He is our Peace

File:ANGELICO, Fra Annunciation, 1437-46 (2236990916).jpg

Watching for the Morning of December 20, 2015

Year C

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

(We rearranged the readings in Advent to accommodate our children’s Christmas program. As a result, we read the story of the visitation last week and have added to our Advent this year the story of the annunciation.)

It’s interesting to me that the angels in all the baroque paintings of the annunciation I have reviewed show such deference to Mary. This is, after all, a young peasant girl and Gabriel one of the lords of heaven. It is like the chairman of the joint chiefs calling upon a college girl in her dorm room. He should be the one before whom she kneels, not the other way around.

But it is not just medieval piety about the queen of heaven at work in these paintings; the mission upon which the angel is sent is a wonder and mystery beyond all imagining. The author of the universe is binding himself into the womb of a woman.

The language of Gabriel’s speech to Mary hasn’t quite reached the depths of that mystery, yet. It is still the language of kingship: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High” – a royal title – “and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David” – a messianic title, but still framed in terms of human kingship. “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” This is the fulfillment of the ancient promise that a shoot will come forth from the stump of Jesse, from the fallen line of the Davidic monarchy. We are not yet at the full mystery of the incarnation, but we will get there. God is beginning a new enterprise to capture and deliver his rebellious and suffering world.

And so, on Sunday, we hear Micah’s promise that from Bethlehem will come one “whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.” “He shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.”

And we sing of swords beaten into plowshares with the song of salvation in Isaiah 2, when all nations come to learn the way of God – a way in which God’s people are summoned to walk now.

And we hear the apostle Paul remind us to focus on all that is good and noble, promising that the peace of God will be upon us.

This child of Mary will bring the day of peace, the world of peace, the liberating joy of peace with God and one another. This child will be the one who brings the realm of heaven to earth. This child will be the bearer of earth’s redemption. And for that reason Gabriel kneels.

The prayer for December 20, 2015

All earth and heaven have their beginning and end in you, O God;
you are our source and goal.
Fill our hearts with your Spirit,
and bring quickly the day when Christ shall reign in every heart
and all creation shall dwell in your peace;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

The texts for December 20, 2015

First Reading: Micah 5:2-5a
“But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel.”
– Amidst the words of judgment in the 8th century BCE are also words that promise a new future for the nation. This is the famous passage, quoted by Matthew, promising a king from the royal line of David who will “be the one of peace.”

Psalmody: Isaiah 2:2-5
“They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” – As Assyrian power rises in the 8th century BCE, the prophet reverses the call to arms, and summons the nation to walk in God’s way of peace.

Second Reading: Philippians 4:8-9
“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure … think about these things.” – Though Paul is in prison facing the possibility of death, he urges his community to abide in all that is true and honorable.

Gospel: Luke 1:26-33
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.” – Following the announcement to Zechariah that Elizabeth would bear a child who would be the forerunner of God’s anointed, the angel Gabriel appears to Mary.

The texts as appointed for 4 Advent C

First Reading: Micah 5:2-5a
“But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel.”
– Amidst the words of judgment in the 8th century BCE are also words that promise a new future for the nation. This is the famous passage, quoted by Matthew, promising a king from the royal line of David who will “be the one of peace.”

Psalmody: Luke 1:46-55, the Song of Mary, the Magnificat (alternate: Psalm 80:1-7)
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” – In response to her encounter with Elizabeth, Mary sings with joy of God’s coming to set right the world.

Second Reading: Hebrews 10:5-10
“Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me.’” – In the midst of the author’s gathering of the scriptural witness to the superiority of Christ, he points to this passage and the words “I have come to do your will, O God” to speak of the new work of God in Christ Jesus that replaces the pattern of temple sacrifices.

Gospel: Luke 1:39-45
“As soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.” –Having heard from the angel Gabriel that her kinswoman, Elizabeth, is also wondrously with child, Mary comes to greet her. Elizabeth is filled with the Spirit, and the child in her womb (John the Baptist) leaps for joy.

 

Image: Fra Angelico, The Annunciation, San Marco Museum, Florence.  By carulmare (ANGELICO, Fra Annunciation, 1437-The mission upon which the angel Gabriel is sent is a wonder and mystery beyond all imagining: the author of the universe is binding himself into the womb of a peasant woman.46) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
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