Tag Archives: Advent 3B

Advent e-votional, week 2

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Madonna of the Magnificat, from WithFriendship.com's magnificat gallery

Luke 1.46-55….the “Magnificat” (adapted from the Common English Bible)

With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
He has looked with favor on me.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me blessed
because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is the Lord!
He shows mercy to everyone,
from one generation to the next.
He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts
and proud inclinations.
He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.
He has come to the aid of his servant,
remembering his mercy,
just as he promised to our ancestors.

 

 

 

 

After a few years at RCLPC, whenever I read this song of Mary’s (or her ancestor Hannah’s very similar song, probably Mary’s inspiration), I’ve started to hear a medley of different choral pieces in my head. Sometimes I hear the Gospel Magnificat that was the cantata a few years ago. Sometimes I hear the John Rutter Magnificat. Sometimes I hear the one the women of the choir are working on to sing this Sunday.

And, honestly, sometimes my brain transitions into peppy songs like “Jingle Bell Rock.”

I can’t help it! Christmas Cheer is everywhere, the stores and train stations and even the Thai restaurant are playing non-stop Christmas radio stations, and sometimes you just need a little happy, right?

The third Sunday of Advent (coming up this weekend) is traditionally called “Gaudete” Sunday–meaning “Rejoice!” In some churches that use both purple and pink candles on the wreath, this is the Sunday to light the pink candle, and some of our Roman Catholic and Episcopalian friends will wear rose colored vestments and change the paraments to pink. It’s supposed to be a bit of a break of lightness and joy in the midst of a season that is about preparation, repentance, and such.

The thing is, Mary’s song of joy, and the Isaiah reading about joy this week….well, neither one is exactly “lighthearted” or “cheery” or “fun.” Instead I see here a joy that is much deeper than cheerfulness, much more meaningful than decorating for Christmas, and frankly much more work than anything I want to add to my December schedule. This is rejoicing IN God, because God has done great things…things like lifting up the lowly (and bringing down the haughty), feeding the hungry (and sending the rich away empty). In Isaiah we read that the Spirit of the Lord has anointed “me” to do those things…who is me? Mary? Jesus? Isaiah? or the Body of Christ?

Thinking about joy as being more than mere happiness or cheeriness, I wonder how we get there exactly? What brings you joy? How can you spend time this season rejoicing in God, who has done great things and called us to do great things as well?

I like to think of Mary as a co-conspirator with God. to “conspire” means to “breathe together” or to “join spirits”–that sounds like what happened here, and Mary rightfully sings with joy when that happens. How can we conspire with God–breathe together, join our spirits with The Spirit–and so participate in the joy Mary expresses?

Prayer

God, in the beginning you spoke the world into being, and you breathed the breath of life into us. Breathe through us again this day, that we might join with you in the great work you continue to do in our lives, in our church, in our community, and in our world. Lead us past cheerfulness toward the joy that comes from being one with You. In the name of the coming Child we pray. Amen.

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With the Word online Bible study: the promise of joy

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Isaiah 61.1-4, 8-11 (Common English Bible)

The LORD God’s spirit is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me.
He has sent me
to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim release for captives,
and liberation for prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and a day of vindication for our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for Zion’s mourners,
to give them a crown in place of ashes,
oil of joy in place of mourning,
a mantle of praise
in place of discouragement.
They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,
planted by the LORD to glorify himself.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins;
they will restore
formerly deserted places;
they will renew ruined cities,
places deserted in generations past.
I, the LORD, love justice;
I hate robbery and dishonesty.
I will faithfully give them their wage,
and make with them
an enduring covenant.
Their offspring will be known
among the nations,
and their descendants
among the peoples.
All who see them will recognize
that they are a people
blessed by the LORD.
I surely rejoice in the LORD;
my heart is joyful because of my God,
because he has clothed me
with clothes of victory,
wrapped me in a robe of righteousness
like a bridegroom in a priestly crown,
and like a bride adorned in jewelry.
As the earth puts out its growth,
and as a garden grows its seeds,
so the LORD God
will grow righteousness
and praise before all the nations.

What word, phrase, or image stands out to you in this passage? Sit with that for a moment. What does it bring up for you? What questions do you have? What connections do you hear (to other stories, images, art, movies, music…)?

What feelings come up when you think about this God?

Have you ever prayed like this? (not with these words necessarily, or so eloquently, but in this kind of spirit?)

Who is speaking? The prophet? The Messiah (which means “anointed one”)? The people of Israel? You? Why does it matter, and how does it change the reading if you imagine it being spoken by different people (including yourself)? How does it change if you read these words as being spoken TO you? (are there parts of your life that are brokenhearted, poor, captive, discouraged, without joy?)

Jesus uses these words to sum up his ministry, to declare his mission statement. Is this how you understand the purpose of Jesus’ coming–for these very earthly things, these concerns that might be considered political (in the sense that they are about the polis–the way we live together)?

The word “righteousness” means “right relationship”–so to grow in righteousness or to be clothed in righteousness is to be in right relationship with God. How do you find yourself growing in righteousness?

The prophet (and later Jesus) tells us that God’s vision is for global transformation–from discouragement, poverty, and captivity to joy and righteousness. What does that vision have to do with your faith? How do you work to be a part of God’s mission statement?