Fourth Sunday in Advent
|2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16||The promise to David's house||236: While Shepherds Watched Their
280: All Glory, Laud, and Honor
Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
The promise to David's house
|203: Hail to the Lord's Annointed
216: Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming
247: O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright
|Luke 1:26-38||Good news to Mary||219: What Child Is This
230: O Little Town of Bethlehem
|Romans 16:25-27||Fulfillment of the Lord's promise to establish His people||374: Standing on the Promises
396: O Jesus, I Have Promised
Have you ever looked into the eyes of new babies and wondered what the future holds for them? What will they do in their lifetime? Who will they grow up to be? Where will they leave their mark?
I have four children. The second one had a difficult delivery that resulted in a cracked collar bone. The baby could not lie down without suffering severe pain, and consequently I spent a great deal of time holding and rocking this child. Although we did not have the benefit of verbal communication, I really believe that we got to know each other very well over the course of the following days and weeks. Sometimes I would talk in a quiet voice, wondering out loud who I was holding, never expecting an answer but always wishing for one. This was my own child, no doubt. You could see familiar characteristics from each parent. But this tiny baby was a mystery to me. This child was a complete, separate person with a separate mind and a separate will, different abilities and different opportunities. The world was (and still is) constantly changing around us. How would this growing child deal with this changing world? I never heard an answer to that question, but I continue to receive pieces of the answer every day as the future becomes the present, and then the past. I have to wait and watch as the story unfolds.
How many thoughts and questions must have run through Mary's mind as she held the new born Christ child? She had seen an angel who gave her a special message from God about this child, but the angel could not answer Mary's questions. She had spoken with Joseph who was also visited by an angel, but Joseph could not answer Mary's questions. She had spoken with Elizabeth who was also visited by an angel, but Elizabeth could not answer Mary's questions. She was visited by shepherds who had also heard the angels, but the shepherds could not answer Mary's questions. Soon she would be visited by magi who followed a star, but they could not answer Mary's questions, either. No, none of them could answer all of the questions that went through her mind when she looked into the face of her precious child and wondered what the future held for him. Like us, Mary would find the answer only by waiting and watching as the story unfolded.
This week's featured hymn was written by William Dix (1837-1898). With the benefit of the Gospel stories and centuries of tradition in the Christian church, he could answer some of the questions that Mary must have had. But he doesn't go into very much detail. Instead, he tells the same news that the angels did. Dix tells us that this is Mary's son. The shepherds came to see him in the manger. The magi came to worship him. This little child is Christ the King. We find nothing new here.
Like Dix, we know more of Jesus' story than Mary did when she held him in the stable. We know about Christ's fasting and temptations in the wilderness. We know about his baptism and ministry. We have heard his parables and his lessons. Most of all, we know of his crucifixion, death, and resurrection. So why didn't Dix write about these? One fairly straight forward reason is that this is a Christmas hymn. Perhaps, though, we can find a deeper meaning for ourselves. Maybe--just maybe--the stories of the past and the history of Christ in the Gospels are only the beginning. Maybe we are (or should be) still waiting and watching as the story of Christ in our own lives unfolds before us each and every day. Maybe this is where we can explore another, deeper meaning for our lives during the Advent season.
As you read the words of the hymn this week, think of the mysteries and expectations that accompany the birth of a new child. Think of the mysteries and expectations of your walk with Christ. Think of the coming of Christ the King.
|1. What child is this who, laid to rest,
on Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
while shepherds watch are keeping?
|2. Why lies he in such mean estate
where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
the silent Word is pleading.
|3. So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
come, peasant, king, to own him;
the King of kings salvation brings,
let loving hearts enthrone him.
This, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
haste, haste to bring him laud,
the babe, the son of Mary.
May the memory, the mystery, and the expectation of Christ the King, the babe, the son of Mary, be ever present in your heart and in your mind as the blessed celebration of Jesus' birth approaches.
God bless you--
God bless you!
|Passages suggested are from The Revised Common Lectionary: Consultation on Common Texts (Abingdon Press, 1992) copyright © by the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT), P.O. Box 340003, Room 381, Nashville TN 37203-0003. Reprinted with permission of CCT.|