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Series: “A New Beginning For Humanity And Continuity For Geneva”

“Now Let Me Explain”: a Reflection on Luke 1:46b-55, 2 Samuel 7:1-11, Romans 16:25-27, and Luke 1:26-38

This is The Fourth Sunday of Advent, and we light the Love Candle. On the First, Second, and Third Sundays of Advent, we lit the Hope, Peace, and Joy Candles. Today, the Love Candle represents the love of God that guarantees the hope, peace, and joy of God is yours to experience and give away to others. The story of Advent reminds us that the greatest act of God’s love toward humanity is the birth of Jesus. Jesus, fully God and fully human, came to live among us and show us the way. Now let me explain.

God is love. Love is God. Believing that Jesus was born of a Virgin, out of wedlock, in a filthy stable to parents who were mocked and ridiculed matters for living as one who is beloved of God. Chris Armstrong writes,

…. when my parents tried to impress on my two brothers and me the importance and the intricacies of Advent observance, I could hardly keep from rolling my eyes…. the historical niceties of an ancient liturgical season seemed …. well …. irrelevant.

What is this thing called Advent?

…. in 4th- and 5th-century Gaul and Spain, Advent was a preparation not for Christmas but for Epiphany. That’s the early-January celebration of such diverse events in Jesus’ life as his Baptism, the miracle at Cana, and the visit of the Magi…. believers spent Advent’s 40 days examining their hearts and doing penance.

It was not until the 6th century that Christians in Rome began linking this season explicitly to the coming of Christ. But at that time, and for centuries after, the “coming” that was celebrated was not the birth of Jesus, but his Second Coming. It was not until the Middle Ages that the church began using the Advent season to prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth.

…. So, the modern liturgy divides Advent into a period, through December 16th, during which the focus is Christ’s Second Coming, and a period, from December 17th to the 24th, focusing on his birth.

…. I can respond as I imagine believers have done on every Advent since the tradition began: I can bow my head and prepare my heart to receive the One who is always present, but who seems distant in the busyness of the season. I can mourn for my hardness of heart. I can hope in his grace. And I can rejoice that in answer to the cry, “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” he came…. I’m not rolling my eyes anymore.[1]

During Advent be intentional about receiving the One whose words tell you who you are.

Luke 1:46b-55, 2 Samuel 7:1-11, Romans 16:25-27, and Luke 1:26-38 recognize that God in Christ transforms and creates a new reality.

Luke 1:46b-55 announces that the Christ child, Jesus, will enact the justice, righteousness, and shalom that God wills. Mary’s song anticipates bringing down those in power, lifting up the marginalized, feeding the hungry, and leaving the rich lacking. Luke 1:46b, 50-53 reads, “My soul magnifies the Lord…His mercy is for those who fear him…He has shown strength with his arm…He has brought down the powerful…He has filled the hungry with good things.”

2 Samuel 7:1-11 asserts that the Messiah who establishes the will of God on earth as it is in heaven comes from the lineage of David.  Jesus is Prophet, Priest, and King. 2 Samuel 7:16 states this about King David and his family, “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.”

Romans 16:25-27 declares that God strengthens us to live a life of gratitude being reinforced by the reign of God. Romans 16:25a, 26c and 27c reads, “God.... is able to strengthen you.... to bring about the obedience of faith.... to the glory of God.”

Luke 1:26-38 reinforces that profound faithfulness preceded Jesus’ birth. Mary is faithful in difficult circumstances. Mary is not wimpish or blindly obedient. She is not coerced to bear Jesus. Mary did not say yes to God because she had to, but because she wanted to. Mary did not lose herself or her identity. In fact, she became more fully who God created her to be by not “caving” to first century societal pressures and cultural norms. Mary is strong, courageous, obedient, and defiant. Luke 1:38 reads, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”[2]

  On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, we lit the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love Candles. You are a child of God. Jesus gathers you into the family. He defines you as one created in the imago Dei. You have equality as a family member regardless of gender or gender identity. Believe God’s words about you. Denounce the Evil One’s words about you.

Let me explain. Advent proclaims a new beginning for humanity and continuity for Geneva. Listen to the voice of God. Do acts of hope, peace, joy, and love. Love God. Love others. Be Advent people every day. Amen.

[1]Chris Armstrong, “Advent: Close Encounters of a Liturgical Kind” in Christian History Issue #103, 2012.

[2]In the four paragraphs of textual analysis above, I have benefited from the thinking of J. Clinton McCann Jr., Joel B. Green, Andrew Clark Whaley, Eric D. Barreto and Lynn Japinga in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery, Cynthia L. Rigby and Carolyn J. Sharp, editors, Connections, Year B, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2020), 56-59, 60-62, 62-63, 64-66, 66-67.

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