Advent 4

December 22, 2024

Lectionary Texts

Micah 5.2-5 — Bethlehem, from you shall come a ruler who will feed the people and reign in peace.

Luke 1.46-55 — The Magnificat.

Hebrews 10.5-10 — Quoting Psalm 40 as the voice of Christ: “Sacrifice and offerings you do not desire, but to do your will. See, I have come to do your will.”

Luke 1.39-45 —Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s song: “Blessed are you….

Preaching Thoughts

Luke 1.46-55
       The Magnificat is another song in Luke’s great musical. Mary repeats the common biblical theme that God lifts the lowly and lowers the powerful. That second half is often overlooked, because it’s the traumatic one. We don’t mind the lowly being raised, but for the powerful to come down, well… let’s face it: that threatens us, because in wordily terms most of us are among the powerful. For true justice to come about we ourselves will have to let go of power and privilege, or at least be better stewards of them. We’re more attached to social stratification than we like to think. In society at large and even in our little personal cliques and social networks, consciously or unconsciously. we believe some folks are “beneath us.” There are ways we believe we should have control of things that others shouldn’t have. We deserve certain goods, positions or opportunities that others don’t deserve. We might not profess it, but unconsciously we believe in high and low, superior and inferior, deserving and undeserving. God will not have that.

Luke 1.39-45
       And Elizabeth gets to sing a song. The first verse affirms Mary and her gifts, and all those who follow in her footsteps. “Blessed are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Elizabeth isn’t just talking about biology. Maybe your “womb” is whatever in you creates new life or gives birth. Of course the fruit of Mary’s womb was Jesus. So your “womb” is also whatever ways God is alive in you. Blessed are you, and blessed is the fruit of your heart, the fruit of your love, the fruit of your faith, the fruit of God alive in you.
       Then Elizabeth sings the bridge, in which “as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.” She turns momentarily from blessing Mary to blessing herself. There is something in you that responds to divine presence, even beneath the awareness of your rational mind. Something deep in you knows, and leaps for joy. Sometimes prayer is simply holding still and letting that inner presence in us respond to the presence of God.
       Then Elizabeth returns to the blessing theme of the opening verse. “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what God has spoken.” Again, a blessing for all who follow in Mary’s footsteps of trusting God’s promises in them, trusting the mystery of God at work in them. Part of our Advent anticipation is that while we wait with Joseph and Mary for the birth of their baby, we also tend to how God takes on new life in us. “Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.”

Call to Worship / Lighting the Advent Candle

[See Advent Resources for Advent Candle prayers, Advent Wreath prayers and music, including eucharistic prayers and responses, and weekly litanies.]

1. [Also may be used as a response/ affirmation.]
Leader: O people of God, rejoice, for God is among you.
All: We give thanks, God, and welcome your presence.
Blessed are you, and blessed is the fruit of your faith,
for God is alive in you.
As we hear the Word
something deep within us leaps for joy,
for God within us rejoices.
Blessed are you who believe that there will be a fulfillment
of what God has spoken.
God, you are coming into our lives in new ways.
In trust, we open the womb of our hearts to you.
Come, God of love, be born in us today.

              READING [Luke 1.26-38 (The Annunciation)]
Leader: The Advent candle shines with light,
        All: the same light that shines in us, the light of your love.
On the darkest day of the year, the longest night, your light shines into the world.
        And it shines in our hearts. Bring to life your holy presence in us
        as we worship now and as we live each moment.
        Christ, be born in us, now and always. Amen.

READING (John 1.1-5, 9)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through the Word, without whom not one thing came into being. What has come into being in the Word was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light, which enlightens everyone, is coming into the world.
Leader: These candles we light shine with the light that comes into the world.
       All: Your presence and your love shine upon us.
Like a child to be born, your light awaits, the light of life.
      Your presence and your love shine within us.
May we await your coming in hope and joy,
and prepare for your life among us in love.
      Your presence and your love shine out from us.
May your love grow in us, shine upon the world,
and bring life to all people.
      Come, O Christ, and shine in us with your grace!

READING (Luke 1.26-38, the Annunciation)
Leader: God of grace, as we light these candles, we remember your promise.
      All: Your light shines within us.
You have chosen us to bear your love into the world.
      Your presence grows within us.
We await the coming of Christ.
      Your Spirit moves within us.
We prepare for your coming in joy and simplicity.
     Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Now you, O Bethlehem of Ephratha, who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth from me one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
      All: You have promised a ruler, O God,
     to feed your flock and guide us to live in peace.
      May your peace come to all the earth.
O God, you have scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
You have brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
You have filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty..
      As we light these Advent candles, O God,
      kindle in us your spirit of justice.
      As we prepare for your coming may your love grow in our hearts,
      that by our faithful living
      we may bring peace to all the world. Amen.

We praise you, O God, for this victory wreath
that marks our days of preparation for Christ’s advent.
      As we light these candles on the wreath,
      awaken our hearts to your light growing about us
     and within us, as our Savior draws near.
Enlighten us with your grace,
and prepare our hearts to welcome you with joy.
      Kindle within us the gift of love through Christ the Beloved,
     whose coming is certain and whose day draws near. Amen

READING (from Micah 5.2-5)
Now you, O Bethlehem, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. God’s chosen one shall stand and feed God’s flock in the strength of God, in the majesty of the name of the Holy One our God. And the people shall live secure, for their ruler shall be great to the ends of the earth, the one of peace.
Leader: God of love, you promise our salvation, coming from among us.
      All: Grace stirs within us. Love lives among us.
Christ is near. We waken to the light of your presence.
      We rise in the dawning of the mystery of love made flesh.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God of love, you promise your presence, and you pledge to us your mercy and grace. Open our eyes to see the dawning of your light within us and among us. Open our hearts to your Word, that we might trust in what you have spoken to us. Speak to us again, that we may live in the light of your coming. Amen.

God of love, your presence grows within us. Open our hearts to receive, to honor and to nourish the holy child, that Christ may be born in us by your grace. Amen.

Holy One, Promise of Life, Mystery of light, your grace comes to us; your Word grows within us. In the stillness of the morning we open our hearts to you, to receive your Word, to embrace your love, that your grace may be conceived in us and among us. May it be for us according to your Word. Amen.

God of love, as your Word came to Mary long ago, it comes to us nows. You are present for us, and we have only to listen with our hearts to know your desire for us. We want to be open to your Word. We want to hear your promises. May it be for us according to your Word. Amen.

Gracious God, your angel spoke to Mary long ago, calling her your Beloved, and showing her your blessing that grew within her. Speak to us now; call us as your Beloved, and help us see the blessing that grows within us. Grant us open hearts and minds, that as the scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed we may hear with joy what you are saying to us today. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

God of life,
something in us leaps for joy
when we sense you near.
Blessed are we, and blessed is the fruit of our hearts
when we listen.
In the silence, and in the Word, speak to us.
Come to us.
Be born in us.

Prayer of Confession

God, we confess our sin, and what diminishes life in us.
And we confess the life within us yet to be born,
the holy presence yet to be affirmed,
the divine presence in us that leaps with joy.
Forgive our sin, heal our fear,
and bring to life the light within.
Give us the courage of Mary and Elizabeth
to believe you will fulfill what you have spoken.

God of love, you who are born in us, we thank you.
And we confess the times
we leave no room in the inn of our hearts
for you to be born in us.
Forgive our being closed off to your gift of Life;
grant us open minds and spacious hearts,
that your love may find new life in our lives.

Eucharistic Prayer

Beloved, God is with you.
     And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
     We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Faithful One, our God.
     It is good to give God thanks and praise.

How blessed we are that our life-giver and savior has come to us!
      Our hearts within us leap for joy at the sound of your voice.
We praise you, God, for you birth us in love.
     You promise yourself to us, and you are faithfully present.
You defeat the forces of oppression, set us free,
and call us to join you in building a world of mercy and justice.      
      You leave the rich wanting and feed the hungry with good things.
      Therefore with all Creation we sing your praise.

            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ:i
      in him you were incarnate among us and live with us always.
He taught and healed, he embodied forgiveness and reconciliation;
      he recognized the divine in each of us and called it to life.

                  […The Blessing and Covenant…] *

Whenever we break this bread and share this cup we remember his incarnation,
his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
       Remembering your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
       we offer ourselves, with praise and thanksgiving,
       as a living and holy sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us,
       as we proclaim the mystery at the heart of our faith.

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts,
that they may be for us the Body and Blood of the Holy One Jesus Christ.
       Pour out your Holy Spirit on us,
       that we may trust what you have spoken to us,
       and conceive in our souls
       and bring forth your love made flesh,
      that by the grace of your Spirit in us
      may we be for the world the Body of Christ.

     [Spoken or sung]


* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer after Communion

Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In your Spirit you live within us; your presence accompanies us; your love flows from us. May Christ be born in us in this holy season and all the days of our lives, by your grace, to your eternal glory. Amen

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page.)

Blessed Child of Bethlehem      (Original song)

Blessed child of Bethlehem, waiting to be born,
some will bring you incense, and some a crown of thorns.
Yet you bear so gently all our joys and harms.
How I long to greet you, and hold you in my arms!

Blessed child of heaven, waiting to be born,
joy of all Creation, delight of those who mourn:
teach us how to worship, teach us how to love,
living in the presence of angels from above.

Blessed child among us, waiting to be born,
in whom we are healed and all our sorrows borne:
help us live with love, in peace and reconciled.
By your birth in us, everyone’s a holy child.

Blessed child within me, waiting to be born,
bringing gifts and wonders with the light of morn,
heaven springing in me, new life yet to grow:
child of holy promise, oh how I love you so!

Magnificat (Tune: Greensleeves- What Child Is This)

My soul sings out in joy to God, who’s favored me, so lowly.
The Mighty One has kindly done great things, for God is holy.
This, this is grace outlaid, God’s mercy in the promise made,
Praise, praise, the Faithful One, and magnify our savior!

God brings the powerful down from thrones while lifting up the lowly.
God feeds the poor, and the rich no more receive, but the hungry solely.
Praise! Praise the Mighty one for all the things that God has done
Love, love will honor God, who promises mercy forever.

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