Objective: To offer a biblical grounding for the observance
of Advent and the celebration of Christmas.
Faced with modern society's increasingly secular approach to
the Christmas season, Christians often yearn to recover the connection
between Jesus and the season that celebrates his birth. Although
Advent can be hectic, time may be set aside to gather with others
to discuss biblical concepts related to the new liturgical year,
the Advent season, and/or the Incarnation. A four-week course
will perhaps be unrealistic. Instead, you may want to offer a
shorter presentation, perhaps a scriptural mini-retreat at the
beginning of Advent or a Sunday afternoon session on the infancy
The First Sunday of Advent marks the start of the new liturgical
year and, with it, a new cycle of Sunday readings from a particular
Gospel (Matthew - A; Mark - B; Luke - C). An issue focused on
the Gospel to be featured may be an excellent choice for early
Advent (See Index for applicable issues). Advent also highlights
concepts such as Christ's second coming and messianic passages
from such prophets as Isaiah. Following is a list of issues from
which to choose.
Optimists and Pessimists Read the Book of Revelation
By Leslie Hoppe, O.F.M. N1197
Perhaps no other book of the Bible generates so much misunderstanding
and fear as the Book of Revelation. Hoppe tackles the book's visions,
prophecies and dragons to demonstrate that there is far more reason
for optimism than pessimism to be found in its pages.
Understanding the Apocalypse
By Wilfrid Harrington, O.P. N1199
Apocalyptic writing is bewildering to modern readers because
the literary style is no longer in use. Add to this the complication
that almost nothing in apocalyptic literature is intended to be
taken literally, and the confusion rises to fever pitch. Harrington
brings cool logic and a steady beam to guide the reader through
this often astonishing landscape whose most familiar territory
is found in the Book of Revelation.
John the Baptist: Preparing
the Way By Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, O.P. N1299
The Bible may contain no more unusual character than John the Baptist.
His unyielding sense of the need for repentance and justice is nearly
as intimidating to those who read his words today as it must have
been to those who first heard them. And yet, John is the only figure
besides Jesus to play a major role in all four Gospels. Perhaps
someone who has lived many years near the sites of John's ministry
can shed some light on the subject. Murphy-O'Connor prepares us
for John as John prepares us for Jesus.
Isaiah: One Prophet or Three? By Lawrence Boadt, C.S.P.
"The Book of Isaiah has greater power than almost any other book
of the Bible because it testifies to the enduring will of God
to save in every age. It is no wonder that the New Testament cites
Isaiah as the prophetic preparation for Jesus Christ more than
any other book of the Old Testament," Boadt writes. He explains
the stages of development in this magnificent literary and religious
document and its importance and impact on contemporary religious
The Romans in Israel
By Elizabeth McNamer. N1100
Roman dominance of Galilee and Judea profoundly influenced life
there at the time of Jesus' birth. Luke uses a Roman census to
take the Holy Family to Bethlehem so that Jesus could be born
in the hometown of his royal ancestor, David. As McNamer points
out, Roman influence was deep and pervasive, casting its shadow
over many areas of Jesus' public and private life.
By Daniel W. Casey. N1200
Luke's Gospel contains several exquisite canticles. The most familiar,
and some would say the most beautiful, is found on Mary's lips as
she arrives at the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah. Casey helps
the reader to see this literary gem as tapestry, weaving together
verses from the Hebrew Scriptures with Lukan themes such as the
poor; as song, a daily component of the Church's official prayer,
the Liturgy of the Hours; as journey, into a "solidarity with all
Christmas, like Easter, is a liturgical season, not merely
a one-day celebration. Also like Easter, the season ends with
a second important observance, the Baptism of the Lord. The following
four issues center on the season in its entirety.
The Christmas Stories: Exploring the Gospel Infancy Narratives
By Raymond E. Brown, S.S. N1294
America's foremost Scripture scholar and the author of The
Birth of the Messiah, Brown explores the theological and spiritual
meanings of the accounts of Jesus' human origins found in the
Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Touched by Angels By Barbara E. Reid, O.P. N1297
From the archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation in Luke to the
messengers who appear to Joseph in dreams in Matthew, angels are
very much a part of the Christmas tradition. Reid cuts through
the fluff on these majestic beings, offering a solidly Catholic,
contemporary, biblical perspective.
King of the Jews: the Herod Dynasty By Elizabeth McNamer.
Members of the Herodian dynasty, from Herod the Great to Herod
Antipas, are key figures in the Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles.
They play major roles in the infancy narratives, the beheading of
John the Baptist and the Passion narratives, among others. Who were
they? How much of their story is factual? Were they as wicked as
they are portrayed in Scripture?
Baptism's Biblical Roots
By Carolyn Thomas, S.C.N. N0200
The sacramental baptism so familiar today is quite different from
that administered by John the Baptist. Jesus' own baptism signified
his commissioning, as it were, to public life. How do all of these
concepts relate to one another? "The New Testament provides the
basis and focal point for the Church's understanding of baptism,"
Thomas writes. "The Church's baptismal tradition has shaped the
rite as we know it in the Catholic Church today." This issue is
especially appropriate as the liturgical year moves into its record
of Jesus' ministry during Ordinary Time.