Lectionary Reading Blog for 25 December: Christmas Day

LiturgyandSpiritualityThe lyrics of Awesome God begin with “When he rolls up his sleeves”. These lyrics later continue with “There is thunder in his footsteps and lightning in his fists”.

This is about God as mighty warrior rather than God as little baby. The first impression of our Isaiah reading is of peace, joy and salvation: very suitable for Christmas.

But then in verse 10 God “bares his holy arm”. Suddenly I also notice the ruins of Jerusalem, the sentinels and of course the message of peace. These are all markers of war. The messenger comes to report from a battle. Only in conflict does the message of peace make sense. This passage reflects Ps. 98 where we also hear of God’s holy arm giving victory. Is the bare holy arm in verse 10 really the arm of the warrior God who only has to show his sword for his enemies to scatter? The imagery of war is present but implicit.

In Isaiah 53:1 we have a very different arm “revealed” although the word for bare or uncover in Hebrew in these two verses is different, the image is the same. If we read Is.52:10 in the context of Is. 53:1 the question becomes, ‘what do we see when God shows his arm?’. The nations in 52:10 see ‘salvation’ or ‘help’ (yeshuah – like Jesus); in 53:1 it is only the servant, “the man of sorrow acquainted with grief”, who understands what it means when God reveals his arm. I think when God rolls up his sleeves (shows his power) we might see a baby rather than a sword. Awesome indeed.

25 December 2016
Isaiah 52: 7-10

This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anna-Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Coordinator for the Centre for Encountering the Bible and Director of Studies for the Centre for Formation in Ministry.

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