Advent 4B


Voice in the Wilderness: Melissa Myers

Featured Musician:Jonathan Rundman


Tasty Wafer:

  1. A Communion liturgy for Christmas Eve written by Robb
  2. TNS 5-4 with Chris Heuertz!

Exegetical Notes


Luke 1:26-38

Initial Thoughts

  • Mary Sunday! Weird for Protestants, probably comfortable for Catholics

  • This is the passage the Beatles “Let It Be” was based on

Bible Study

  • The Nature of Mary

    • Perfect and sinless

      • Catholic interpretation

      • Immaculate conception refers to Mary, not to Jesus. Mary had to be sinlessly conceived in order to be without original sin

      • Eternally Virginal (apparently Jesus’ brothers and sisters were conceived by the Holy Spirit as well)

    • Ordinary and faithful

      • Priesthood of believers

      • God makes the ordinary extraordinary

      • “Mary is our model, our example, our witness, our sister who voices for us a pattern of Christmas expectancy and Christmas response. She embodies our Christmas feelings, our Christmas questions, our Christmas ponderings, not only in response to the time leading up to Christmas but also in our post-Christmas reality.” (Karoline Lewis, Working Preacher)

        • Mary is selected.

        • Mary is confused.

        • Mary questions

        • Mary commits.

        • “Mary’s witness in the season of Advent invites us move outside our liturgical constraints to imagine the meaning of a liturgical season beyond its weeks; beyond our propensities to locate responses to faith, living out faith, understanding faith that are inextricably tied to events established by religious institutions. Mary’s response is honest and truthful. It marks time. It acknowledges that the activity of God in our lives cannot acquiesce to easy assent or understanding, that God coming to us will set in motion a course of life, a series of events, a believing trajectory over which we will have little control.  In this sense, in Mary’s sense, Advent establishes a way of life. A way of faith life. “

  • Manipulated and subjugated...raped?

    • Mary, #metoo, and the Question of Consent by Kira Schlesinger

      • “I am wary of reading our present-day cultural standards and mores into an ancient document, but as preachers, teachers, and leaders, we should also be aware of how this story sounds in our present cultural moment to people in the pews. We should be prepared to wrestle with what this text means to us today. In the least charitable reading, God preys on a young, pubescent girl and forces her into carrying a pregnancy to term despite the shame and embarrassment that it brings upon her and her family.”

      • “By approaching the conception and birth of Jesus with a critical eye in light of our current conversations, we must not throw the baby out with the bath water. The parts of the story that make our modern sensibilities uncomfortable should be examined, but by ignoring or skipping over this story, we lose a testament of hope in God’s plan, of submission to God’s will even through uncertainty, of the power of the incarnation and a conception and birth that demands we sit up and pay attention.”

    • Mary does not seem to have a choice in the matter - Gabriel informs her of her fate, but does not ask

    • Overshadowed by Mary’s response “Let it be” but her acknowledgement of being in an “impossible” situation does not mean she condoned it.

    • Could this (has this) been used as an example of a male figure (God) imposing his will on a woman without her knowledge or consent - seems shady…

  • Virgins

    • Not simply a misinterpretation - yes regarding Isaiah 7, not here - Greek literally says, “I do not known a man”

    • Typical of stories in ancient literature detailing the sons of God

      • gods and demi-gods born of virgins:

        • Maia, mother of Sakia

        • Yasoda, mother of Krishna

        • Celestine, mother of the crucified Zunis

        • Chimalman, mother of Quexalcote

        • Semele, mother of the Egyptian Bacchus

        • Minerva, mother of the Grecian Bacchus

        • Prudence, mother of Hercules

        • Alcmene, mother of Alcides

        • Shing- Mon, mother of Yu

        • Mayence, mother of Hesus,

  • Not about sex? about relationship with God.

    • “Looking at the Bible, we see another image. The evangelist Luke does not exalt Mary as a goddess, or as a mother, or even as a woman. He thinks she has a more important role, as the ideal Christian. In the Third Gospel, Mary becomes the model for Christian discipleship, the person who all people, men and women alike should emulate, especially if they wish to follow her son.” (Mark Allen Powell, Working Preacher)

    • Without a relationship with God, just peace, the Kingdom of God, love- all these things are impossible

    • They are only possible through a relationship with God. Jesus models that relationship for us.

    • Mary opens herself up to being in relationship with God

    • “But in Luke, Mary is the most Christ-like human being in the story. Her words to the angel, cited in this week's text, are a direct parallel to what Jesus later prays in the garden: "Let it be with me according to your word" (Luke 1:38) = "Not my will but yours be done" (Luke 22:42). In both cases, the ideal response to God is presented as a combination of humble trust and obedient service.”  (Mark Allen Powell, Working Preacher)

  • How can this be?

    • The question echoed by every person in the congregation at some point in life

    • Can be both positive or negative - honestly does Mary even know at this point?

    • Whatever this is - the “power of the most high” will overshadow you - God will be with you

Preaching Thoughts

  • Don’t strip this story of its miracle. You can explain the historical, but only insofar as you retain the mystery

  • Cynthia L Rigby - Just as Mary was incapable to conceive (because she was a virgin), we are incapable to accomplish God’s will alone.  “We are all, in this sense, virgins”. In order to bring about God’s will, we need God. a kingdom of justice and peace without God is impossible, but “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37)

  • If you want to move into the Magnificat, that is certainly understandable. Here, after Mary has a visit with Elizabeth, she is able to make bold claims about her own agency and the justice of God.

    • When the angel tells her what is going to happen, there is only resignation. When a woman she knows tells her what is happening, Mary is able to make a bold proclamation of praise.

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Initial Thoughts

  • The passage no one will preach…

  • Weird passage prompts the question- why is this passage here?

Bible Study

  • Building

    • “...the King was settled in his house:”- Does God ever settle?- perhaps the rest of the story hangs on this first verse. Humans settle, but God doesn’t settle.

    • David’s reflection on the homelessness of God comes from a good place, but he comes to the wrong conclusion.

    • Confines God who cannot be confined (not by a building or a name)

    • Limits God to one place

    • Patricia Tull “It will not be David who establishes God, but God who establishes David”

  • Movement

    • God is constantly moving in this text (vv.6, 7, 8, 9)

    • Life with God is a journey- not a settling in

    • Jesus is also homeless and constantly on the move and moving others with him

    • God moves with us through life- through the valleys and the mountaintops

  • But there is still a temple vv.10-14

    • God provides for God’s people. God provides a house. God provides safety. God provides security. Any house for God is given out of thanksgiving, not to define who God is.

    • Israel will be “planted” it is a living, growing and thriving community- not a set building

  • Everlasting Kingship (v. 13)

    • Clearly not true - this does not happen- so what does it mean?

    • Perhaps it is about God dwelling with God’s people- when a King is no longer needed (or wanted)

    • Much is made of Jesus being of the lineage of David and Jesus teaches more about about the Kingdom of God than anything else. Perhaps this is God

Preaching Thoughts

  • What does it mean that God is homeless and chooses to remain homeless? How does that change how we see our buildings and how we view our homeless brothers and sisters?

    • see Luke 9:58

  • Explore what homes mean to people: security, safety, financial stability - what does ti mean that God rejects having a home/building?

  • If Jesus is Emmanuel, “God with us”, and we are the body of Christ, then God dwells within us (Ezekiel 27:37). How do highlight and celebrate that?

  • God did not demand a temple, not does God ask us to build churches, denominations or institutions. Do these religious settings help share the Good News of God in Christ or are they ways for us to control and confine God’s transcendence?


Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).