First, a word about this year’s Advent scripture readings.
I have had up to here (pointing to the top of my head) with the repetition of the lectionary at times. This year not only do we have the typical Advent 1 emphasis on Jesus’ second coming, but this follows just two weeks after our reading from Mark’s “Little Apocalypse” in his chapter 13. Further, this year we get not one but two readings focusing on John the Baptist. Enough is enough I say. So while I will be providing my paraphrases of the official Revised Common Lectionary passages, I will also share some alternative gospel readings as well.
My preaching plan for Advent is as follows:
Advent 1 – December 3rd – Zechariah and Elizabeth 1 (Theme will be “Silence”): Luke 1:5-25
Advent 2 – December 10th – Jesus Birth Foretold: Luke 1:26-38
Advent 3 – December 17th – Mary Visits Elizabeth – The Magnificat: Luke 39-56
Advent 4 – December 24th – Christmas Eve Morning (Service will focus primarily on music): Zechariah and Elizabeth 2: Luke 1:57-80
I plan on doing this for a couple of reasons:
- I am increasingly of the opinion that the time for reflection on the return of Christ should be at the end of the church year – before Christ the King Sunday. This makes more sense to me than placing it at beginning the Advent season with its overall emphasis on the first coming of Jesus. Further, dealing with the apocalyptic passages of the gospels before Christ the King Sunday would provide a natural flow into that particular Christian Holy day.
- The time to deal with the message of John the Baptist would seem to me to be prior to Jesus’ Baptism. It is a little schizophrenic to preach on the full-grown Baptist then backtrack to the infancy narratives. Again, the flow of scriptures would be more natural.
- We could spend a little more time each year on the often neglected characters of Zechariah, Elizabeth, Joseph, and even the prologue of John which could be used effectively during the year B readings form Mark’s gospel, and
- As mentioned above, I am just a little tired of the status quo at this point, and am itching for a change.
Of course I do not expect the Revised Common Lectionary folk to follow my lead, and many (if not most) or you won’t either. But I offer the above alternative as a choice you might want to consider. Having said all that, here are the passages for this week, with the alternate gospel reading at the end.
Behold, the days are coming, says the Eternal, when I will accomplish the good word which I spoke to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In that age and at that time a branch of righteous will spring forth for David; and he shall bring forth justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be free and Jerusalem will dwell in safety. And this is what she will be called: “The Lord our righteousness.”
To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
In you, O God, I trust; do not let me be brought to shame;
do not let my enemies rejoice over me.
Yea, do not let any wait upon you be ashamed;
let those who deceive in vain be ashamed.
Show me your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.
Lead me in truth, and instruct me,
for on you, the God of my salvation
do I wait all day long.
Be mindful of your tender mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Remember not my youth offences nor my rebellion;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
remember me for the sake of your goodness’, O Lord!
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He guides the humble in justice, and teaches the lowly his way.
All the paths of the Lord are loving kindness and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
For what thanks can we render to God in return for all the joy in which we rejoice before our God because of you? Night and day, we pray exceedingly, to behold your face, and to repair the deficit in your faith. Now God himself our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ guide our journey to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, even as we do for you. And may he establish your hearts irreproachable in holiness before our God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his holy ones.
“And there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars; and on the earth the nations distressed and perplexed by the roar of the sea and its waves. Human hearts will fail from terror and the anticipation of what is coming upon the land, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they, with eyes wide open, will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your heads, because your deliverance is drawing near.”
Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see and know for yourselves that summer is already at hand. So you, in the same way, when you see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you, this age will by no means pass away until all this is fulfilled. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. “Moreover, pay attention to yourselves, lest your hearts be burdened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of this life, so that this day come upon you unexpectedly. For indeed, as a trap it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Keep awake, therefore, and always pray to be deemed worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man.”
Alternate Gospel Reading: Luke 1:5-25
There was in the time of Herod, King of Judea, a certain priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly class of Abijah. His wife, a descendant of Aaron, was named Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly under all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were well advanced in years.
And it came to pass that when [Zechariah] was serving as priest before God, for his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. Now at the hour of incense, the whole multitude of people was praying outside. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was troubled and terror pressed in upon him. But the angel said to him, `Do not fear, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, shall never drink wine or liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while he is still in his mother’s womb, and many of the children of Israel will he turn again to the Lord their God. And he shall go before them with the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the holy, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’
Zechariah said to the angel, `Just how will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced.’ And the angel, answering him, said, `I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and who has been sent to speak to you and to declare to you this good news. But look, you will be silent and unable to speak, until the day these things come to pass, because you did not have faith in my tidings, which will be accomplished in their ti
And the people waited for Zechariah, and wondered that he lingered so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them, and they recognized that he had seen a vision in the temple, for while he kept making signs, he remained unable to speak. And so it came to pass that when his time of service was finished, he departed to his own house.
And after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she hid herself, saying, `In this way has the Lord dealt with me when he regarded me and took away my disgrace before people.’