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Fourth Sunday of Advent • Year B

December 24, 2017 • Sample Page

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Prayer of the Day

Historical Collect

Stir up your power, O Lord, and come. With your great might, give us your help, that whatever is hindered by our sins may be speedily accomplished by your grace; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Gelasian Sacramentary, 7th Century)

Thematic Collect

Gracious God, the Alpha and Omega, our beginning and our end, may your Spirit kindle in us patience and peace as we wait for the coming of your Son, and the humility and boldness to proclaim his reign. We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Thoughts on the Readings

The Common Thread

You may be sure that the Lord is with you as he was with David, but be sure the thing you want to do is the Lord’s will instead of what you want to do. Oswald Chambers said that what often gets in the way of our devotion to God is our service for him. Building a temple would have been David’s undoing had the Lord not intervened. Service can also be our downfall. The Lord would rather give us rest than for us to focus on some great task and lose sight of him. God’s will was to build his anointed a house, a throne of an everlasting kingdom—and to do so by his steadfast love, not David’s industry. God promised to do this and he is faithful to accomplish it, for his faithfulness is established in the heavens. His promise is eternal, unchanging. We too, may rely upon him as the Rock of our salvation, and become strengthened through his gospel. The once hidden mystery of his kingdom is now revealed so that our obedience may be the obedience of faith more than the obedience of doing things. Let it be so, according to your word, Lord—not ours. 

First Reading - 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Oswald Chambers wrote, “The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him.” It is a Mary and Martha scene. We get so busy around the church, or in the doing of good deeds, that we forget to be quiet and know he is God (Psa 46:10). Our real service to God is not what we do for him. Our “reasonable service” (Rom 12:1, re: KJV) is to offer him ourselves.

In our First Reading, David wants to build a temple for God. But this came as David’s impulse, not by the word of the Lord. We must be careful to first offer ourselves to the Lord so that we may hear exactly wants us to do for him. He desires our devotion first. Good works spring from faith.

Psalm - Psalm 89:1-5, 19-29

The Lord has not only promised, he has performed what he promised. Our task is to sing of his faithfulness and love, not make his promises come to pass. He does this without our help. Only God could crush the foes of David (Psa 89:23). The foes of his kingdom are not only temporal, but spiritual. God through Christ has conquered the foes of sin and death.

Second Reading - Romans 16:25-27

In the gospel, the mystery of the ages (Titus 1:2) is made clear. The clear message of promise is that in Jesus, the Christ or Messiah, the hope of eternal life is fulfilled, since by his death and resurrection, sin and death are conquered. Further, in the good news that Paul preached (what he calls “my gospel”), the gospel unveils another longstanding shroud of mystery. Jews and Gentiles are gathered into one Church, the nations being made fellow heirs and partakers of the promise that is in Jesus Christ (Eph 3:4-6).

Gospel - Luke 1:26-38

Can you imagine being from a small village of perhaps a few hundred people where everybody knew everybody? That was Nazareth and that was where Mary, the virgin, was pregnant. The New Testament does not directly record anything of her shame but it is indirectly noted in Joseph considering quietly breaking off the betrothal. (Matt 1:19) Perhaps Mary was not yet showing. Then again, maybe it was obvious. After all, the previous verse states that she was “found to be with child” (Matt 1:18). That was the scene in which something wonderful happened.

A heavenly messenger visits Mary in our Reading and announces that she is a favorite of the Lord. Then he tells her to not be afraid since the child she will carry will be the long-awaited Messiah. She would not be able to share the news with anyone. They would have laughed her out of town. Instead, when she later bore public scrutiny too, and perhaps ridicule, she would be able to ponder the angelic announcement in her heart. Mary too, had to trust the Lord in difficult times as she awaited the birth of the King. 

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The fuller reading of "The Plan" includes an additional Scripture graphic for your use and a reading from Calvin's Institutes.  

The college students stood just outside of the dining hall, passing out Christian literature and telling other students that, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” This is true but often misconstrued into, “God will give me what I plan for my life.”

Never fear; God has a plan. Yet, do not mislead yourself; it is often not the thing you have in mind. Of course, this is a very good thing, for if God was simply in the business of giving you whatever whim was on your mind this month, yours would be a schizophrenic world indeed. “No fair!” you respond. “It isn’t a whim; it’s a real need or desire.”

How constant are you? Will this “desire” be there months from now? Is this desire God’s will or simply your own? Who knows best what is good for you: the one who changes with the season or the One who never changes? God does indeed have a wonderful plan for your life. Thank God that his plan exceeds your own and trust him to fulfill his will for your life. Wait with him. He will do it when it is time.

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