This post is intended to be a discussion of the Revised Common Lectionary texts for the 4th Sunday of Advent. If you’re looking for Christmas Eve or Day, check this page!

ACT0072-medium
“Annunciation to Mary” by Father George Saget

Today’s Gospel lesson recounts Gabriel’s visit to Mary, telling her that she will become the mother of God incarnate. This passage has been getting more than average airtime lately, thanks to all the women speaking up about their own experiences of assault, and conversation about the moral character of accused pedophiles. Did Mary consent to her body being used in this way, or was she assaulted by the Holy Spirit? Either way, what does this teach us about the nature of God?

If I’m reading the Greek correctly, the verbs used by Gabriel are in the future tense, not the imperative. He is telling Mary what will happen in the future. He is not commanding her to do these things. Presumably, Mary could have said, “No, that’s not going to happen.” She could have exercised her free will to refuse Gabriel’s prophesy. But she doesn’t. Instead, her answer is, “Let it be with me according to your word.”

What does Mary’s acceptance of God’s will mean for us? How can we see her as a model of faith? One of my favorite things to ponder at this time of the year is, how many other women did Gabriel visit first, before he found one to say “yes!” to God’s plan?

The Magnificat is recommended as a possible psalm for Advent 4. Will you be speaking or singing Mary’s song in worship? Perhaps this is a better sermon text – not the precise moment of Mary learning that she will be the mother of God, but her response to it once she has had a chance to process the idea for a minute. What does it look like to have the mighty cast down and the lowly lifted up in today’s world? What could this mean for your congregation?

2 Samuel teaches us about the rebuilding of the Temple, and why God prefers faithful living to beautiful buildings. Romans gives us a typical Pauline run-on sentence that ends with praises to God, through Jesus Christ! Psalm 89 praises the power and faithfulness of God.

Which text will be the primary focus of your sermon? What will you do for the children’s time, if that’s an expectation in your setting? Which hymns or pieces of liturgy will reinforce the themes of Scripture and the end of the season of Advent? Please share your thoughts and suggestions below. Many blessings to you during this busy week and this busy season – and may the presence of Christ be with you!


Katya Ouchakof is co-pastor of Lake Edge Lutheran Church in Madison, WI. Her favorite rendering of the Magnificat is The Canticle of the Turning, followed closely by the Annunciation and Magnificat in Holden Evening Prayer. She has already received her favorite Christmas gift: a newly released Star Wars movie!


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17 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: Mary Edition

  1. I’ll be focusing on Mary & her response to Gabriel’s announcement. One commentary referred to the 1914 Christmas “Truce” where the allied & German soldiers risked consequences for consorting with the enemy when they ceased fire & came together to sing, exchange gifts, while some worked to retrieve bodies from the battlefield. Alas, this is the only time during war when this happened due to officers stifling the possibility later. This is an interesting story re: God reversing the status quo – lowly soldiers seeking peace in the midst of war.

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  2. I preached the Magnificat on Advent 3. Below are excerpts from the sermon, meant to fill our hearts with the knowledge of the power of God working in us. Advent blessings to all!

    “Mary was a young woman, pregnant without being married, with little to no social or economic status, to whom an angel had come telling her that this was all good news. That God was working in her and through her to bring salvation – liberation from enslavement in all its forms.

    And she believed it.

    So I don’t imagine Mary, as we so often do, meek and mild, calmly sitting with her cousin Elizabeth and whispering these words. I imagine Mary standing tall and proud, knowing exactly who she is, filled with power and self-confidence and love, telling her story.

    This song is revolutionary. It is absolutely threatening to worldly powers. The systems of this world bind us all, sorting and categorizing us and assigning rights and privileges accordingly. The powers that be want us to be beholden to them, not to God. They want to be able to tell us who we are, what we can and should do, and what we are worth. And so often, we assent.

    But whatever the world tells us about ourselves, it is the One who creates us who has the last word. And that is what threatens the status quo.

    Mary’s song is not just a beautiful poem or piece of music that makes us feel good. If we join with Mary in her song, we are planting ourselves firmly on the side of God. Mary’s song is a story of what happens when we say “yes” to God. Yes, we believe that we are made in God’s image. Yes, we are filled with God’s power to act in this world. Yes, we welcome whatever is of God – love, blessing, dignity, and justice – and we reject whatever is not of God – hunger, fear, injustice, and oppression. Or perhaps even the thought that we are not good enough.

    God is at work today, all over this world, breaking in to people’s lives and liberating them from whatever it is that is holding them captive.

    We know what happened when Mary let God do that work in her. Are we letting God do that work in us? Are we willing, like Mary, to be bearers of God in this world? Advent isn’t just about us waiting for God; it is also about God waiting for us.

    Because God’s work in the world depends on our “yes.” Mary bore Jesus, the Savior of the world. And now, we are Christ’s body. What does that mean for your own life, and for the life of the world?”

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  3. I’m working on my Sunday morning sermon today. I’m moving from the annunciation to the Magnificat back to the annunciation – Mary’s “yes” leads to her prophetic response, and then moving back to the annunciation where God’s upside-down kin-dom that Mary proclaims has already begun when one with no power is chosen to be the home/temple of God.

    I’m addressing the #metoo issue in a similar way that you do – how many other women were approached before Mary said “yes” – I can’t imagine God-Who-is-Love forcing this on anyone without their free and full consent.

    @Kristine Johnson – yes to the Magnificat being a revolutionary song! Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to read it while accompanied by a drum – by the time I got to the end, I felt like I needed to be shouting the words, they were so powerful. I was hoping to do something similar in the middle of my sermon, but the drummer that I know here is not available on Sunday morning, and neither is the back-up that she recommended to me.

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      1. I can always dream… I’m in a fairly small and isolated town, and I am already part of the community drum circle, so I can’t think of anyone else to ask. Maybe another time!

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    1. Oh, I like the idea of reading the Magnificat with a drummer… and I happen to be married to one, so it would be easy for me to pull it off! Thanks for the idea 🙂

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    1. This is beautiful. Thank you. I especially like this line: it is on us, as church, to do as Mary did, to be theotokos. We are to bring Christ into the world, and step out of the way so that our story becomes Christ’s story.

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