bible blog 328

This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church

Reading 1, 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16

1 Once the king had settled into his palace and the Lord had granted him rest from all the enemies surrounding him, 2 the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘Look, I am living in a cedar-wood palace, while the ark of God is under awnings.’

3 Nathan said to the king, ‘Go and do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you.’

4 But that very night, the word of the Lord came to Nathan: 5 ‘Go and tell my servant David, “The Lord says this: Are you to build me a house for me to live in? 8 This is what you must say to my servant David, “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader of my people Israel; 9 I have been with you wherever you went; I have got rid of all your enemies for you. I am going to make your fame as great as the fame of the greatest on earth. 10 I am going to provide a place for my people Israel; I shall plant them there, and there they will live and never be disturbed again; nor will they be oppressed by the wicked any more, as they were in former times 11 ever since the time when I instituted judges to govern my people Israel; and I shall grant you rest from all your enemies. The Lord furthermore tells you that he will make you a house. 12 And when your days are over and you fall asleep with your ancestors, I shall appoint your heir, your own son to succeed you (and I shall make his sovereignty secure. 14 I shall be a father to him and he a son to me; if he does wrong, I shall punish him with a rod such as men use, with blows such as mankind gives.) 16 Your house and your sovereignty will ever stand firm before me and your throne be for ever secure.” ‘

This passage is associated with Christmas because in it God punningly refuses the house (temple) which David thinks to build for him and instead promises that he will build a house (dynasty) for David. Christian scholars have regarded this promise as supremely fulfilled in Jesus. Jewish scholars have seen it fulfilled in modern Israel and its rule of Palestine. Prophecy is not all fun for scholars: it can have serious political consequences. Even the classic Christian claim that Jesus is the Jewish Davidic Messiah is contentious. Jesus himself was very cautious about the use of that title, as in truth it was his non-fulfilment of the messianic role which probably got him crucified. Better to take the Lord at his word that he does not dwell in houses made by hands, but in the household of trust of which the archetype is the family gathered round the manger.

Gospel, Luke 1:67-79

67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

68 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited his people, he has set them free, 69 and he has established for us a saving power in the House of his servant David, 70 just as he proclaimed, by the mouth of his holy prophets from ancient times, 71 that he would save us from our enemies and from the hands of all those who hate us, 72 and show faithful love to our ancestors, and so keep in mind his holy covenant. 73 This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, 74 that he would grant us, free from fear, to be delivered from the hands of our enemies, 75 to serve him in holiness and uprightness in his presence, all our days. 76 And you, little child, you shall be called Prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare a way for him, 77 to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the faithful love of our God in which the rising Sun has come from on high to visit us, 79 to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow dark as death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

The rising sun, the dayspring (KJV) has come to visit us, to give light to those who dwell under the shadow of death; and to guide our feet into the path of peace. Yes, it is because our feet are so easily guided into the paths of war that so many live in the shadow of death. While British soldiers kill and are killed in Afghanistan, Christian people are bombed, shot and expelled from their homes in Iraq.

dayspring from on high

I am always haunted by the Christmas cease fire between Germans and British troops during the First World War. Troops briefly fraternised, exchanged gifts, laughed together, then went back to killing each other. Only people very thoroughly (but not completely)brainwashed by violent propaganda could have done such a thing.

For Christmas to be gospel to a violent world Churches have to leave violence and the blessing of violence behind them. Nationalist concerns (Davidic Messiahs) have to be abandoned so that the child born in Bethlehem can be seen as a universal child.

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