YEAR C: THE OLD TESTAMENT IN CHRISTMAS
The Old Testament readings for Christmas Day (with two alternative readings) remain the same for each year in the Revised Common Lectionary. They come from different sections of Isaiah. The readings set for the ordinary weeks in the Christmas season and for the celebration of the Baptism of Jesus, which signals the start of Epiphany, vary from year to year. This year we have a reading from 1 Samuel 2 for Christmas 1 and another passage from Isaiah, Isaiah 60:1-6, for the feast of Epiphany which falls on a Sunday this year.
The readings for Christmas clearly continue many of the
themes raised in Advent. Isaiah 9 is chosen for its reference to a 'child
born to us' and the royal messianic themes. On the other hand, the Christmas
Day alternatives continue in Year C the matters
raised by the prophetic readings in Advent. They come from both Third Isaiah and Second Isaiah, after and near the end of the period of captivity in Babylon. Hope is realised. The corresponding Gospel readings, however, seek to qualify that hope and define it more closely.
The reading on Christmas 1, from 1 Samuel 2, again returns
to the story of Hannah and the birth of Samuel. Parallels are struck between
this story and that of Jesus' early life. The reading from 1 Samuel 2 also
returns us to the passage read toward the end of Year B (Pentecost 25)
as we approached the feast of Christ the King. There the text pointed us
forward toward the image of the messiah to come. Now, with a return to
that story, the connection between our hopes and the birth of Jesus is
made more fully. The one whose birth
is celebrated at Christmas, is also the one who reigns over all. The babe is king and the king comes as a babe. The paradox at the heart of our faith in Jesus Christ is held before us.
As in Advent this year, so too in the Christmas season.
The theme of the one who comes coming in a time of turmoil is maintained
in these readings from Isaiah and Samuel. The horrors of the exile (Isaiah)
and the earlier suppression of Israel by the Philistines (1 Samuel)
are present in the readings. The echoes with the oppressive Roman rule behind the Gospel story of Luke are clear to see. We are constantly reminded by these readings that our faith in the God of Jesus is one lived out in the midst of difficult times.
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