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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Final Week of Advent or Christmas Eve? Edition

Hi Friends,

We are hitting the final stretch! We're almost done with Advent! Anybody else but me glad to think about that, or does that provoke one to panic?

I am trying very hard to make this Sunday's morning worship be the fourth Sunday of Advent, and NOT Christmas Eve, but I do not have a music chair who understands (or maybe she does get it, but just disagrees). Therefore, we will be hearing a lovely four-hand piano/organ piece that is angels, angels, angels on Sunday morning. (That's not the title of the song, but the subject matter. It's a medley of all the "angel" Christmas Carols.) At this point, I'm too tired and worn out to care. Give the people what they want, I say, and calendar be damned!

The gospel lections this week feature Mary and Elizabeth, and the Magnificat.

I was remembering "The Christmas Show" episode of my new favorite television show, "Studio 60", the one that begins with the story of a young unmarried pregnant woman (NOT a virgin), and the guy who stands by her side. Sound familiar?

All through this episode, one character, (a Jew, by the way) wants to celebrate Christmas, and everyone around him simply wants to debunk the mythology of it all. It gets me to thinking: how much of the mystery of the Incarnation do we believe, how much do we debunk in our hearts, and how much do we simply overlook?

These are the questions I will be wrestling with this week. How about you?


  1. Not a pastor but ~ I moved on to Mary a few days ago in my blog. I couldn't wait any longer. And we had an incredible Lessons and Carols Sunday night reading from Denise Levertov that I posted ~ timely for me, anyway.

  2. My sermon title for the wek is The Nativity Story (Truth, Myth, and Faith) I am aiming not to get deep into discussions about the historicity of the stories in Matthew and Luke (although that will be discussed)as much as discuss the relationship between myth and truth. Mind you, I also want to keep it on the short side...

    My early thoughts can be found here

  3. I have a title! That never happens so early...

    "Knowing Mary"

    Eh? Eh?

  4. Gord: My working title is "Whether Or Not It's True". You are right--historicity and factuality are not necessarily Truth.

  5. Too bad I can't be there for your sermons Gord and Cheesehead...I'm not sure what our church is planning, but I doubt they'll address the issue.

    Personally, I don't believe that Scripture is inerrant nor even historically accurate. However, I have never had a problem with the virgin birth story, maybe because of my Catholic upbringing.

  6. All of life is a miracle!

    We are each a miracle...created by the same God as Jesus was. Well, Jesus did a much better job at being who God intended him to be ... actually, all of us to be: loving, grateful, forgiving, blessing one another, respecting all of creation. Remember the greatest thing is that we love one another as God has loved us.... and, our neighbour as ourselves.

    Belief in a virgin birth won't make me a Christian...or not, how I live out God's love will be more apt to do that.

    There is certainly a difference in fact and truth. Getting into the underlying meanings can threaten some, but that is where freedom of the truth will lift us up.

    We are all on the journey...together, yet in different places of starting out. And as we meet on the road to Bethlehem we are to remember who created us and in whom we live and move and have our Being.

    We are about to enter a Holy Place and attend once again spirit... the birthing of love. This love is inherent in all of us, for we too are born with the same chance to be God's hands, feet, voice, eyes, ears and heart. Jesus is the man who followed through to the point he 'windowed' the God we worship.

    I am sure glad He did!

  7. I'm preaching Christmas Eve in the evening; the senior pastor I work with is preaching 4th Sunday of Advent in the morning. I don't know what he's doing...nor do I know what I'm doing.

    This is my first Christmas Eve as a pastor to preach, even though it's my fourth Christmas since ordination. So, there's a lot of pressure that I've placed on myself. Senior pastor is finally letting me preach on this special day.

    I think one place I'm going is the phrase from "Silent Night" ~ Son of God, love's pure light. This isn't that Jesus loves light as I mis-heard it as a kid, but it is that Jesus is the pure light of God's love for us. I guess that's a start!

  8. My sermon title for the morning service on Sunday is "Great Things."

    So far, I'm going with the theme of shaking up our notions of greatness. The prophet Micah spoke of the one who would rule Israel using words like "majesty" and "strength."

    The people anticipated a new way for Israel that would include military and political might, not vulnerability and helplessness.

    And yet, we have Mary, who could not have been in a more vulnerable place in her life - unmarried, pregnant, young and probably quite frightened.

    Even so, she can sing of the "great things" that God has done for her.

    It makes me think of the "things" that Mary ponders in her heart at the end of the Christmas story in Luke 2.

    That's my starting point. I'm thinking about what "great things" can begin from a place of vulnerability and openness to God's presence and power in our lives.

  9. Yo Tripp!
    Like the title. I'd come to hear the sermon.

  10. I was scheduled to lead text study today--interesting to cram two days' worth of texts into one session. We split our time between Advent 4C and Christmas Eve.

    I am fortunate (I think) to be in two churches that have little problem keeping Advent to the very end. We have been gradually adding things to the sanctuary week by week, and after Sunday morning the blue comes off and the white goes on. Not a carol in sight or earshot until the night of the 24th.

    So I'm definitely sticking with Advent 4 for Sunday morning--how could I miss a chance to preach on Mary and Elizabeth? My item for focusing my preaching will be a metronome and I plan/hope to talk about Mary's song, and about the other songs in the Bible, and how in Advent we seem to have a lot of 6/4 or 6/8 hymns that dance right along. Our lives begin to flow by a different rhythm, the rhythm that Mary describes with the upheaval of the world.

    As for Christmas Eve...I'd definitely like to wrap up the "time" theme, but am not quite settled on how to do it. I have a lot of neat ideas from text study this morning, but not sure how it will really come together.

    The only thing I'm sure about is that I need to start sermonizing LONG before my usual start of Saturday afternoon.

  11. I love Studio 60.

    Alas, I'm not preaching Advent 4 here, but I was assigned to preach for the Christmas Eve Family Service. I didn't even like going to the Children's Service when I have a child! I'm talking about which character of the nativity story you identify with in your faith journey and in your life... Overwhelmed like the inn keeper? Hearing and acting immediately like the shepherds? Anxious yet serene like mary? Just watching like the animals? (I thank my former sem. roomate for that idea!)

  12. correction: "I didn't even like going to the Children's Service when i WAS a child."

    Don't have kids, not going to start that rumor ;o)

  13. Definitely preaching Advent 4 in the "morning" (actually, 1:30 in the afternoon)! I love the chance to preach the Magnificat. Not sure exactly what I will be saying, but something about this being the good news, indeed.

    My theology prof used to say that the virgin birth was theology, not for me!

    I'm not preaching the evening service (11 pm); we're doing a joint service with our host church and the other pastor is doing the homily, so I'm doing Communion! This should be interesting--see how our host church responds. They tend to be conservative, so I'm not sure how they'll react to 1) a woman and 2)a bisexual woman consecrating communion, and serviing them. Also, in MCC, we offer short blessing prayers after Communion (for each person) and people come up as families or with their partner to take communion. It will be an eye-opener, to say the least.

    If you see fireworks on the shores of Lake Erie on Christmas Eve, it may be us... LOL

    BTW, Tripp--love the title!

  14. If I was talented enough to tell you where to find this, I would, but The Canticle of the Turning by Rory Cooney is a great Magnificat!

  15. I have enjoyed the reflections. Thanks!

    We are having combined worship in the morning. I am planning to use a clip from "Finding Nemo" in which Nemo is losing hope in his fishbowl, and the pelican (I think) tells Nemo about all that his father has already done to reach him, and not to give up hope. Sounds like a great way to talk about the annunciation and incarnation.

    As for traditional candlelight christmas eve...ahh...I am looking forward to it..but I have no idea what I am preaching.

    I would be interested in more ideas for lessons and carols for Dec. 25

  16. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who gets excited about sermon titles. I am going to focus on Mary's singing and a quote I once read. "Make your own music, sing your own song, and soon the whole world will be singing along... and my title is...Soul Music.

  17. Chilly Fingers, that is a Way Cool title.
    I think up good titles, jsut not when I need them (i.e by the bulletin deadline!)
    My favorite one (not yet used) is "God Uses Buttheads Too!"

  18. We have to preach twice this Sunday?!


  19. I have to split the service between the 4th week of Advent and Christmas Eve.

    At the beginning of the service, we will light the 4th Candle of the Advent wreath.

    The title of my sermon is "Words of Christmas".

    Because of the situation with the church, we are having communion.

    Then as part of the benediction, I will light the Christ Candle to complete the lighting of the Advent wreath.

  20. I love Studio 60, too. It's my best favorite tv program. I saw the Christmas episode last night for the second time.

    I'm working on my sermon. I'm pushing towards the end of Advent.
    I'm ready for the Miracle.

  21. Blogger hates me and just deleted my entry. To resummarize:

    I am preaching Christmas Eve thanks to a supervising pastor who believes in me and was willing to let me do it (he's preaching Advent 4).

    Like kerygma, I've been thinking about the different perspectives of the individuals in the story. Also been thinking about Emmanuel, God-with-us a lot. Love that stuff. Never gets old. Good message.

    That's all floating around in my brain (and even a little bit on scraps of paper). I'm hoping to have it done early, so I can pack for my vacation time in Michigan, which starts on Christmas Day.

    Dancing with God

  22. Our primary Christmas Eve service will be in the morning, mostly because our usual early evening time conflicts with the regular service time of the new church start that uses our sanctuary in the afternoon. I'll be sharing leadership for that service with their pastor and we have worked the service up together. We'll each give a brief talk (mine on Psalm 80:1-3, about finding Christ's face in the faces of others).
    In the morning we're doing a Family Lessons and Carols service, with our children as worship leaders. My sermon (also brief) will be about the different ways we show love and God shows us all those kinds of love in Jesus.
    I am happy to say that I have notes and some writing done on both of them already. Because I still have to finish knitting a sweater for my daughter.
    Finally, Studio 60 is also my new best friend on TV, but I could not stay awake late enough to watch it all last night. Thankfully it's on DVR, so I can see it again at leisure.

  23. Advent 4 in the morning, but also the admission of 5 children to Holy Communion, so a rather different service. I'm presiding and WonderfulVicar is preaching...on Mary welcoming Christ into her welcoming him in the Sacrament, I guess.
    Then I'm preaching at Midnight - John 1...Dare I use the material I wrote for the Advent book? If I don't, will I have anything else to say???
    In between comes the Crib service, but there's nothing even faintly resembling a sermon there, thanks be to God!

  24. Songbird, I wouldn't see most of our new shows if it weren't for our dvr. It's pathetic how early I conk out anymore! :)

  25. I wrote Xmas Eve this morning and now have to work on Advent 4... still doing the advent series on Isaiah that will conclude with the discussion of "Prince of Peace". Now I have to go moderate a Session meeting -- ack!

  26. Canticle of the Turning is copyrighted by GIA if I remember correctly, so look for it in Gather. It's also in the new ELCA hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Could quite possibly be in other collections as well!

    I love love love it as a setting of the Magnificat, but here it will have to wait until these churches have ELW (which will hopefully happen before the next Advent 4C comes around).

  27. I never "preach" on Christmas Eve. The past few years I have done a monologue instead. This year it is a 3-person drama set in Bethlehem.

    If I were going to preach though I think I would go with the angels words "fear not".

    What about stories. I am reading one of our children's Christmas books (Pippin the Christmas Pig) but am wavering on having all the children come up to the front to hear it. Thoughts???

  28. Hi guys. Missed yesterday and it seems Monday. Had a death in the church, and funeral yesterday.

    Just doing Christmas eve. The worship committee felt that most people would be traveling and that one service would be it. I was willing to do two, but not them.

    So I will miss preaching the Magnificat, I love preaching it. I have done monologues with it before.

    I really don't know what will come of Sunday's sermon, I may dig up an old one. I did title it "The First Noel", I think.

    Blessings on all this week.

  29. I am doing the Magnificat paired with the Christmas Eve Isaiah 9 reading. The title is "Prophets and Promises" with the idea being basically that prophets see the world differently than we do b/c they see it as full of god's promises, which are always kept (hence the past tense they often use), and that Mary is a prophet--yet another unlikely prophet. We will be singing Canticle of the Turning for the second time this Advent--we sang it on Advent 2 when the choir did a cantata based on the Magnificat.

    You can get the sheet music that is for voice and a couple of optional instruments here.
    We ordered ours on a Tuesday and got it on Wednesday (I mean, we asked nicely, but they did it). We were desperate. They're great over there.

    I also have the two "family" evening services. Instead of me preaching to 150 kids under 10, I have the elementary and youth choirs presenting a drama. Praise the Lord for dramas! (SP is taking the three other evening services. That's right--we have FIVE Christmas eve services in our 350 member church...our sanctuary really only seats 100 and we average about 150 at most of these services. dang.)

  30. Gord: the best version I ever heard of the angel's words to "fear not"?

    "Freak not."

    Teri: love how Mary's answer to the angel of "here I am" parallels Samuel's, Abraham's, Isaiah's, etc....definitely sets her in the line of the prophets!

  31. love these reflections. Our church is having no services at all at Christmas (pout) and the intl congregation have nothing on Christmas Eve at all - but will have a Eucharist service IN THE AFTERNOON on Christmas Day and then a short carol service on the following day (which is lovely)

    I wish I was anywhere else right now. I love Advent and Christmas Eve services and feel robbed completely. Sigh

    (sorry for the whine ...)

  32. Bless you all as you preach His Word on 24th and at Christmas. Wish I could come and hear all / many of you ...

  33. Lorna, I think your whine is totally justified. Is it even allowed to not have worship on Christmas Eve?

    I have posted my Advent 4 sermon here. Comments greatly appreciated, as I suspect it might be a little dark...which mirrors pretty well the place I'm at right now, but may be too dark for christmas eve morn.


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