Advent 4B (12/24/2017)

Lessons:
2nd Samuel 7:1-11, 16
St. Luke 1:46b-55
or Psalm 89: 1-4, 19-26
Romans 16:25-27
St. Luke 1:26-38

Prayer of the Day:
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that would obstruct your mercy, that willingly we may bear your redeeming love to all the world, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

St. Luke 1:26-38, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Here Am I, the Servant of the Lord

Mary. Mother of Our Lord. Blessed Mother. Blessed Virgin Mary. Madonna. Our Lady. Queen of Heaven. Theotokos. Mater Dei. Mater Dolorosa. The importance of Mary in the story of Jesus and the history of the church is suggested by the many names and titles given to her over the years.

Mary and her story of faith have played significant roles in the church’s piety and practice. This has been the case at least since the middle of the fifth century when the Council of Ephesus declared Mary’s role as “Theotokos” (the bearer of God) to be essential to her nature, and central to the church’s practice. What developed in years to come was a subtle and complex relationship between Mary, Jesus and the Church.

Today this continues to be evident in the Roman Catholic Church as well as in eastern Orthodox traditions. During the Lutheran Reformation, Mary’s role as an intermediary between humans and God was de-emphasized, to draw the church into a clearer focus on the person and work of Christ. But this only led to a more passionate adoration of Mary by those who remained in the Catholic Church.

In the Lutheran tradition, where we honor and admire the saints for the way they model the faith and the faithful life, we still hold Mary in the highest regard. Four days are set apart each year to consider her story: The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (February 2), The Annunciation of Our Lord (March 25), The Visit of Mary to Elizabeth (May 31), and Mary, Mother of Our Lord (August 15). And, of course, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we contemplate the role she plays in our Savior’s birth.

This week’s Gospel holds one of the most remarkable stories about Mary. A young, unmarried woman, she receives a visit from Gabriel — one of the most powerful and well-known angels featured in the Hebrew Bible. As one might guess, she initially is perplexed, and Gabriel senses that she is afraid. He assures her that she has no reason to be afraid, and then says to her: “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary’s response is every bit as remarkable as Gabriels proclamation: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

With this dramatic exchange, the Christmas story begins. Mary’s willingness has been an inspiration for years — and serves as an invitation for us to explore how we, too, might offer our lives to the service of God’s kingdom.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How does St. Luke understand / describe Mary, the mother of Jesus?
  2. What is the essence of Gabriel’s announcement to Mary?
  3. How does Mary’s response indicate the character of her relationship with God?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How have I understood Mary in the past?
  2. What does her response to God say to me about my own faithfulness?
  3. When have I had to set my reservations aside, and follow where God was leading me?

The author would love to hear what you think about this post.