Dec 21, Sunday and intro to the week

Advent IV ✬ Sunday, December 21
Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Canticle 15 (Magnificat); Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

This page is also in audio format. Listen here:

If you have a home Advent wreath, the following simple liturgy for lighting four candles on your wreath will guide you each day this week. The liturgy is drawn from our readings for this fourth week in Advent.

Prayers for candle-lighting

The Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
[Light four candles]
For nothing is impossible with God.
The Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

Interpreting the Readings

We hear several important themes emerge from our readings this week: God is always
present and on the move in the lives of God’s people, recognizing and honoring those
who are humble and open to hearing and responding to the word of God in their lives.

Our first reading comes from the canonical book called 2 Samuel. Most scholars agree
that both 1 and 2 Samuel were written during the Babylonian exile (6th century BCE).
They offer theological interpretations of the reasons for the demise of the kingdoms of
Israel (in the north) and Judah (in the south) over the course of the preceding centuries.
More specifically, our Advent IV reading from 2 Samuel focuses on a “dialogue”
between Israel’s great King David and the Lord (through the prophet Nathan). This
passage, as with much of 1 and 2 Samuel, presents King David as a man clearly blessed
by the Lord despite his complex, ambiguous character.

We briefly mentioned some of the major themes of the Gospel of Luke in Session Three.
In this gospel, Jesus works to free, comfort, heal, feed, and reconcile his people to God.
In his ministry, empowered by the Holy Spirit, Jesus enacts the great jubilee proclaimed
by Isaiah (“the year of the Lord’s favor”), a time when debts are forgiven, captives are
freed, and land returned to those who were earlier forced to sell it. In Luke, we might
say that Jesus “levels the playing field” for all people, raising up the lowly and outcast
of our world, while bringing down the high and mighty to their proper place before
God. These major themes in the Gospel of Luke are introduced in the Magnificat, also
known as the Song of Mary, assigned for this Advent IV Sunday. We hear the young
Mary’s gratitude that God has looked favorably on her, God’s “lowly servant” to use
her own words of self-description, while casting down the mighty from their thrones
and sending the rich away empty.

In Luke’s story of the Annunciation to Mary, which is today’s gospel reading, we hear
echoes of our first passage from 2 Samuel. The angel Gabriel tells Mary “the Lord is
with you” and promises her that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and the power of
the Most High will overshadow her. As Mary’s life takes this unexpected and dramatic
turn, she can take comfort in the abiding presence of the Lord in her life.

For Reflection

From the beginning, God’s faithful people have regularly looked back on earlier events
in their lives and tried to identify the many ways God has been active, both with
blessings and with creative judgments. As you begin this fourth and final week of
Advent, take a few minutes to look back on earlier events in your own life and that of
your congregation. Do you now see more clearly some of the ways God was at work, at
times confirming your faithfulness and at other times judging your waywardness to
help you get back on track? Give thanks to God for all these insights, since our lives
today are shaped both by the blessings we’ve received, as well as the redirection that
comes from our stumbles.

Recall an experience in your own life when your awareness of God’s abiding presence
helped you through a difficult or challenging time.

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