December 5, 2021
Sunday Between December 4 and December 10 Inclusive
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Luke 3:1-6, The Message or Luke 3:1-6, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
Permission is granted for non-profit use of these materials. Acknowledgement in oral presentations is not required. Otherwise, please acknowledge source as, "David Ewart, www.holytextures.com."
In my not so humble opinion, these 6 verses make for a pretty thin sermon on the second Sunday of Advent.
First, we get 3 verses helpfully pin-pointing the time and place of John the Baptist's ministry. As an adult. About 30 years after the time, place, person and event that we have gathered to prepare for.
But just for the record, the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius would put the date at 28-29 A.D. (or C.E. if you prefer that.) And given that scholars now think that the King Herod mentioned by Luke in 1:5 died in 4 B.C., that would put the age of John and Jesus as 33.
Then we get 3 verses quoting Isaiah 40:3-5. Which is all good. But I wish the creators of the Lectionary had given us preachers texts that were closer to the story we are actually wanting to talk about.
Be that as it may, as one born and raised on the prairies of Canada, I can't resist pointing out that they are already closer to Isaiah's vision of the age to come than your so-called "scenic" rolling hills, forests, and mountains. Take that, all you who mock our endless straight roads and wide open clear skies.
On the other hand, I think it is fair to also caution that if we can put Handel's Messiah out of our heads - and any other uplifting hymn tunes for this text - we'll realize that the images here are as violent and catastrophic as last weeks.
And so again we are reminded that the desire of our flesh to see the salvation of God is to desire something that is a far cry from our present lived reality. Are we ready for such a radical change?
Note: Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, pages 235-236; and the writings of Amy-Jill Levine, et. al. See link below.
Luke 3:1-6 (NRSV)
1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 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 the prophet Isaiah,
"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Luke 3:1-6 (The Message)
1 In the fifteenth year of the rule of Caesar Tiberius—it was while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea; Herod, ruler of Galilee; his brother Philip, ruler of Iturea and Trachonitis; Lysanias, ruler of Abilene; 2 during the Chief-Priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas—John, Zachariah's son, out in the desert at the time, received a message from God. 3 He went all through the country around the Jordan River preaching a baptism of life-change leading to forgiveness of sins, 4 as described in the words of Isaiah the prophet:
Thunder in the desert!
"Prepare God's arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight!
5 Every ditch will be filled in,
Every bump smoothed out,
The detours straightened out,
All the ruts paved over.
6 Everyone will be there to see
The parade of God's salvation."
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce J. Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
+ Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Annotated New Testament, The Bible With and Without Jesus, Short Stories by Jesus, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and others.
Permission is granted for non-profit use of these materials. Acknowledgement of source is not required in oral presentations. Otherwise please note as, "David Ewart, www.holytextures.com."