Biblical Words 
In the fullness of time God gives joy to those seeking the Consolation
The readings for this Sunday
visualize (1) the glorious public appearance of an awaited king with the
prolific mother city, (2) the hallelujah choruses of heaven and earth, (3) the
human dimension of the fullness of time, and (4) the consummation of hope for
the faithful visionaries in
. Isaiah 61:10-62:3
The Prophetic reading opens with the exultant cry of
a royal figure who speaks on behalf of true
God in God’s own person has dressed this speaker in “garments of salvation” and a “robe of righteousness.” This attire is appropriate to the joy and delight of a royal wedding, a time when the groom wears the most glittering headdress and the bride the most luxurious jewels. This glory in the social and political world is like the outbreak of new growth in fields that are fertile and blessed, and like the luxuriant plantings of well-watered and carefully tended gardens (verse 11).
As this figure representing
Such is the prophet’s vision of the consolation of
As if beholding the blinding glory of the royal coronation, the Psalm breaks forth in a tumult of Hallelujahs! (Every occurrence of “Praise …” in the English versions is a translation of the Hebrew hallelu, the plural imperative. In hallelu-jah, the jah is the shortened form of the divine name Yahwéh.)
The psalm drives exuberantly through all the reaches of heaven and earth to find entities and creatures to summon to Praise!
In verses 1-6 the heavenly realms are called upon at
large and in detail to hallelu the Lord.
The poet follows the cosmic structure of
As for the earthly realms, their summons to praise (verses 7-12) begins
with the exotic creatures of the deep, then goes on to the mysterious places of
the sky and the distant horizons with their storehouses of all kinds of weather. After summoning the mountains, trees, and the
animals, both wild and domestic, humans are addressed: the mighty of the earth, but also the
ordinary young men and women. Let them
all hallelu the Lord because of his glory, but also … also because “He
has raised up a horn for his people…for the children of
Thus, as the climactic—and almost add-on—thought, the realms of heaven
and earth are called to rejoice in something special for
. Galatians 4:4-7
The Epistle selection is part of a rather complex theological discussion, but its pertinence to the Sunday after Christmas stands out in the following clauses (NRSV translation):
· “when the fullness of time had come…”
· “God sent his Son, born of a woman…”
· “born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law…”
The “Fullness of Time” has its meaning in reference to
The phrase “born of a woman” has echoes of the prophecy in
The phrase “born under the law” insists that salvation under the New
Covenant is first of all for
. Luke 2:22-40
The most gracious and endearing presentation of the Consolation of
The passage is at pains to make clear that Jesus’ birth was fully in accord with the laws of Moses. (Strictly speaking, two separate rituals are combined here, the purification of the mother after birth, Leviticus 12, and the presentation of the male firstborn, Exodus 13:2, 11-16.) From this viewpoint, Jesus was fully an Israelite. He was duly circumcised on the eighth day after his birth (verse 21, just before our reading), making him a son of the covenant of Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14). Then, forty days after his birth, he and his mother were brought to the temple for the “purification” and the redemption of a firstborn son.
In the logic of the sacred rules, the firstborn belonged to God until the father made a sacrifice to redeem it and allow it to live in the ordinary world – an action referred to the sparing of the Israelite firstborn at the time of the exodus (Exodus 13:14-15).
Though Jesus was fully an Israelite, he was a
poor one—economically speaking. The sacrifice presented by Joseph and Mary
for her purification was two pigeons, the sacrifice made by the very poor who
could not afford a sheep (, referring to
It was while the parents were engaged in the details of fulfilling the
law of Moses that Simeon and Anna found them.
By the ordinary work-a-day folks, crowded and busy in the temple
precincts, these two old folks must have seemed strange characters from another
age. In the evangelist’s view, however,
they are heirs of
In a poignant moment of prophetic insight, Simeon foresees Jesus’ destiny
and the pain that the mother is yet to know.
Speaking to Mary he says, “This boy is assigned to be the cause of the
falling and rising of many in