Friday, December 16, 2011

The Reflectionary: Scripture for Worship on December 18th, 2011

Here are the passages for December 18, 2011, the 4th Sunday in Advent (Year B). All links are to the CEB via, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead (either with your own Bible, or via the drop-down menu at

As I have been doing all through Advent, I'd like to invite readers to consider how the themes of Advent are advanced by reading these passages this week.

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
  • It is appropriate to think of prophets generally as people who speak God's word, but what does it tell us about Nathan, or about prophets in general, that Nathan first tells David to "go ahead" with his plans to build God a temple, only to have to come back later and say that God has a different response: "Have I asked for this?"
  • I want to draw particular attention to verses 10 and 11. How did God keep this promise to David regarding Israel? Has God kept this promise? What about the period of Israel's exile (which took place some time later than the time of David)? Are we (or, is Israel) still waiting?
  • What does it mean to be "given rest from one's enemies"? Are the enemies to be destroyed? Is it sufficient that they simply not fight any more? What should be done if enemies continue to threaten? Has the answer to this changed with the coming of Christ?
Luke 1:47-55
  • Eagle-eyed readers will no doubt notice that this passage was used just last week, as an alternative to last week's Psalm reading. It is listed this week in the same slot, so I expect that most churches probably won't use this passage both weeks. In any event, I refer you to last week's entry for my comments on this passage.
Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
  • As I just mentioned, the Revised Common Lectionary suggests two options for the "Psalm" reading. I'm not sure why the reading from Luke is listed first among these options this week, although this is worth pondering. Most churches will choose to read either Luke 1:47-55 or Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26, but likely not both.
Romans 16:25-27
  • These are the very last words of Paul's letter to the Romans. Why do you think he would chose these words to be his final words to his audience?
Luke 1:26-38
  • There is a sense in which the gospel readings throughout Advent (at least this year) seem to take place in reverse chronological order. Week 1's passage was fairly late in Jesus' life. In Week 2, we are brought right up to just before Jesus' baptism. In Week 3, John the Baptist talks about his own identity (or lack thereof) some time prior to seeing Jesus (Indeed, the fact that John engages in baptizing at all is only mentioned at the very end). This week, we read of a time before John (or Jesus!) was even born (and, if you want to go there, the reading from Luke used as a Psalm comes from later in this same chapter than this one does). Why do you think the readings are arranged in this way?
  • In the story preceding this one in Luke, when Elizabeth's husband, Zechariah, was told Elizabeth's upcoming pregnancy, Zechariah asked a question and was made mute until the baby's birth. Here, Mary asks a question, but the response is very different. What is different about Mary's response as opposed to Zechariah's, that the messenger of God should treat Mary and Zechariah so differently?

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