Keyword Search

  • Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company
    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

Advent 4, Cycle C

The Collect (Prayer of the Day) for Advent 4 is truly a classic. It is not a weak “Help us to do so and so.” Instead, it is a bold call in the best Older Testament style with its “Stir up your power, O Lord, and come! Take away our sins and make us ready for the celebration” The words “celebration of your birth” clearly indicate the double meaning of the word “Lord” here, as well as in many other places within our Christian prayers, since “the Lord” (Adonai) is not perceived as having a birth, but “the Lord” Jesus is. With its Trinitarian conclusion the prayer takes us to the farthest reaches of the Newer Testament and beyond it into the early Church.

Just as the Gospel account for Advent 3 directed our attention fully to John the Baptist, the Gospel account for Advent 4 focuses on Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Psalm 80:1-7

The geographical areas mentioned in this community lament imply that this psalm may have had its origin in the Northern Kingdom. Its words “Listen, O Shepherd of Israel! Get yourself going! Come and save us! Restore us, O God! You have the power to do it. Let your face shine upon us, in order that we may be saved! Give us life! Then we shall call upon your name!” and others like them in similar psalms provide the basis for the Collect cited above. In our liturgical use as Christians, this psalm is a final call for help before we celebrate the coming of God to us in Christ Jesus our Lord on Christmas.

Micah 5:2-5a

This well-known text may be said to exist in two separate but related genres, one in terms of its Jewish Older Testament context and the other in the Christian Newer Testament setting. It is first of all an Israelite-Jewish text, one of many within what may be called the “Messianic Problem” grouping. These texts are concerned with the problem of “Whom will God raise up from among the descendants of David to become our new king who shall under God lead us to political independence and freedom? Which of the descendents of the great king David shall give us the security that our ancestors enjoyed?” Just as David had been born in Bethlehem, so also it was expected by many that a son of David destined to become a political messiah would someday be born in that little village. In a most interesting way, the Jewish Messianic Problem of who would be this great new king became the basis for what would later be seen as many Christian Messianic Prophecies pointing specifically to Jesus. It is important that intelligent, educated Christians in our time become aware of this basis for the so-called Christian Messianic Prophecies of this type. The Matthean and the Lukan traditions “solved” the Jewish Messianic Problem to the satisfaction of the early Church by placing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and turning the Micah 5:1-5a Jewish Messianic Problem text into a Christian Messianic Prophecy that has remained basically unquestioned in popular Christianity. Christian Christmas carols such as “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” have brought Micah 5:2-5a fully into our Christian Christmas setting. Nevertheless, the little town (now city) of Bethlehem remains a holy place for both Jews and Christians for separate but related reasons. With greater understanding of the varied use of Micah 5:2-5a by both Jews and Christians, the text and the town can and should become focal points for fellowship and shared community between Jews and Christians, and for Muslims as well.

Hebrews 10:5-10

This text is a small segment of the extended persuasive presentation of the writer of this document in which its writer was attempting to convince Jewish background followers of Jesus within an evolving Christian community, perhaps in Alexandria, Egypt, to remain followers of Jesus and not return to their Jewish practices and lifestyle. We read in Hebrews 10:5 (my translation), “Therefore, coming into the world, Christ said, ‘The sacrifice of animals and the offering of material gifts are not what you (God) wish most. But a body for me you have prepared for your purpose.’ ” Through our Christian use of this text on the Sunday immediately prior to Christmas Eve, we are in effect having the about-to-be-born baby Jesus addressing God by quoting from the Septuagint text of Psalm 40 (39):6-8 regarding the much greater importance of doing the will of God than of offering animal sacrifices and making material gifts!

The last instance in which Jews offered animal sacrifices as a religious action was just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple by the Romans in 70 CE, and even for many centuries prior to that date animal sacrifice was little more than a symbolic action by Israelite-Jewish priests. Jews and Christians agree with this writer of Hebrews 10:5-10, and certainly all Muslims as well, that doing the will of God is far more important than butchering animals so that their meat can be eaten. As for the giving of material gifts to be used in helping people who are in need, Jews, Christians, and Muslims find this to be important and in accordance with the will of God. As Christians, we certainly bestow material gifts on family members and friends on Christmas Day, actions that are of great significance to merchants and a necessary stimulus to the global economy!

Luke 1:39-45 (46-55)

In verses 39-45 we have a fascinating drama scene involving two pregnant women. With inspired creativity, the Lukan writer brought the mother of John the Baptist and the mother of Jesus into a close kinship relationship in which the themes of prenatal signs and the superiority of Jesus as Savior over John the Baptist could be utilized fully. In verses 46-55 (the Magnificat) the Lukan writer, again with much inspired creativity, produced a hymn of glorification, based this time on the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, with a focus on the Lukan theme of the exaltation of the lowly.

New Testament scholars such as Richard A. Horsley, Warren Carter, William R. Herzog II, and others currently identify and explain within texts such as Luke’s Magnificat “hidden transcripts” of resistance by oppressed persons against their powerful oppressors. My own Anti-Roman Cryptograms in the New Testament: Hidden Transcripts of Hope and Liberation (New York: Peter Lang, 2009) is an analysis of such texts throughout the Newer Testament. These “hidden transcripts” characteristically include political connotations as well as theological content. Our sermons and homilies, if they are grounded in biblical texts, will inevitably also have political and economic implications as well as primarily theological content, especially during the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany and during the Lenten and Easter Seasons, as well as throughout the Church Year.

Leave a Reply

  • Get Your FREE 30-day Trial Subscription to SermonSuite NOW!
    Chris Keating
    The Double-Dog Dare Days of August
    August’s lazy, hazy dog days quickly became a deadly double-dog dare contest between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, the supreme leader of North Korea. Both nations have been at odds with each other for nearly 70 years. During his working golf vacation in New Jersey last week, President Trump responded to North Korea’s rhetorical sword-rattling by launching a verbal preemptive strike of his own.
         Call it the Bedminster bombast, or the putt that rocked Pyongyang. But the duel between the two countries is more than fodder for late-night comedians. It’s a deadly standoff with history-changing repercussions.
         There is no vacation from matters of national security, or the orations of war. Indeed, much of the war of words between Washington and North Korea seems to confirm Jesus’ counsel in Matthew: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” The contrasts between these barbed exchanges and the biblical understanding of peacemaking offers an intriguing opportunity to hear Jesus’ words in a world filled with double-dog (and even triple-dog) dares....more
    Feeding The 5,000
    The assigned Gospel text for this week skips over a couple of sections in Matthew's story. Matthew 14:34-36 cites Jesus' journey to Gennesaret. The crowds of people recognized him immediately and all of the sick came to him for healing. Just a touch of Jesus' garment brought healing to many. The crowd in Gennesaret recognized Jesus. They came to him in their need....more
    Wayne Brouwer
    Religious balkanization
    One dimension of religious life we have in common across faith traditions and denominational lines is the incessant divisiveness that split our seemingly monolithic communities into dozens of similar yet tenaciously varied subgroups. A Jewish professor of psychology said of his tradition, "If there are ten Jewish males in a city we create a synagogue. If there are eleven Jewish males we start thinking about creating a competing synagogue."...more
    C. David McKirachan
    Jesus Is Coming, Look Busy
    Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
    I had a parishioner who would walk out of the sanctuary if he saw a djembe (African drum) out in front to be used in worship.  I asked him about it, in a wonderfully pastoral manner, and he told me that things like that didn’t belong in worship.  I said that it was in the bible to praise God with pipes and drums (I think it is).  He told me he didn’t care what the Bible said, he knew where that thing came from and he wouldn’t have it.  I asked him why things from Africa would bother him.  He told me that he knew I was liberal but that didn’t mean he had to be.  I agreed with him but cautioned him that racism was probably one of the worst examples of evil in our world and I thought he should consider what Christ would think of that.  He asked me who paid my salary, Christ or good Americans....more
    Janice Scott
    No Strings Attached
    In today's gospel reading, Jesus seemed reluctant to heal the Canaanite woman's daughter. He told her that he wasn't sent to help foreigners, but only his own people, the Chosen Race. The words sound unnecessarily harsh, but perhaps this is an interpretation unique to Matthew, for this story only appears in Matthew's gospel, which was written for Jews....more
    Arley K. Fadness
    Great Faith
    Object: Hula Hoop or circle made out of ribbon, twine or rope
    What an amazing morning to come to church today. I am so glad to see you and talk to you about a wonderful story from the bible. Let me begin by showing you this circle. Now let's get into this circle. (Physically, all move into the circle) It's fun for us all to be together in this circle. We don't want anyone to be left out. To be left out is to be sad. To be kept out is even more sad and painful....more

Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen