Ellen Rothweiler, Des Moines, IA

Warm-up Question

Who is the favorite in your family?


The holidays expose underlying family dynamics in many families. Time together, gift giving, and special meals can all offer an opportunity for favoritism among siblings and cousins, or at least the illusion of such. Also, you bear a burden if you are the favorite. More is expected of you.  You are the person in the family who is expected to fix things or take care of everyone. 

On the other hand, remember that song from the Sound of Music “My Favorite Things”? Singing about their favorite things made the kids and Maria feel better when they were afraid or worried.  Favorite can be a good thing when we are talking about colors, or foods, or songs. Somehow, when we talk about people it sets up rank in groups. 

Like so many things, the idea of “favorite” has both positive and negative consequences.

Discussion Questions

  • How do you know when something is your favorite?
  • Are you someone’s favorite? How does that feel?
  • Are you not the favorite? How does that feel?
  • Why do you think the idea of favorites in groups of people is divisive?

Fourth Sunday of Advent

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Romans 16:25-27

Luke 1:26-38

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

We hear the story of the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary every year during the season of Advent. It is an important part of the story of Jesus coming to Earth to be Emanuel, “God With Us.” The angel greets Mary by saying, “Greetings favored one!” and “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…” Then the angel tells her she is going to have a baby boy, God’s son. Mary says “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

This is a strange thing to happen to God’s favored. Mary’s special treatment includes risking her marriage to Joseph, pregnancy, childbirth, fear, and danger. To this she says, “Here I am!” and agrees to be a part of giving this gift of Christ to the world. God incarnate. The Word made flesh. God chose Mary to bear this gift, and this burden. But Mary does not dwell on the burden of being favored, at least not in the account that Luke offers us. It is human to see the good and the bad in a thing, but Mary accepts this call and says, “let it be with me according to your word.” 

We can all learn something from the way Mary models being favored; Acceptance. Grace. Strength. She does not worry about her way; she goes God’s way and it takes her on quite the adventure to Bethlehem, Egypt and the cross. The angel does not say that since she is favored God has this easy thing for her to do, and she is going to enjoy every minute of it. Sometimes the most important things are the hardest. In these, and all things, God is with us…Emmanuel.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever been asked to do something hard and/or important? How did that feel? 
  • Have you ever said “no” to something because it was too hard or too much? Do you regret it or do you think you made the right choice?
  • How do you make those kinds of decisions? 

Activity Suggestions

Listen to the song “My Favorite Things”. There are many versions of this song out around Christmas. the lyrics to include your group’s favorite things. 

Closing Prayer

God of Love, in our baptism you claimed us and proclaimed us precious.  Give us joy in knowing you  favor us and courage in living out our calling as your servants.  Guide us, that we may go where you send us and be signs to the world that you are indeed Emmanuel, God with us.