Monday, December 14, 2015

Being the Magnifier – 20 December 2015 – Fourth Sunday in Advent

Although this Sunday is the end of the Advent season, we can begin to think about Christmas because we hear Mary’s song. She invites us to sing with her so that my soul and your soul also “magnify the Lord.”

What is unique and most interesting about Christians celebrating Christmas, as distinct from the way in which the world celebrates Christmas, is the way in which we join Mary and Elizabeth. Christians believe that Christmas is the fulfillment of all that God has said to us, all that he has promised through Micah and his prophets, all that heals our broken relationship with God, our expulsion from the Garden, our broken humanity and garbled tongues.

Christmas is not to us merely the birth of an incredibly interesting, nice, loving guy with the enhancing opinion that we all should be more like him. Christmas is not people feeling kindness toward others for a few days because of Jesus—the Christmas truce—followed by the inevitable return to the focus on promoting self and killing each other (even with a good deal of romantic irony) if we need to.

Christmas is about Christians believing that the fulfillment has already happened: that in Jesus Christ heaven and earth have come together to live on the same page, that in Christ, God and humanity are at peace and working together in tandem, in a new relationship that makes the old estrangement obsolete, a New Covenant, a new understanding of God and ourselves together.– John E. Smith

Luke 1:39-55

Ah! The Magnificat! Perhaps it is a year to sing more than to preach. Our poets and composers have plumbed the depths of this canticle. Perhaps we should let them have the spotlight. After all, the people will return tonight and again tomorrow. There is plenty of time to talk. Let the people hear Mary's song—or, even better, sing it themselves. Perhaps they will better grasp the reversals that this God, our God, promises—those which Miriam Therese Winter captures well in her verse: “Love casts the mighty from their thrones, promotes the insecure, leaves hungry spirits satisfied, the rich seem suddenly poor” (The New Century Hymnal, #119). – Scott Haldeman

Micah 5:2-5a

The history of world politics, with few exceptions, suggests that power alone can speak to power. This strategy, if it is one, seems to bring mostly conflict rather than peace. Micah seems to suggest that only by standing in the strength of the Lord will we be secure and find peace. While there are many examples of ancient and modern saints who provide the truth of this, who are the exemplars in your community today? What have your learned from them? – Ron Anderson

Hebrews 10:5-10

This week's reading from Hebrews, of all of the readings appointed this Advent season, reminds us that the mystery of the incarnation we now celebrate is not fully interpreted without reference to the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. In churches that celebrate the Eucharist each week, this connection is clearly heard and celebrated in the Eucharistic prayer. Whether you celebrate the Eucharist today or not, how will you make this connection clear in your preaching, praying, and singing? – Ron Anderson

May your spirit rejoice as you prepare for this last week of being prepared by God to welcome the One in whom you have found favor.

E. Byron Anderson is the Ernest and Bernice Styberg Professor of Worship and the Director of the Nellie B. Ebersole Program in Music Ministry at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.

W. Scott Haldeman is associate professor of worship at Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.

John E. Smith has served as a Methodist pastor for many years.

Homily Service 40, no. 1 (2006): 41-51.

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