Advent 4C

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302: December 23, 2018


146: December 20, 2015

FEATURED MUSICIAN & PSALMIST: RICHARD BRUXVOORT COLLIGAN


Luke 1:39-56

Initial Thoughts

  • Lectionary is actually v. 39-56 - not as long as you may think

  • Decide what you want to do- Elizabeth and Mary or Magnificat- there is a lot here so don’t try and do a shotgun sermon (one with 12 points and no focus)

    • Reading the whole passage contextualized Mary’s song

    • Might need to give a little background (vv. 35-38)

Bible Study

  • Whole passage is commonly known as the visitation and Magnificat

    • both affirm God’s sovereignty as a God who is with Mary and Elizabeth (and God’s people) and a God who keeps God’s promises (v.43)

  • Vv.39-44 The Visitation

    • Beautiful art by SanctifiedArt.org https://sanctifiedart.org/visual-art/draw-near-advent

    • Mary goes to be with Elizabeth both of whom have received “unexpected blessings”

      • beautiful vision of companionship- similar to Naomi and Ruth

      • Two unexpectedly pregnant women seeking and offering support to one another

      • Contrast of one too young and one too old- yet both are blessed with the gift of new life

    • Contrast between John and Jesus

      • John, the elder, will serve Jesus, the younger (much like Esau and Jacob).

      • John will end an age and Jesus will usher in a new age (much like Esau and Jacob)

      • “The theological point is that prenatal activity, because it precedes all merit or works, witnesses to the sovereign will of God.” Craddock, Interpretation: Luke.

    • Holy Spirit

      • The Holy Spirit kicks them into an awareness of God as work with and within Mary and Elizabeth

      • Mary is blessed because:

        • She is the mother of God

        • She believed God’s word

      • We all need the Holy Spirit to kick us into an awareness of God’s action in and around us

      • God’s blessing falls upon old and young- all will be made new with these births (Acts 2/Joel 2- The young will see visions and the old will dream dreams)

  • vv.45-56 - Magnificat

    • No mention of birth- possibly adapted from Hannah’s song in Samuel 1

      • Perhaps Mary uses Hannah’s song to express her joy

    • Magnificat is the common name of Mary’s song and alludes to the opening line, “My soul magnifies the Lord”

    • Affirms the sovereignty of God and God’s saving actions

    • is the response to Elizabeth’s blessing - recognition warrants a response

    • The anthem of Advent - prediction of what God is doing and will do because of what God has already done.

      • “To be sure, to speak of what God has done is to announce what God will do; the pattern is a familiar one.” Craddock, Interpretation: Luke

      • The singer, Mary, is so confident in what God will do (establishing a Kingdom of Justice and Peace) that the future vision of the kingdom is described to in the past tense.

      • Very different from most Advent texts which predict what God will do- this song is about what God has done

      • Mary’s song foreshadows the ministry of Jesus and the coming Kingdom, but in a way which links it to what God has done- God is not going to turn the world upside down-in choosing Jacob, Moses, Mary God continues turning the world upside down - the hungry will be filled and the full will go hungry!

Thoughts and Questions

  • Share a time when the Holy Spirit has “kicked” you out of shock, surprise, self-pity or fear into a new perspective of thankfulness and blessing

  • Both Elizabeth and Mary have moments of recognition - Elizabeth recognized that Mary is pregnant with the son of God and responds, Mary recognizes her condition as one of blessing and responds. How do we respond when God’s grace is revealed around us?

  • Mary’s song is similar to Hannah’s song- perhaps she was moved like Hannah to offer celebration and joy using the words she had learned. How are we equipping people with the songs and texts to express their hearts and souls to God?

  • What has God in your community worthy of praise and humble celebration?


Hebrews 10:5-10

  • Hebrews is back!

    • Remember themes of Hebrews was a long theological sermon about the nature of Christ - High Priest and Perfect Sacrifice.

    • Writer of Hebrews is once again connecting the death of Jesus to the sacrificial atonement levitical rites

    • Also- the winners write the history- by 70 CE the temple is destroyed and the sacrificial system is gone

    • No need to do sacrifices anymore- Jesus’ body was THE sacrifice to end all sacrifices...not not really

  • Must read at least all of chapter 10 to understand the context.

    • V. 1-4 explain that the sacrifices were always just a shadow of the real thing. They could not be made perfect because they weren’t real. They were close, but still had to be repeated every year. Now that is no longer the case.  

      • “The problem, he says, with the sacrifices of the old cult, offered under the law, is that they leave the people inwardly guilty, If they were effective to cleanse people from sin and to make them perfect in the sight of God, then they would not come back year after year to offer the same sacrifices. In short, the sacrifices of the old covenant may ritually cleanse the surface, but people are still left with a guilty conscience.” (Thomas Long, Interpretation: Hebrews, p. 101)

    • V. 15-21 “The Holy Spirit affirms this when saying, 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them. After these days, says the Lord, I will place my laws in their hearts and write them on their minds. 17 And I won't remember their sins and their lawless behavior anymore. 18 When there is forgiveness for these things, there is no longer an offering for sin. 19 Brothers and sisters, we have confidence that we can enter the holy of holies by means of Jesus' blood, 20 through a new and living way that he opened up for us through the curtain, which is his body, 21 and we have a great high priest over God's house.“

      • “The high priestly ministry of Jesus has made it possible to genuinely worship - not just to sit in the pew and go through the motions, but truly to have access to the Holy Place, be brought into communion with the merciful and generous God of all the Ages.” (Thomas Long, Interpretation: Hebrews, p. 101)

  • Beware supersessionist or displacement theology!

    • “Hebrews 10:5-10 can suggest a supersessionistic relationship between the old and new covenants. Supersessionism is the view that the Christian faith supersedes the Abrahamic faith, making the latter an empty shell of ritualistic adherence that no longer signifies anything salvific for humankind.” (Jacob Myers, Working Preacher)

    • Myers points to this being a supplement to the old covenant, not a replacement

    • Verse 9 in particular:

      • NRSV: He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.

      • CEB: He puts an end to the first to establish the second.

      • NIV: He sets aside the first to establish the second.

      • “But how, precisely, does this supplement work? The Greek word anaireó is a compound word (ana +haireó) that can mean “to take away,” “to abolish,” or “to claim (for oneself).”1 As a preposition preceding a noun or adjective in the accusative case (“the first”/to proton) ana can signify “up” or “up to.” The verb haireó, when in the active voice, means “to take” in English. The word connotes very different meanings according to the various decisions translators make.

“But, like a supplement, I think it better to render the word in such a way that its ambivalence is retained. I would preach this verse as “He took up the first in order that he might establish a foundation for the second” for it allows the ambiguity -- ana-haireó -- to remain;” (Jacob Myers, Working Preacher)

  • Preacher uses Psalm 40

    • Psalm 40:6-8 - “You don't relish sacrifices or offerings; you don't require entirely burned offerings or compensation offerings— but you have given me ears! 7 So I said, "Here I come! I'm inscribed in the written scroll. 8 I want to do your will, my God. Your Instruction is deep within me."” (CEB)

    • Preacher used Septuagint, which translates “ears” to “body”

    • Psalmist: “You don’t want sacrifices, so you gave me ears”

    • Hebrews: “You don’t want sacrifices, so you gave me a body”

    • What is the relationship between ears and body?

      • Ears: to hear God’s will, follow God’s voice, know the Word of God

      • Body: Jesus used as sacrifice that is perfect and eternal. Also, Jesus is a body we can follow, watch, learn from.

Thoughts and Questions

  • Reminds me of the little drummer boy- what can you offer God? Not sacrifices and burnt offerings- offer God yourself!

  • Look at verse 4, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin.”

    • Leads to the question: “Then what do we do about sin?” Jesus is the answer.

    • If we could get rid of our own sin then we would not need to be “saved” - what does it mean to be “saved” by Jesus?

    • Jesus is the prevenient grace - he made this sacrifice before we did anything about it.

    • Jesus is the justifying grace - he made this sacrifice on our behalf, for our sin.

    • Jesus is the sanctifying grace - he calls us to the continued process of growing in holiness.

  • Twice the statement “Look, I have come to do your will.”

    • So we must ask, “What is God’s will?”

    • Many answers:

      • Micah 6:8

      • The Great commandment

      • The Magnificat

      • The Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25)


Micah 5:2-5

Initial Thoughts

  • First thought: Wrong Micah passage.

  • Does this belong as an Advent reading for any reason other than it mentions Bethlehem?

  • Did this have anything to do with Jesus?

    • Yes - Of course, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and is the one who brings peace. Clearly that is what Micah was talking about.

    • No - Of course not. Jesus probably wasn’t even born in Bethlehem. The gospel writers probably concocted his birth there because of their misreading of this passage.

    • Somewhere in between?

Bible Study

  • Micah as a whole

    • “‘Justice, peace, and Messiah: Though the Book of Micah is itself little among the prophetic writings (7 chapters, and usually no more than 5 pages), it deals with these great biblical themes.” (James Limburg, Interpretation: Micah, p. 159)

    • “We can see a pattern of alternation between sayings which announce doom and those which express hope.” (Limburg, 159). Limburg goes on to express that this week’s lectionary text is found within a hopeful portion, built around the model of “distress/deliverance”

    • “ It could be said that Micah is among the angriest of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible. He is apparently a rural farmer, furious at the depredations of folk of the big city, calling them thieves (2:2), false preachers, more interested in lighter problems like drunkenness while injustice is rampant in the city (2:11), greedy for wealth, who "hate good and love evil, both tearing and eating the flesh of the poor, breaking their bones in pieces, chopping them up like meat for the kettle, like flesh in a cauldron" (3:2-3).” (John Holbert, Opening the Old Testament)

  • Distress/Relief

    • Problem: Distress is edited out of the lectionary

      • v. 1: “Now muster your troops, Daughter Troop. They have laid siege against us; with a rod they will strike the cheek of the judge of Israel”

        • Strange Hebrew with wide range of translations. Seems to be pointing to a sort of irony that they must take up arms in order to be saved. I read it like Jesus’ words, “live by the sword, die by the sword”

        • The Judge of Israel is the King, who has been assaulted - possibly taken prisoner. The King - who is supposed to be the deliverer, now needs deliverance.

      • Much like last week when the first verse of the Isaiah passage - that which referred to God’s anger - is edited out.

      • It seems strange to call for a leader who will deliver while at the same time cutting out the reason there is a need for a deliverer in the first place.

    • This passage fits within the rest of Micah as the third of three sayings “which promise help to a people in distress.

      • 4:9-10 God will rescue a people in exile

      • 4:11-13 God has a plan and is operating in history by using other nations as a part of that plan.

      • 5:1-6 There will be a rule that comes from Bethlehem that will bring peace.

        • This expression of hope in the form of an individual forms a part of the Messianic understanding of God’s plan (Limburg, p. 187)

  • Bethlehem

    • A little town, but was famous already for being the home of King David.

      • That the ruler will come from Bethlehem indicates that the new ruler will be a new David.

      • Town still relatively insignificant.

        • Ruler will not come from the great cities - like Jerusalem.

        • “We recognize a biblical theme here: God’s choice of the least likely, the littles, to accomplish God’s purpose” (Limburg, p. 186)

          • This theme is lifted up by Luke when expressing that Jesus is not just born in a little, insignificant town, but in an insignificant part of town - a manger in a stable.

  • Messiah

    • Concept of Messiah is in Hebrew Bible is a complicated one, and could be an entire study. Advent texts try to hit the highlights of that understand, which helps point to a Messiah that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. More complete understanding of Messiah does not point so obviously to Jesus of Nazareth.

    • Who is Messiah?

      • Psalms refer to a king who will:

        • Rule all nations

        • Endure forever

        • Rule with righteousness and justice and will bring shalom

        • Defend the poor and the needy.

        • These are the hopes for what the king will be. These were current hopes for current kings, who inevitably fell short.

      • Isaiah

        • Coming deliverer

        • Long Rule

        • Bring peace

        • Justice and righteousness

        • A new David - a shoot from the family tree of Jesse.

        • Special concern for poor and needy

        • Shalom

        • Suffers for the sake of others

      • Micah

        • Comes from Bethlehem

        • Will restore the land to the people.

        • Stand as shepherd of the flock - as opposed to those that have oppressed the people.

        • Keep the people safe.

        • Will defend the people against Assyria and will usher in peace.

      • Writers of New Testament agree that clearly this messiah was Jesus.

    • Micah fits in this tradition, and calls on the future leader who will be a new David,

Thoughts and Questions

  • What does Messiah mean to you now? The idea of what the people needed from their savior grew and evolved. What would it mean now? What kind of savior is the world in need of?

  • Where do we look for our savior? Is he/she in Washington? In Hollywood? In one of the great cities of the world, or might our savior be found in Rock Island, Crystal Lake, or wherever you may be in ministry?

  • Allow Micah’s words to exist without filling in Jesus of Nazereth. “By pondering the image that Micah sets out rather than leaping to the assumption that this coming savior is the Christian Christ, the preacher can look for the correspondence between disparate ages of human history with divergent needs, all being saved by a God who is justice, kindness, and humility itself. Faith in God and joy in the coming incarnation is not dependent on the prophet's accurate future predictions.“ (Melinda Quivik, Working Preacher)

Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@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 Bryan Odeen for our closing music.