


[1] 2:2 Or This was the registration before
[2] 2:5 That is, one legally pledged to be married
[3] 2:14 Some manuscripts peace, good will among men


1Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην. 2αὕτη ἀπογραφὴ πρώτη ἐγένετο ἡγεμονεύοντος τῆς Συρίας Κυρηνίου. 3καὶ ἐπορεύοντο πάντες ἀπογράφεσθαι, ἕκαστος εἰς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ πόλιν. 4Ἀνέβη δὲ καὶ Ἰωσὴφ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἐκ πόλεως Ναζαρὲθ εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν εἰς πόλιν Δαυὶδ ἥτις καλεῖται Βηθλέεμ, διὰ τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐξ οἴκου καὶ πατριᾶς Δαυίδ, 5ἀπογράψασθαι σὺν Μαριὰμ τῇ ἐμνηστευμένῃ αὐτῷ, οὔσῃ ἐγκύῳ. 6ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἐκεῖ ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτήν, 7καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον: καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν φάτνῃ, διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι. 8Καὶ ποιμένες ἦσαν ἐν τῇ χώρᾳ τῇ αὐτῇ ἀγραυλοῦντες καὶ φυλάσσοντες φυλακὰς τῆς νυκτὸς ἐπὶ τὴν ποίμνην αὐτῶν. 9καὶ ἄγγελος κυρίου ἐπέστη αὐτοῖς καὶ δόξα κυρίου περιέλαμψεν αὐτούς, καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν φόβον μέγαν. 10καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ ἄγγελος, Μὴ φοβεῖσθε, ἰδοὺ γὰρ εὐαγγελίζομαι ὑμῖν χαρὰν μεγάλην ἥτις ἔσται παντὶ τῷ λαῷ, 11ὅτι ἐτέχθη ὑμῖν σήμερον σωτὴρ ὅς ἐστιν Χριστὸς κύριος ἐν πόλει Δαυίδ: 12καὶ τοῦτο ὑμῖν τὸ σημεῖον, εὑρήσετε βρέφος ἐσπαργανωμένον καὶ κείμενον ἐν φάτνῃ. 13καὶ ἐξαίφνης ἐγένετο σὺν τῷ ἀγγέλῳ πλῆθος στρατιᾶς οὐρανίου αἰνούντων τὸν θεὸν καὶ λεγόντων, 14Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας. 15Καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἀπῆλθον ἀπ' αὐτῶν εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν οἱ ἄγγελοι, οἱ ποιμένες ἐλάλουν πρὸς ἀλλήλους, Διέλθωμεν δὴ ἕως Βηθλέεμ καὶ ἴδωμεν τὸ ῥῆμα τοῦτο τὸ γεγονὸς ὃ ὁ κύριος ἐγνώρισεν ἡμῖν. 16καὶ ἦλθαν σπεύσαντες καὶ ἀνεῦραν τήν τε Μαριὰμ καὶ τὸν Ἰωσὴφ καὶ τὸ βρέφος κείμενον ἐν τῇ φάτνῃ: 17ἰδόντες δὲ ἐγνώρισαν περὶ τοῦ ῥήματος τοῦ λαληθέντος αὐτοῖς περὶ τοῦ παιδίου τούτου. 18καὶ πάντες οἱ ἀκούσαντες ἐθαύμασαν περὶ τῶν λαληθέντων ὑπὸ τῶν ποιμένων πρὸς αὐτούς: 19ἡ δὲ Μαριὰμ πάντα συνετήρει τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα συμβάλλουσα ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτῆς. 20καὶ ὑπέστρεψαν οἱ ποιμένες δοξάζοντες καὶ αἰνοῦντες τὸν θεὸν ἐπὶ πᾶσιν οἷς ἤκουσαν καὶ εἶδον καθὼς ἐλαλήθη πρὸς αὐτούς.

2. Analysis: Luke 2:1-20

Lk. 2:6 -- egeneto de en too einai autous ekei eplesthesan ai hemerai tou
tekein auten.

Reference to the "days" having been "fulfilled" for Mary connotes more than
the normal course of the birth of a child. In the context of Luke's Gospel
time is always important. The implication is that centuries of hanging onto
the divine promise have ended. Something new is coming into the world in the
birth at Bethlehem.

Lk. 2:4 -- eis ten Ioudaian eis polin David etis kaleitai Bethleem.

That which is about to take place is a royal birth. The terms King and
Messiah were closely linked in Jewish tradition. In placing the birth of
Jesus in Bethlehem, Luke was once again pointing to him as the awaited Messiah.

Lk. 2:8 -- Kai poimenes esan en te xora.

Shepherds were far from the romantic characters in popular Christmas lore.
They were social misfits of dubious honesty, sinners in the eyes of the
Pharisees for not being able to observe the Law in all its detail. But , as
one commentator puts it, "God, the true Shepherd of Israel, intended his
message for all social classes."

Lk. 2: 9 -- kai cloxa kuriou perielampsen autous

The glory of God, who dwells in light unapproachable (1 Tim. 6:16), shone
round the shepherds at Christ's birth. That is to say , in the birth of Christ
the shepherds experienced the presence of God as that presence was of
old in the Temple.

Lk. 2:10 -- kai eipen autois ho aggelos, me phobeishe.
idou gar euaggelidzomai umin charan megalen etis esti panti to lao.

The time of fear has ended, the time of joy has begun. The angel brings
"good news," a verb that was used by or about the Roman emperor in announcing what he was for the people and what blessings he
brought them. Once again, Luke stresses the royal status of the one
who is born, his messianic character. The new messianic era of peace

Lk. 2:12 -- kai touto umin to semeion, euresete brephos . . .

"Both the shepherds and Mary were given signs . !Mary was given the
sign of Elizabeth's son; the shepherds were directed towards the newborn
child that was to signify the presence of the Lord among his people, as
Saviour and Messiah ." (Peter Coughlan & Peter Purdue, Commentary on the Sunday Lectionary, Collegeville, The Liturgical Press, 1969.)

Lk. 2:16 -- kai elthon speusantes . . .

This is how the poor and the outcasts respond to the offer of hope.
They come with haste.

Lk. 2:20 -- kai upestrepsan hoi poimenes doxadzontes kai ainountes
ton theon.

Divine interventions were often greeted in this way in the Old Testament

Luke obviously wishes this one to be met with no less reaction.

3. Strategy: Luke 2:1-20

From start to finish something is going on in the wondrous story of
the Birth of the Messiah that cries out to be named. And in the
reading that accompanies our Gospel it is named: "For the grace
of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all" (Titus 2:11).

Grace has appeared. About grace it might be said that you may not
know how to describe it but you know it when you see it. It is
undeserved kindness, goodness that is bestowed for no reason
other than for goodness' sake. It is not wrung from the benefactor,
is not done out of fear or favor, but wells naturally from a good
heart. Grace knows nothing of calculation or return.
It shines brightest when it is least expected or deserved.
It gathers luster when it is given at great cost of time, effort, or
money to the gracious person. We speak of graceful actions or movements.
Such is how the gesture of kindness, generosity, assistance appears. Such is the birth of Christ for us.

The Letter to Titus describes the birth of Christ as God's graceful
action on our behalf. St. Paul is more explicit: "For you know the
grace of our Lord Jesus Christ , that though he was rich, yet for your
sake he became poor, so that by his poverty, you might become rich"
(2 Corinthians )

A wonderful exchange you make;
You take our flesh and blood,
And in return give us to share,
The shining realm of God.

(Evangelical Lutheran Worship , # 287, stanza 5)

"What can I say?" we say when overwhelmed by someone's love
and generosity. Humbled , we can only stammer banalities.
The spirit of this Liturgy is to b found in a joy that expresses
amazement at what God has done. (Coughlan & Purdue).

As this was written, war had begun in the region of the Persian Gulf.
I recall a Christmas card once that carried this unsentimental legend:
"Into this poor, demented world in which there was absolutely no room
for him at all, He comes." He did not have to. It was not deserved.
Yet it happened, and forevermore God and humankind are bound
together . For those who reach out with faith and take the gift, there
is joy amidst the madness, light in the darkness, hope instead of
despair. For the grace of God has appeared. Its lines can be traced
in every detail of he story of Jesus' birth. There is God at work.

But…says Martin Luther:

"This is the word of the prophet: 'Unto us a child is born, unto us a
son is given' (Is. 9:6). This is for us the hardest point, not so much
to believe that He is the son of the Virgin and God himself, as to believe that this Son of God is ours. This is where we wilt, but he who does feel it has become another person. Truly it is marvelous in our eyes that God should place a little child in the lap of a virgin and that all our blessedness should lie in him. And this Child belongs to all humankind. God feeds the whole world through a Babe nursing at Mary's breast. This must be our daily exercise: to be transformed into Christ, being nourished by this food. Then will the heart be suffused with all joy and will be strong and confident against every assault. "

Looked at in any way, our Gospel is full of grace, graceful and, if we are successful

in our preaching of it, grat-i-fying.

4. References: Luke 2:1-20

In addition to Peter Coughlan & Peter Purdue's book, Fr. Raymond
Brown's The Birth of the Messiah (Image Books, 1979) was consulted
again as was Karl Heinrich Rengstorff's old but still useful Das Evangelium nach Lukas, v. 3 of Das Neue Testament Deutsch (Gottingen, 1949).

Exegete: Rev. E. Richard Koenig

Pastor Koenig is a retired pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
He is a prolific writer, having writeen columns on Lutheran church life, theology< and ethics for many years in the Christian Century, Lutheran Partners (of which he was the first Editor when it was “LCA Partners”), inter alia. He and his wife, the author Elaine Koenig, live at Covenant Village of Cromwell, CT, where both are active in local and regional ministries.

5. Music Suggestions: Luke 2:1-20

The depth and breadth of Christmas music is so extensive that one can hardly
do it justice. The following are hymns and carols which ought to be used at some
point during Christmastide [ those marked ** are recommended as hymns
deserving wider usage than they already receive ] :

All Hail to You, O Blessed Morn ( LBW 73)

All praise to you eternal Lord (LBW 48)

Angels, from the Realms of Glory (ELW 275, HB 93; descant: HB 368)

Angels We Have Heard on High (ELW 289, HB 96)

**A Stable Lamp is Lighted (poem by Richard Wilbur), LBW 74, HB 104)

Away in A Manger (ELW 277/8, HB 101)

**Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light (HB 91)

Christians Awake,Salute the Happy Morn (HB 106)

**Cold December Flies Away (ELW 299)

Come Rejoicing, Praises Voicing (LBW 66)

From heaven above to earth I come (ELW 268, HB 80)

**From Shepherding of Stars (LBW 63)

**From East to West (LBW 64, HB 77)

Go Tell it On the Mountain (ELW 290, HB 99)

Good Christian Friends Rejoice (ELW 288, HB 107)

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing (ELW 270, HB 87)

He Whom Shepherds Once Came Praising (LBW 68)

**In a lowly manger born (ELW 718, HB 417)

Infant Holy, Infant Lowly (ELW 276, LBW 44)

In the Bleak Mid-Winter (poem by C. Rossetti), (ELW 294, HB 112)

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear (ELW 282, HB 89/90)

Joy to the World (ELW 267, HB 100)

Let all mortal flesh keep silence (ELW 490, HB 324)

Love Came Down at Christmas (HB 84)

O, Come All Ye Faithful (ELW 283, HB 83)

Of the Father's love begotten (ELW 295, HB 82)

O Little Town of Bethlehem (ELW 279, HB 78/9)

Once again my heart rejoices (LBW 46)

**Once in Royal David's City (ELW 269, HB 102)

**On this Day earth shall ring (HB 92; Personent Hodie)

O Savior of our Fallen Race (LBW 49, HB 85/6)

Rejoice, Rejoice this Happy Morn (LBW 43)

Silent Night (ELW 281, LBW 65, HB 111)

Sing, O sing, this blessed morn (HB 88)

The First Noel (ELW 300, LBW 56, HB 109 )

'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime (Native Am.,French; ELW 284, HB 114)

What Child is This? (ELW 296, HB 115)

When Christmas Morn is Dawning (LBW 59)

**Where is this Stupendous Stranger? (HB 491)

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks (HB 95,94: descant**)

ELW: Evangelical Lutheran Worship
HB: Hymnbook 1982 (Episcopal Church in America)
LBW: Lutheran Book of Worship


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+ Advent F O U R + Year C + 2009

Lexegete™ | Year C | St. Luke___________

Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 20, 2009
Micah 5:2-5a
Luke 1:46b-55 (52) or Psalm 80:1-7 (7)
Hebrews 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]

Prayer of the Day

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that binds us, that we may receive you in joy and serve you always, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. Here I am, the servant | of the Lord;
let it be with me according | to your word. Alleluia. (Luke 1:38)


1a. CONTEXT: Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]

Mary's visit to Elizabeth follows the account of the annunciation of Jesus' birth and artistically links the John the Baptist and Jesus cycles together.

The MAGNIFICAT is a free composition modeled after Hannah's song (1 Samuel 2:1-10) and contains similar themes. There are many reminiscences of the Old Testament, but unlike Zechariah's song, the BENEDICTUS (1:68-79) it does not use LXX phrases. Hymnody of this sort was written in the 1st century B.C., of which the Psalms of Solomon (circa 65-55 B.C.) are the examples most similar to the canticles in Luke. The Qumran Hymns of Thanksgiving belong to the same genre but have the peculiarities of the other Dead Sea Scrolls.

The sentiments of the MAGNIFICAT are revolutionary, although the revolution is brought about by God alone. In Longfellow's poem, "King Robert of Sicily," the king remarks, "'Tis well that such seditious words were sung / only by priests and in the Latin tongue."

Luke thinks typologically thus Hannah is the type of Mary--and John the Baptist partly parallels Jesus. No one knows what sources Luke may have used in writing chapters 1-2 but he composed them in a style imitating the Septuagint. His picture of simple Jewish people who expected a Davidic Messiah may partly describe actual non-Pharisaic Jews, but it is an ideal, nostalgic portrait of the best of the piety of simple people. The pericope is followed by the birth of John and by Zechariah's canticle.

1b. TEXT: Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]


39Ἀναστᾶσα δὲ Μαριὰμ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις ἐπορεύθη εἰς τὴν ὀρεινὴν μετὰ σπουδῆς εἰς πόλιν Ἰούδα,
40καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον Ζαχαρίου καὶ ἠσπάσατο τὴν Ἐλισάβετ.
41καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἤκουσεν τὸν ἀσπασμὸν τῆς Μαρίας ἡ Ἐλισάβετ, ἐσκίρτησεν τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ αὐτῆς, καὶ ἐπλήσθη πνεύματος ἁγίου ἡ Ἐλισάβετ,
42καὶ ἀνεφώνησεν κραυγῇ μεγάλῃ καὶ εἶπεν, Εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν, καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας σου.
43καὶ πόθεν μοι τοῦτο ἵνα ἔλθῃ ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ κυρίου μου πρὸς ἐμέ;
44ἰδοὺ γὰρ ὡς ἐγένετο ἡ φωνὴ τοῦ ἀσπασμοῦ σου εἰς τὰ ὦτά μου, ἐσκίρτησεν ἐν ἀγαλλιάσει τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ μου.
45καὶ μακαρία ἡ πιστεύσασα ὅτι ἔσται τελείωσις τοῖς λελαλημένοις αὐτῇ παρὰ κυρίου.
46Καὶ εἶπεν Μαριάμ, Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν κύριον,
47καὶ ἠγαλλίασεν τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου,
48ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αὐτοῦ. ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσίν με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί:
49ὅτι ἐποίησέν μοι μεγάλα ὁ δυνατός, καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ,
50καὶ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς τοῖς φοβουμένοις αὐτόν.
51Ἐποίησεν κράτος ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ, διεσκόρπισεν ὑπερηφάνους διανοίᾳ καρδίας αὐτῶν:
52καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς,
53πεινῶντας ἐνέπλησεν ἀγαθῶν καὶ πλουτοῦντας ἐξαπέστειλεν κενούς. 54ἀντελάβετο Ἰσραὴλ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ, μνησθῆναι ἐλέους,
55καθὼς ἐλάλησεν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν, τῷ Ἀβραὰμ καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.

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

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


Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be [1] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Mary's Song of Praise: The Magnificat

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

[1] - 1:45 Or believed, for there will be

2. ANALYSIS: Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]

Luke 1:39 - oreinein - the hill country...Mary came from Nazareth and went up into the central range. The traditional home of Zechariah and Elizabeth is at Ein Karem, just west of Jerusalem.

Lk. 1:41 - kai epleisthe pneumatos hagiou - - Luke John the Baptist and Jesus, Elizabeth is impelled by the Spirit.

Lk. 1:42 - Eulogeimenein - blessed; is almost synonomous with makaria in verse 45, but the latter, here and in the Beatitudes, can perhaps better be rendered as "happy;" it corresponds to the word in Psalm 1:1. This is, however, a special kind of happiness such as the Greeks ascribed to their gods.

Lk. 1:46 - Mariam - The variant Elisabet (see critical apparatus) is interesting but not well attested, and verse 48f. applies better to Mary.

Lk. 1:47 - eigalliasen - "glad " - 1 Samuel 2:1-10 uses aorists also.

Lk. 1:48 - makariousin - cf. note on verse 42 - Here almost meaning "congratulate."

Lk. 1:51-54 - The aorists epoieisen etc. suggest the Hebrew perfect tense. These are prophecies of the future, but the thought is that if God has decided on an action, it is as good as done already.

[ Photo by Gila Brand. Ein Karem, nestled in the hills in southwest Jerusalem ]

3. STRATEGY - Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]

Lectionaries since about 1990, which read pericopes of the annunciation to Joseph on Year A of this Sunday and to Mary on Year B, give the homilist
an opportunity to prepare for the Nativity in a more thorough fashion than is possible on Christmas, particularly on Christmas Eve.

The visit to Elizabeth is charming in that it reminds ones that the Nativity is also a human story involving two happy women. Luke is always sensitive to the interests of women; in chapters 1-2, Zechariah and Joseph are only on the periphery.

The Magnificat inevitably recalls Hannah and the birth of Samuel who was a little boy prophet and later became a king-maker and the judge of kings. Jesus is born into a family which had messianic expectations. The might will be put down and the humble exalted. Humanly speaking, it is significant that he grew to maturity in such a household. The passage from Micah 5:2-4 fits well with this, because it expects a Messiah from Bethlehem who would shepherd the people of Israel.

Hebrews 10:5-10 is well chosen for this Sunday. The sacrificial system in which Zechariah served with such awe and joy, and which was good as far as it went, has been superseded by a better system in which Jesus the high priest comes simply to do the will of God. In this he is like his mother Mary (1:38) who, as Raymond Brown points out in his masterful study THE BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH, is the model of Christian discipleship.

The gospel reading is another example of the reversal of roles which runs throughout the gospel story. The mighty are put down and the gentle and humble are exalted. The bad priesthood of the sons of Eli resulted in disaster for Israel, but Samuel was instrumental in restoring the nation's fortunes. The potentates of Jesus' time, mentioned on Advent 2, came to bad ends or at least to an evil historical reputation. There were no more obscure women than Hannah, Elizabeth and Mary, but they were the mothers of sons whom all generations have glorified!

4. REFERENCE: Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]

Brown, Raymond E. THE BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH. Garden City: Doubleday, 1977, pp. 330-366.

5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]

Hymns that would be well suited for this Advent celebration day are:


WAKE, AWAKE (Wachet Auf, ELW 436, HB 61/2)




and, especially if the sermon is on Mary,


N.B. The ELW now includes four Magnificat hymn settings:

723 – Canticle of the Turning: My soul cries out with a joyful shout

882 – My soul does magnify the Lord

573 – My soul now magnifies the Lord

251 – My soul proclaims your greatness

Exegete - Sherman E. Johnson, PhD, ThD †


In his article, "Words at the Solstice: Four Theses and Eight Christmas Greetings," [ DIALOG, vol. 21] liturgical scholar Gordon Lathrop, once shared a number of thought-provoking insights into the liturgical significance of Advent, Christmas and Solstice. Among these was the interesting observation that the littleness and humility of Christ's nativity, the theme of the cross, is at the heart of this season. It was most evident in medieval liturgies in what Durandus called in the post-Christmass feasts of the "companions of Christ," or COMITES CHRISTI.

Thus we mourn and rejoice at once over the ADMIRABILE COMMERCIUM, the astonishing reversal through which our downtroddeness, our awareness of suffering, (do we see it?) is exchanged for his joy. Hence the com- memoration of the first martyr Stephen on December 26th, the Apostle and Evangelist John on December 27th, and the victims of Herod (i.e., Holy Innocents) on December 28th. Perhaps one who is preaching during this busy, buoyant season would do well to prepare or at least read over the gospels for these days in the days just prior to Christmas. Happily there is also the invaluable liturgical handbook for this season which has been published by the Archdiocese of Chicago,IL. Entitled A CHRISTMAS SOURCEBOOK, edited by Mary Ann Simcoe, Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1984), it is an invaluable tool for preparing not only one's mind but also one's heart and tuning one's liturgical sensitivity for this season. The 158-page spiral bound volume is filled with wonderful examples of poetry and prose and prayer for this liturgical cycle of the church year (there is also a sourcebook for the Triduum cycle, edited by M. Simcoe and Gabe Huck). In particular the section on Mary, Mother of God, gives a refreshing look at the place of Mary in the history of salvation, and even in an anonymous verse of 15th Century English poetry:

Moder (mother) and mayden
was never none but she:
Well may such a lady
Goddes mother be.
Now sadly out of print, The Christmas Sourcebook is highly recommended for poets, pastors and preachers everywhere.


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+ Advent Three + 2009 +

Lexegete™ | Year C | St. Luke


Third Sunday of Advent

December 13, 2009

Zephaniah 3:14-20
Isaiah 12:2-6 (6)
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18

Prayer of the Day

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the preaching of John, that, rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentanc; 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. I am sending my messen- | ger before you,
who will prepare your | way before you. Alleluia. (Matt. 11:10)

1a. CONTEXT - Luke 3:7-18

Luke now tells of John's preaching and his baptism. The pericope is followed by a brief reference to his imprisonment and by the account of the baptism of Jesus, one form of which is read on the first Sunday after the Epiphany in all three years of the lectionary.

Luke's dating of John's ministry (read on Advent 2) indicates that Palestine has been partitioned since the death of Herod the Great. Since A.D. 6 there were uprisings and threats of further trouble. Judaea was under Roman administration, Galilee and Peraea were ruled by a client prince, so this was essentially an occupied territory. According to rabbinic tradition, the high priesthood was corrupt. Taxation, added to tithes, took a large share of the country's income. The many references in the gospels to demon possession indicated that many suffered from mental and nervous ailments. All this helps to explain popularity of apocalyptic writings such as the Psalms of Solomon (perhaps 55-45 B.C.) and the Qumran War Scroll.

Both the Pharisees and the Essenes called for repentance, the latter by forming a semi-monastic community, the former by attempting to educate the entire population in observance to Torah. John the Baptist was therefore a signficant figure in a penitential movement and seems to have had mass appeal to crowds of town and country people.

In this pericope John denounces the crowds, warns of the coming wrath, and predicts that one more powerful than he will administer a more crucial baptism. Luke inserts a passage not found in the other gospels (vss. 10-14) in which John instructs the crowds, the tax collectors and the soldiers on their immediate duties. His commmands have been criticized from two points of view, as follows: 1 - It is alleged to be only an interim ethic; i.e., since so little can be done in the brief time ahead, do only what you can. 2 - He does not seem to recognize the depth and pervasiveness of human sin (in contrast to Jesus and Paul); much more is required of individuals and of the nation.

Yet these words are appropriate, so far as they go, for any time at all, not merely in an interim. Generosity in sharing, honesty in money matters, and proper behavior of the powerful toward a subject population, are teahcings of the Old Testament also.

Luke's main source appears to be Mark 1:4-8, but there are parallels also to Matthew 3:7-10, 11c (kai pyri), 12. Here relationships between the gospels are much debated. If there is not an overlap between Mark and Q, Luke may be dependent on Matthew. We do not know what source lies behind verses 10-14, but elsewhere Luke transmits much special material, perhaps from a source L.

1b. TEXT - Luke 3:7-18
7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.
9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?”
11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics [1] is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”
13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.”
14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.


[1] 3:11 Greek χιτῶνας (chiton), a long garment
worn under the cloak next to the skin

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001
by Crossway Bibles, a ministry of Good News Publishers.


7Ἔλεγεν οὖν τοῖς ἐκπορευομένοις ὄχλοις βαπτισθῆναι ὑπ' αὐτοῦ, Γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν, τίς ὑπέδειξεν ὑμῖν φυγεῖν ἀπὸ τῆς μελλούσης ὀργῆς;
8ποιήσατε οὖν καρποὺς ἀξίους τῆς μετανοίας: καὶ μὴ ἄρξησθε λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς, Πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν Ἀβραάμ, λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι δύναται ὁ θεὸς ἐκ τῶν λίθων τούτων ἐγεῖραι τέκνα τῷ Ἀβραάμ.
9ἤδη δὲ καὶ ἡ ἀξίνη πρὸς τὴν ῥίζαν τῶν δένδρων κεῖται: πᾶν οὖν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται. 10Καὶ ἐπηρώτων αὐτὸν οἱ ὄχλοι λέγοντες, Τί οὖν ποιήσωμεν; 11ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς, Ὁ ἔχων δύο χιτῶνας μεταδότω τῷ μὴ ἔχοντι, καὶ ὁ ἔχων βρώματα ὁμοίως ποιείτω.
12ἦλθον δὲ καὶ τελῶναι βαπτισθῆναι καὶ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτόν, Διδάσκαλε, τί ποιήσωμεν;
13ὁ δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Μηδὲν πλέον παρὰ τὸ διατεταγμένον ὑμῖν πράσσετε.
14ἐπηρώτων δὲ αὐτὸν καὶ στρατευόμενοι λέγοντες, Τί ποιήσωμεν καὶ ἡμεῖς; καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Μηδένα διασείσητε μηδὲ συκοφαντήσητε, καὶ ἀρκεῖσθε τοῖς ὀψωνίοις ὑμῶν.
15Προσδοκῶντος δὲ τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ διαλογιζομένων πάντων ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν περὶ τοῦ Ἰωάννου, μήποτε αὐτὸς εἴη ὁ Χριστός, 16ἀπεκρίνατο λέγων πᾶσιν ὁ Ἰωάννης, Ἐγὼ μὲν ὕδατι βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς: ἔρχεται δὲ ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ: αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί:
17οὗ τὸ πτύον ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ διακαθᾶραι τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ καὶ συναγαγεῖν τὸν σῖτον εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην αὐτοῦ, τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ.
18Πολλὰ μὲν οὖν καὶ ἕτερα παρακαλῶν εὐηγγελίζετο τὸν λαόν:

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

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

2. ANALYSIS - Luke 3:7-18

Luke 3:7 - Genneimata exiduon - brood (or offspring) of vipers. The metaphor suggests snakes fleeing from a grass fire.

Lk. 3:8 - lithon touton egeirai tekna - Evidently a play on words in Aramaic, abhnayya, stones; b enayya, childlren (the same pun would be possible in Hebrew).

Lk. 3:9 - keitai - is lying. The axe is near the tree, perhaps even in the woodsman's hands. Cf. 13:6-9 for the same metaphor of judgment.

Lk. 3:11 - chitonas - the undergarment. Jesus gives a similar teaching in Luke 6:29.

Lk. 3:12f. - telonai - probably employees of the tax farmers who contracted with the Roman government or Herod Antipas. They could easily prey on ignorant or fearful people. Cf., Zacchaeus, 19:8f.

Lk. 3:14 - srateuomenoi - men doing military service. The troops in Judaea and Galilee must have been mostly pagan, but this presumes that there were Jews among them. diaseisete - literally means "shake thoroughly," i.e. "shake-down," extort money by violence. sukophantesete, extort; specifically by false accusation.

Lk. 3:15 - In the earliest tradition the "mightier one" may have been God himself, as in Malachi 4:5. But the "thong of the sandals" (vs. 16) suggests a human figure. John was sometimes identified with the Elijah of Malachi (Matthew 11:14). Here Luke indicates that the people expected the Messiah, who according to Jewish tradition would be announced by Elijah.

Lk. 3:16 - en pneumati agio kai pyri - Both Luke and Matthew add "and fire" to the promise of the Holy Spirit in Mark.

Lk. 3:17 - The sayings in verses 15f. are chiastic:

Holy Spirit / fire // burn / gather into granary.

Thus the fire is not that of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3). ptuon - winnowing shovel, used to toss the grain into the air; the wind blew the chaff away and the wheat fell to the bedrock threshing floor. Farmers might burn the chaff in ovens if it collected in piles.

3. STRATEGY - Luke 3:7-18

Once again the theme of the day combines judgment with hope, joy and thanksgiving (1st and 2nd readings). Phil. 4:4-7 is particularly attractive. When Paul wrote he was also in a time of crisis and faced the possiblity of his own death.

The homily might emphasize national repentance. The authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls saw no hope for the mass of people, only for the elect, and they withdrew from society. The Pharisees did not withdraw, but they tried to teach a strict, minute observance of all parts of the law. Jesus proclaimed the Good News of the near advent of the Reign of God.
John at least prepared for this by teaching individual repentance, and seems to have addressed everyone who would listen.

One possible approach is to put John's teaching in the context of thoroughgoing repentance. In our individualistic society, too many people think they can behave with honesty and decency in their personal relationships while they take no responsibility for the nation and the international order. The Old Testament prophets--and probalby John also--thought of each person as having his or her identity and meaning only as part of the community. The moral life of any human being is a unity, and personal and public morality cannot be separated into different compartments. This puts a special obligation to Christians who live in a more democratic society and are not, like lst Century Jews, subjects of
arbitrary rulers.

Exegete: Sherman E. Johnson, PhD, ThD †

4. REFERENCES: Luke 3:7-18

Fitzmyer, Jos. A. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE. Anchor Bible, vols 28 and 28 a. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1981, 1985.

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


If the following hymns were not used for Advent 2 , they could be used with this day's pericopes:




Also, since the focus on John the Baptist continues this week, the following could also be carried over for use this week:



Hymns on the Kingdom (see Hymn Suggestions for Advent 1) remain appropriate throughout the Advent Season, as noted earlier.

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