Lectionary Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent Year C
December 20, 2015
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth, and he shall be the one of peace. — Micah 5:4-5a
Just a few more days and IT will be here–Christmas that is. Star Wars: The Force Awakens will have already hit the theaters (opens December 18), but the forces of consumer culture will still be in full battle mode for our last dollars and hours. Buy one more gift. Do we have enough? Am I making this a “magical” enough Christmas for the kiddos? How in the world can I balance all of these multiple priorities? Wait! What? All this and church, too?
Yes, Luke Skywalker may once again be in the theaters, but it is Luke the Evangelist’s gospel that brings us a real blockbuster and a much-needed countercultural hero in an unlikely Prince of Peace, this “Christ” in Christmas. This week’s gospel lesson is one of the most powerful in the entire lectionary. Mary visits her cousin, Elizabeth, and the yet-unborn John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb, and she is filled with the Holy Spirit so that she proclaims Mary blessed among women and the child Mary carries is called blessed, too. And Mary breaks into a powerful song we know as “The Magnificat.”
Imagine the emotion Mary and Elizabeth must be experiencing. They are women in a patriarchal culture, but women who have been touched by God and whose lives have been named and claimed for God’s salvific purposes. Because of the children they carry and nurture with their own bodies, the entire course of history and all of creation will be changed. This is a scene from a story that will turn the world upside down and inside out. A story that will never grow old or threadbare. A story that will never cease to change people’s lives and realign reality. This is a story of expecting and longing and having those expectations exceeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams and longings. Luke Skywalker may be an iconic character, but he can’t hold an Advent candle to the Prince of Peace.
And we, you and me and the faith communities of which we are a part, are stewards of this message that redraws the margins so that all are included, that topples the powerful and elite with tools of humility, mercy, grace, and love. This is the real star of Christmas. This is the star who sleeps in a feeding trough rather than striding the red carpet. This is God in human flesh–real and tangible–who enacts for us what it means to love prodigally and live fully.
We live in a world that flocks to darkened theaters to hear and see a captivating story. We pay our hard-earned money hoping that the story will–at least for a time–remove us from the harsh realities and brokenness of life. On this last Sunday of Advent we hear another installment in the story of God’s interaction with humankind, drawing us in, lifting us up, including all of creation in the production of a new reality where God-with-us, Immanuel, breaks all the rules to break the chains of death and decay.
Sing with Mary, rejoice with Elizabeth, lift your praise and prayers with the psalmist, and proclaim with the prophet that God is again doing a new thing; and we, all of us, are invited to join in.
Photos: JD Hancock, Gregory and Shelina, and N.C.Wyath, Creative Commons. Thanks!