Saturday, July 16, 2011

Year B - Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 18, 2011)

It’s still a whole week until Christmas!  This is the longest advent possible – 28 full days!  But, it is also your last chance to worship around the Advent Christmas message with those folks who will be leaving town for the holidays.  Many congregations will build this service around a cantata or pageant.  The possibilities are endless.  But, just in case you are working mainly with the texts for the day….

2 Samuel  7: 1-11, 16

'''' Adults will enjoy the details of the play on the word “house” here.  But, children will either not get it all or be only vaguely interested in it.  So, skip the clever word play and go straight to what it meant to build a house for God.

'''' David was not to build a house for God because God is too big to be stuck in one little place.  Had David built God a house, everyone would assume that God lived only there, would know they could go there to talk to God,  and would assume God wouldn’t bother them any place else.  We are getting a big lesson on how God moves around in the next weeks.  God becomes a human baby with a poor teenage mother.  God sends angels sing to shepherds working the fields.  Sages cross a desert to see the king God is raising up, but find him in a manger rather than in a palace.  So, we need to be looking for God moving around in the world today and join in God’s activity.

Luke 1:46b – 55

'''' The Magnificat is best read by a teenage girl.  To help her get into the mood of the song, tell her about a picture of Mary with her hair in braids, wearing a t shirt, rolled up jeans and high-top tennis shoes.  (The photo collage I saw is copyrighted, but you easily can imagine it.)  Practice with the reader to get the feisty reading the song implies.

Set the context before the reading by bringing the Mary figure from the crèche to the lectern.  Briefly tell the story leading up to Mary’s song, leave the figure on the lectern, and step aside for the young reader.   You may want to keep the figure there for the remainder of the service perhaps referring to it when appropriate during the sermon or plan for the reader to return it to the crèche after she reads.

'''' When read today this song is all about Mary’s joy.  Mary is not in a safe, happy situation.  She is an unwed teenage mother to be.  But, she is full of joy because she is doing something huge for God.  God has trusted her to be the mother of Jesus!  One paraphrase I read included two phrases children and youth will especially appreciate,

“God did not say, ’she is just a girl’.”  God took Mary seriously, trusted her, and put her to work.

“The rich, for all their wealth and status, can go suck lemons.”  The rich here would include anyone who thinks they are better than she is.  Mary was a poor nobody, but God chose her not someone rich and famous and important to be Jesus’ mother.  So, all those people who look down on her can just go suck lemons. 

All this leads me to wonder what Mary’s t shirt might have said.  It might be fun to play with the possibilities during the sermon and challenge worshipers to imagine, even design, t shirts for Mary to wear as she sings her joyful song.

OR    Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26

On this Sunday this psalm is far from the interest of children. 

Romans 16:25-27

'''' Save lighting the Advent wreath this day for the benediction.  At benediction time go to the wreath, point out that we are almost to Christmas, next Sunday is THE DAY.  Then while lighting the candles paraphrase Paul’s words something like….

On this fourth Sunday of Advent, let us give glory to God
Who gives us the strength to stand firm
Who has shown us and all the world the mystery that was once hidden.
In the baby in the manger, the teacher, the healer, the one who died on a cross and rose again we meet God.
To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever!  Amen.

(maybe with a happy grin)  See you on Christmas Eve!

Luke 1:26-38

This is Mary’s Sunday.  The challenge with children is to help them see Mary less as a passive, gentle, agreeable person and more as a prophet who saw God at work in her world and was willing to take big risks to be part of the action.  Sweet Christmas cards and years of children’s pageants make this a very real challenge.  Little girls are especially prone to over-sweeten Mary.  They to hear stories of fights over who gets to be Mary in pageants embedded in thoughtful comments about what Mary might really have been like.  The story and the Magnificat insist that she was a strong, brave, active young woman who was aware of the realities of her world.  That’s a good role model for today’s children, especially today’s girls.

Another thing about Mary that is important to children is that she is a nobody.  She was a poor girl living in a rural village in an occupied country.  Everyone around her discounted her.  But God did not.  This gives everyone else who feels like a nobody the assurance that God values them too.  God has work and a plan for them.  They have to be ready to do it.

'''' Bring the Mary crèche figure to the lectern before reading this story and the Magnificat, then place it near the manger in the crèche.

'''' Two hymns tell the annunciation story.  Read the story from the Bible first after alerting people to listen to this story because we are going to sing it after we hear it.

“The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came” is shorter and includes a chorus which can be introduced and rehearsed for the sake of young readers before the congregation sings it.

“”To a Maid Engaged to Joseph” is longer and therefore offers more details. 

'''' “Here I Am” is usually listed as a confirmation or ordination hymn.  But, today it is a perfect response to Mary’s story.  Instead of an affirmation of faith following the sermon, invite the congregation to sing the hymn as a way of stating their intent to respond to God at work in the world as Mary did.  It can be sung in unison or responsively with the choir or a soloist singing God’s verses and the congregation responding with the “Here I am” choruses.

from Chrismons: Basic Series, p.48

'''' According to tradition, Mary’s flower is the rose.  So somewhere among all the poinsettias find space a single rose in a vase today.  If could be put near the pulpit, the crèche, or on the central table paired with the crèche figure for Mary.  If you sing “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” walk through the words of the two short verses taking time to point out and explain some of the references to Mary.  If you have a rose Chrismon ornament on the tree, point it out.

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