December 1 is World AIDS Day. Worldwide, 15 million children have lost one or both parents to the AIDS pandemic; in Zimbabwe, one in five children are orphans. Yet in North America, December marks the start of our annual frenzy of conspicuous consumption, and churches often counter the market’s hijacking of our feast day with poor substitutes: charity and triumphalism.
The scripture passages for these weeks do not support our holiday evasions. While sometimes hopeful, the verses are neither cozy nor celebratory. Certainly we find stories of Jesus’ birth, but they come amid news of prisons, lions, vipers, swords, armor, and genocide. The lections’ strongest themes are of justice, violence, and the role of prophets.
Over five Sundays the lectionary takes us through seven books spanning eight centuries, and we engage with some of the best-loved passages in scripture: “A shoot shall come up from the stump of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1); “a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6); “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness” (Matthew 3:3); and “my soul magnifies the Lord” (Luke 1:47). The dominant texts are Isaiah, the book from the Hebrew Bible most quoted in the Greek Testament, and the gospel of Matthew, the book in the Greek Testament that draws most often from the Hebrew Bible. In a complex interplay, the texts read each other, we read the texts, and the texts read us and our times.
Laurel A. Dykstra is a scripture and justice educator living in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is author of Set Them Free: The Other Side of Exodus.
Hunger and War
Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44