Tag Archives: Advent 3A

With the Word online Bible study–magnificat

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Psalm 146.5-10

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!

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What pops out at you in this psalm? Is there anything that makes you go “hmm….” or “huh?” or “hey!!!!” Are you reminded of any other stories–whether in the Bible, in literature/movies/music/TV, or in your own life? As you read, do you hear any music in your head?

The psalms are both a prayer book and a hymnal. Does it seem like this particular psalm is more like a prayer or more like a song? What’s the difference between a prayer and a song? Do you ever pray through music? What is that like for you?

This particular psalm is echoed (or is an echo of!) both Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2) and Mary’s song (Luke 1). Why do you think these themes are so prevalent in our faith story? And why does it so often appear as a song?  (Remember that women were property, not individuals…and remember that both Hannah and Mary were in pretty precarious positions when they sang this song…)  Why is THIS the song of people in those precarious positions? Is this the kind of song you sing at difficult times?

Is this how you experience the work of God? If not, how would you describe what God does and who God is?

If this is truly what God is like, then what does that mean for how we (the people of God, the Body of Christ) are to be?

The word “Magnificat” means “magnified”–it comes from Mary’s song in Luke 1 where she says “My soul magnifies the Lord”, meaning that she is glorifying God even in the midst of her distress. Do you ever have that kind of experience, a time when “magnificat” is appropriate to your spiritual life?

What do you hear as the good news in this text? What do you hear as a challenge? What might this passage have to say to our community today?

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December 16

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Matthew 11:2-11

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

John the Baptist asks a haunting question: “Are you the one who is coming, or are we to wait for another?” John’s been reading Isaiah 35 (the Old Testament text for this Sunday) which promises a transformation of everything. But he looks at what’s going with Jesus and doesn’t see that happening. John’s still in jail, and Rome is still in charge, and the righteous are still suffering, etc. So is Jesus the messiah, the one who is coming, the real deal, or not? This is a haunting question for many people today as well.

Jesus’ answer is curious. He doesn’t say “yes” or anything straightforward. Instead, he says the transformation is happening—the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, etc—but it’s happening in small ways, in slow ways, in subtle ways. The messiah doesn’t come and wave his magic wand and everything is set right. It starts small. And ultimately the transformation continues through faithful communities of people who are caught up with the spirit and continue the work.

Maybe this is an important reminder as we’re so near to Christmas. We may be waiting for the divine wave of the magic wand, but that’s not how God works. God works slowly, quietly, subtlety—and through God’s faithful people, like us! (RAF)