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Joy to the World by Lisa Solomon Shoemaker

An Advent Devotion
The Canticles of Christmas
Week Two: The Magnificat

Sunday, December 10

Luke 1:46˗55

“He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” (Luke 1:52)

On a cold, cloud-covered day in February1980, Jim and I left Bothwell Regional Hospital in Sedalia with a brand-new baby girl snuggled into a car seat. We had driven away from our house four days earlier as a family of two, but we were exiting the hospital as a family of three. As Jim drove down 16th Street to usher his new family home, I remember looking out the car window and thinking that nobody in town was as happy as I was then. Nobody was as blessed. Nobody had a more beautiful baby.

Now, I need to tell you that in the minds of most Sedalians, there was nothing special about that black Dodge Omni traveling down 16th Street in February. Nor was there anything special about that baby, or Jim, or me. We were just a run-of-the-mill couple who happened to have been delivered of their first child and were now on their way home. But I didn’t see what they saw.

Look at what Mary sees here. 

She is not a queen, not the rich daughter of a mighty landowner, and not a seer of the future. She is part of the “lowly” that God will use to usher in the savior of humankind, yet she knows this. Because of what she knows, God has given her words to express her beautiful, heartfelt joy. In fact, her entire “soul rejoices.” Mary certainly had reason to rejoice; she was chosen, not because of her high status, but because of her obedience that made her special to God.

Like those Sedalians who did not know what precious cargo was in our back seat, those in Mary’s hometown did not know what she knew. That was okay; the reason for her joy was about to come to the world and change everything.

by Lisa Solomon Shoemaker

   

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The Question of Authority by Blane Baker

An Advent Devotion
The Canticles of Christmas
Week One: Ave Maria

Saturday, December 9

Mark 11:27-33                           

By what authority are you doing these things? (Mark 11:28a)                   

Just prior to our focal passage, Jesus has cleansed the temple and declared it a house of prayer. From this day forward, the local authorities seek to destroy him. One day at a gathering in the temple, the chief priests, scribes, and elders ask Jesus a question to challenge his authority. Sensing a trap, Jesus says he will respond once they answer a single question. Jesus proceeds to ask them whether the baptism of John is from heaven or from man. Immediately, they know they have been outwitted, and they refuse to answer saying, “We do not know.”

This question of authority reminded me of my first teaching experience. As a graduate student, I had taken a part-time position at a local community college. As the first day of the fall semester approached, I worked on my syllabus and rehearsed how I would explain the introductory material. My preparations went well, and I felt ready. On the appointed day, I arrived early for class and lingered in the back to acquaint myself with the room set-up. In the meantime, many of the students gathered and engaged in casual conversation. Before class began, one of students asked, “I wonder who is teaching this class.” With as much confidence as I could muster, I said, “I am.”  The students' chuckles let me know that my authority was in question. Over time, I proved myself to be an able “first year” teacher, and I earned more and more respect. On the last day of the semester, the students gave me a surprise party at the end of class. Their kindness helped me to appreciate the spirit of Christmas.

In our passage, Jesus does not experience the same kind of grace from the authorities; ultimately, he suffers betrayal and death. These events, like the birth of Christ, are shrouded in mystery. While mysterious to us, all are within the will of God.

During this time of Advent, many of us experience mystery and even an unwillingness to talk to God. We may be afraid; we may be sad; we may be distracted; we may be angry. Whatever our state, God desires a relationship with each one of us. In due time, all will be revealed. We will know more fully the mind of God, who sees reality in the context of time and space we cannot fathom. In seasons of mystery, we must trust in the God who never leaves us—even though we may not always feel His presence.

by Blane Baker

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God Knows. . . by Abby Bland

An Advent Devotion
The Canticles of Christmas
Week One: Ave Maria

Friday, December 8

Jeremiah 1:4-10

 “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5a)

God has a beyond intimate knowledge of God’s creation. God knows why I’m anxious before I do, God knows the unhealthy habits and tricks I use to cope. God knows the ways those habits affect my relationships and my health. I can be a real mess sometimes.

Yet, God loves me. To prove this, God became a human who died and rose again, though we’re not to that part of the story yet. Advent reminds us to pace ourselves and not jump to the redemption. For me, this year particularly, Advent is a time to reflect on why Jesus had to come in the first place.

I gave my life to Jesus during Advent almost eight years ago. I gave, and continually give, my life to Jesus because of his deep commitment to humanity. When my faith is weak, the only way the gospel retains any power is by retelling the story, and remembering Jesus’ commitment. Jesus died for me because I am worth dying for, but also because I needed someone to die for me. You cannot have one without the other. God knew that humanity couldn’t orchestrate our own redemption, so God came down to point us back to the Way from which we’ve wandered.

Advent renews God’s call. God calls each of us, just like Jeremiah. God tells Jeremiah not to be afraid, for God will rescue him. Notice, God does not promise nothing bad will happen. God promises rescue, and then promptly tells Jeremiah that he is to uproot, destroy, and overthrow. There are systems in our world that need to be overthrown because of their overt oppression of the marginalized. When Gabriel greets Mary many years later, he tells Mary not to be afraid and that Jesus’ kingdom will be established forever. These days, I find myself asking: what kind of kingdom did Jesus come to establish? How can we make the world around us reflect that kind of a kingdom?

by Abby Bland

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