Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Christmas - Set II - December 25, 2023

Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures
Author's note:
Sometimes I have material left over when I edit Comments down to fit the available space. This page presents notes that landed on the clipping room floor. Some may be useful to you. While I avoid technical language in the Comments (or explain special terms), Clippings may have unexplained jargon from time to time.

A hypertext Glossary of Terms is integrated with Clippings. Simply click on any highlighted word in the text and a pop-up window will appear with a definition. Bibliographic references are also integrated in the same way.

Isaiah 62:6-12

61:4-62:9: The prophet tells of the new Jerusalem emerging out of the ashes of destruction: a new Zion, a new priesthood (see 61:4-9); a hymn (see 61:10-11); a new espousal (see 62:1-5); and about the prophet’s followers ( 62:6-9). [ NJBC]

62:1: “I will not keep silent”: 42:14 says “For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out ...”. For Israel’s complaints of divine silence, see 57:11; 64:12; 65:6. God breaks the silence of many years. [ JBC]

62:1: “vindication”: Zion’s vindication “shines out” with the suddenness of dawn in the “desert”. 54:14 says “In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you”. See also 41:14; 54:17; 61:2. [ JBC]

62:1: “burning torch”: Jesus spoke at the Feast of Tabernacles: see John 7:37-38 (“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me ...”) and 8:12. [ JBC]

62:2: “new name”: See also 1:26 (“... Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city”); Jeremiah 33:16 (“In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’”); Ezekiel 48:35 (“... the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord is There”). [ NOAB]

62:3: “crown of beauty”: In 28:1-6, the prophet prophesies: “... In that day [at the end of time] the Lord of hosts will be a garland of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people ...”. [ NOAB]

62:5: The theme of Yahweh as spouse is not just repeated (see 49:14 and 50:1) but adulterous Israel is restored to that joyful, innocent age long ago when she was the virgin spouse of God. [ JBC]

62:6: “sentinels”: This is a metaphor for prophets (see 52:8 and Ezekiel 33) to remind Jerusalem of her imminent salvation, the certainty of which the Lord’s oath in vv. 8-9 underscores. [ NOAB] They will become recorders of God’s promises and deeds. This office was an official one: see 2 Samuel 8:16 and Isaiah 36:3. [ JBC]

62:8: “right hand”: See also Exodus 15:6, 12; Deuteronomy 4:34; Isaiah 51:5, 9. The curses for disobedience will be removed (see Deuteronomy 18:15-22) and protection will be assured against marauders.[NOAB]

62:8: “mighty arm”: 40:10 says: “See, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him”. See also Deuteronomy 7:19. [ NOAB]

62:8: “foreigners”: Invaders, i.e. the Babylonians, and encroachers, e.g. the Edomites: see Obadiah 13. [ NOAB]

62:9: See also Deuteronomy 16:13-15 (ordinance concerning the Festival of Tabernacles or Booths). [ JBC]

62:10-12: These verses summarize the eschatological hopes described in 61:1-62:9. [ NOAB]

Psalm 97

For the awe-full omnipotence of God, see also Psalm 96. [ CAB]

Verses 2-5: See also 18:7-15; 50:1-3. For theophanies, see Judges 5:4ff; Deuteronomy 33:2ff; Isaiah 30:27ff; Habakkuk 3:4ff. [ NOAB]

Verse 9: “most high”: The Hebrew word is elyon, and here refers to Yahweh. In Canaanite polytheism, Elyon was the overlord of both the divine and human worlds. [ NJBC]

Titus 3:4-7

These verses are part of a section ( 2:1-3:8) on what the true teacher is to teach. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: Civil authorities are to be obeyed even if they are bad rulers. This notion is developed further in 1 Timothy 2:1-2. See also Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17. [ CAB]

Verse 1: “to be ready for every good work”: The author has criticized those who are not ready in 1:16: “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work”. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “the water of rebirth”: For baptism as the washing away of sins see also Acts 22:16 and Ephesians 5:26; for baptism as the beginning of a new life, see also John 3:5. Rebirth is equivalent to new creation as used in Pauline epistles. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “renewal by the Holy Spirit”: i.e. the restoration of one’s relationship to God lost through sin. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “... if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”.

Verse 8: “The saying is sure”: REB offers That is a saying you may trust. This is a formula used in the Pastoral Epistles to declare that Paul himself guarantees the tradition in question. (Most scholars consider the Pastorals to have been written by a follower of Paul, a generation or so after his death.) See also 1 Timothy 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “good works”: They are the responsibility of the faithful, as a response to God’s prior saving activity. [ NJBC]

Luke 2:(1-7),8-20

The parallel is Matthew 1:18-2:23. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “all the world”: The Roman Empire. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: “Quirinius”: He was a special legate or commissioner from Augustus, sent to carry on a war against a rebellious tribe, the Homonadenses. As such, he was military governor of Syria. There was also a civil governor. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “descended from ... David”: See also 1:27 (the announcement to Mary), 32-33, 69-71 (Zechariah prophesies). [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “firstborn”: NJBC wonders whether the meaning here is firstborn of God.

Verse 7: “bands of cloth”: Wisdom of Solomon 7:4 says “I [Solomon] was nursed with care in swaddling cloths”. Like Solomon, his predecessor on the throne of David, Jesus wears the trappings of humility. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: The imperial cult celebrated Augustus as the bringer of peace. While Augustus brought some peace through military might, in the powerlessness of his babyhood, Jesus is Saviour and bringer of peace to all. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “inn”: A two-story building, typically 13 metres by 20 metres (40 feet by 65 feet). Animals stayed in the lower courtyard. Kitchens and other facilities were on the lower floor, and bedrooms on the upper floor. The Greek word katalyma used here also appears in 22:11 as the site of the Last Supper. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “shepherds”: An echo of David’s origins as a shepherd: see 1 Samuel 16:1-13. Shepherds were ritually unclean. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “terrified”: While some scholars tell us that this means held God in awe, I suggest that they were literally terrified. What they saw was beyond their experience; indeed it was beyond the limits of human understanding. See also 1:65; 7:16; Acts 2:43; 5:5, 11; 19:17. [ NOAB]

Verse 10: 1:26 says “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth”. [ JBC]

Verses 11-14: These verses are the key to the meaning of the passage. [ JBC]

Verse 11: “this day”: i.e. today: not in the distant future (as Jews expected), but being inaugurated now! For today as a theme in Luke, see 4:21; 5:36; 12:28; 13:32-33; 19:5, 9; 22:34, 61; 23:43. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “Saviour”: In Jesus, God is present with sinners (see 19:5, 10; 23:43). Jesus saves from destructive self-isolation to union with the nurturing community.

Verse 11: “Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord”: See also Matthew 1:21; 16:16; John 4:42; Acts 2:36; 5:31; Philippians 2:11. [ NOAB]

Verse 14: See also 3:22 (“‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’”, at Jesus’ baptism) and 19:38 (“‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’”, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem). [ NOAB]

Verse 14: In Jesus, God has effected God’s gift of peace expected at the end of the time. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “peace among those whom he favours”: Lack of a single letter in later Greek manuscripts accounts for the alternative rendering: peace, goodwill among people. [ NOAB]

Verse 14: “those whom he favours”: Those whom God has chosen in accord with his good pleasure. [ NOAB]

Verse 16: “the child lying in the manger”: As foretold by the angel (see v. 12), but this “sign” also bears out and exemplifies the message that Jesus is Saviour (see v. 11). [ NJBC]

Verse 17: “what had been told them about this child”: This is complementary to:

  • The announcement to Mary (see 1:31-33) that Jesus is Saviour (see v. 11)
  • Mary’s statement in the Magnificat (see 1:46-55)
  • Zechariah’s statement, the Benedictus (see 1:68-79) [ NJBC]

Verse 19: Mary tries to find the meaning of these events. She models for believers the necessity of reflecting on, and embodying, peace. 1:45 says “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord”. [ NJBC]

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