As the Narrative Lectionary moves into the Gospel of Luke, most of the people in the (virtual) pews will find themselves in more familiar territory. Mary, Gabriel, Elizabeth, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Ahhhh.
There is, I think, a temptation to relish the familiarity; to let out a deep sigh of relief: “Thank goodness we’re done with the First Testament!” But oh, my friends, you and I both know that we are far from done with these vital texts. One great advantage of the Narrative Lectionary is that it positions us to enter into these Second Testament texts undergirded by the stories and prophecies and poetry that shaped the religious lives of Mary and Elizabeth and Jesus.
Certainly there is a lot one could say about the Annunciation. We could preach about fear, courage, or consent. We could preach about how God speaks to us, how we speak to God. We could spend an entire sermon relishing the fact that “nothing will be impossible with God.” If we take the extended reading and include the Visitation and the Magnificat, our sermon possibilities become overwhelming.
But I wonder if our Narrative Lectionary journey gives us some guidance in the midst of so many options. It seems to me a good opportunity to help our listeners (viewers, readers) understand how the First Testament texts we have heard over the past few months will inform the Second Testament texts we will encounter going forward.
This passage from the first chapter of Luke explicitly mentions Abraham, Jacob, and David. It brings us familiar themes of angel visitations and miraculous pregnancies. It echoes words from prophets and psalmists—particularly Hannah’s prayer (from October 18), the Spirit being poured out on young women (December 6), and last week’s words from Isaiah of good news for the oppressed.
I am excited for this opportunity to draw on all we have already heard from scripture to help us enter more fully into this overly-familiar story of the Annunciation. And I am hopeful that as we consider how God has been present with God’s people from the very beginning, we will become newly aware of God’s presence with us now.
Rev. Joanna Harader serves as pastor of Peace Mennonite Church in Lawrence, KS. She is posting Advent reflections on her blog, Spacious Faith.
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