Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C
December 23, 2018
Lessons: Micah 5:2-5a, Luke1:46b-55, Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-55
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people understand that love is the very heart of stewardship of time, talent, and resources. Small things done with great love do make a real difference.
Key Scripture: …for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. Luke 1:49-50
NOTE: This year’s Stewardship in Advent theme, “A Lasting Legacy,” is based on words from the Advent Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness (Sundays and Seasons, Year C) and the Advent prayer of the day. The weekly themes are SHOW us, TEACH us, LEAD us, and STIR us.
The Fourth Sunday of Advent is time to start “stirring” things up! Just as the yet-to-be-born John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary arrived (with Jesus in her womb), just as Mary sang a bold song of audacious hope and promise, and just as the prophet predicted big things to come out of little ‘ol Bethlehem, so we are called to look with fresh eyes on the wonder that is unfolding all around us.
Jesus is coming—again, and again, and again, and again. The world is on the brink of turning. Our Lord is coming to make all things right. A new world order is as near as your next breath, even though it may feel a million years away. Mary’s song calls to us across the ages, celebrating what God is doing: “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
Imagine the courage of this young mother-to-be! What backbone and clarity we hear in her story as she defies tradition, convention, and expectation in response to her call to serve God. Imagine God conceiving God’s own self in her body. Now, imagine God creating in us and of us new creations, beloved children waiting in expectation, preparing the way, stirring things up to welcome Jesus into our hearts, homes, congregations, and world. This is no small thing and no regular Sunday.
The temptation for all of us may be to keep looking past the present moment toward Christmas Eve—whether it be worship leaders putting the finishing touches on sermons, music, and service details or congregants hurrying to complete last-minute shopping, baking, and readying for the arrival of family and friends—but in doing so, we miss a critical point in this Advent season.
Yes, this Sunday we light the candle of love. We bring four weeks to perfect completion. What began in the dark with an audacious hope, continued with a longing for peace, and leapt and laughed for joy, now comes full circle with the power of love. For God did so love this world and every molecule and atom in it that God sent the son to dwell among us.
This is God’s radical way of loving you, me, and all of creation. It seems countercultural and counter-intuitive to us. This is a love not born of power or wealth or position but love created out of sheer nothing—love willed into the womb of a young unknown and unmarried woman, love overshadowing her with all the glory of heaven. If that’s not stirring things up, I don’t know what is!
Our challenge as worship leaders and worshipers this Sunday is to remain present in the moment, letting God overshadow us with this vivid and amazing love. We, dear friends, are free in Christ, freed to stir things up and live in the holy tension between birth and death, cradled in the already and not yet. And this we do because Jesus is coming! Thanks be to God.
Make this a day to celebrate God’s radical and inclusive love. Celebrate it in song, in word, and in prayer. Consider singing “What Feast of Love” for communion. Invite congregants to share where they have seen God’s love at work in the world. Send them with a commissioning to be “love bearers” and “Christ bearers” to the world. Challenge them to commit one small act with great love for every one of the twelve days of Christmas. (Consider creating a hashtag like #12daysoflove so that congregants can post acts of love on social media channels.
What small acts of great love could your youth do this day? Are there tasks around the church building that need to be completed before Christmas Eve worship? Can they carol and/or deliver cookies to homebound members or church neighbors today? Could they write Christmas cards to county prison inmates or those living in addiction recovery centers? Whatever you do today, spend some time putting love into action.
This week’s focus verse is Micah 5:2: But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
This Sunday talk with the children about how very good things can come in small packages. Sometimes the very best presents aren’t wrapped in the most fancy paper. We learn this week in Micah that something very, very good is going to come from Bethlehem—a little town from a little clan. Not from the halls of Temple or political power, but from a small and insignificant place.
Children will understand this because sometimes they may feel overlooked and underappreciated because of their youth and small stature. Assure them that in God’s eyes they are of great worth. If Jesus can come from Bethlehem, God can use them to accomplish great acts of love for the sake of the good news. Finish with a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of children in the life of your congregation.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Hey, faithful steward—are you ready to stir things up? This Sunday we are reminded of the importance of love and how God loves us so much that God entered into our world as a tiny baby through a young woman’s radical obedience and service. How can we bear God’s great love to a beautiful yet broken world that so badly needs to experience Jesus? Such is indeed the very heart of stewardship.
Stewardship at Home
If you have more Christmas cookies yet to bake, consider making some heart-shaped ones. After all, Christmas is truly a feast of love in which God put on skin and entered our human lives. Take a deep breath, a long pause, and treasure this last little bit of Advent.
Here’s a look back at our 2015 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/12/stewards-of-the-message-and-the-margins/
And here’s the 2012 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/12/encountering-incarnation/
Photos: Joe O’Meara, John Donaghy, and minkeymonkeymoo, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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