Dennis Sepper, Tacoma, WA

Warm-up Question

Do you think one person can make a difference in the world?  Why or why not?

One Person Can Make a Difference

Detroit, Michigan—Every Saturday or Sunday Robby Elmers loads up the family minivan.  Since he is only 12 years old, Robby cannot drive so his grandmother does the honors.  They drive from their small city outside of Detroit to the center core of Motown.  Once there Robby sets up a table filled with hot dogs, potato salad and other treats and begins to serve the homeless of Detroit.


According to the Detroit Free Press there are some 20,000 homeless people living in the Motor City.  Some people think Robby is wasting his time and birthday and Christmas money but not Robby, “It makes me feel good to be able to help” he told the Detroit News.  While Robby might only be 12 years old, he is giving hope to a group of people that often feels overlooked.  “It is amazing that a child so young would be out here shaking hands, talking to everyone and caring,” Shauna Johnson, A Detroit homeless woman told the Detroit News, “Robby is right out there in front.”


Discussion Questions

  • Do you think one person can make a difference in the world?  Why or why not?
  • Is Robby wasting his time and money?  Why or why not?
  • What is your passion…something you feel God is calling you to do in this world?
  • Watch this You Tube video,  What do you notice about the “new leaders” shown?  What else do you see?
  • Many of you will be headed to Detroit next summer for the ELCA Youth Gathering.  Together you will be instruments of hope to a city that is getting back on its feet after some really tough times.  Take your passions with you and you will make a difference in the lives of the people of Detroit.

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 C at Lectionary Readings.)

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


Gospel Reflection

In the Advent season we begin to hear and read some of the classic Christmas Bible stories.  One has to listen or read very carefully because over the years, since Christmas is such a huge event and celebration, some embellishments of the stories have crept into the account of John the Baptist and the birth of Jesus.  That is not a bad thing, people love the stories and they carry so much meaning that people want to help them along a bit by adding their own contributions.  For example, we all assume that when Mary and Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem that Mary rode on a donkey.  It’s a beautiful image which we often see in art work but you can read Luke and Matthew until your eyes turn red and you will find no mentioned of a donkey or any other method of travel. Mary may have well walked along side Joseph!

The same is true with today’s Gospel reading.  As you heard or read we really do not know much about Mary from this Gospel Reading.  We know that she has found favor with God (1:30) but we are not told why; we know that she was from the small town of Nazareth (1:26) and not from the important city of Jerusalem; and we know from Matthew’s account that Mary was engaged to Joseph but not yet married (Matthew 1:18).  That is not a lot to go on but Mary (and Joseph) have a great deal to teach us by example and that is where we turn our attention to next.

First, why did Mary find favor with God?  Was it because she was rich or perfect or knew her Old Testament Bible verses well?  It certainly doesn’t seem so.  What might have caused God to find favor with Mary and caused God to choose her for the privilege of giving birth to Jesus was her faith.  The clue to that is given in Luke 1:38.  After hearing this incredible news that God chose her to be the mother of Jesus, she responded in faith, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”  Do we have the kind of faith that allows us to say without hesitation to God, “Let it be with me according to your word”?  The Holy Spirit gives us that kind of faith but sometimes we try to make excuses as to why God should choose someone else!  The Good News here is that God chooses us out of God’s grace and mercy.  As the song “I Am Yours” by Casting Crowns says in addressing God “Not because of who I am but because of what you’ve done, not because of what I’ve done but because of who you are.”  We never “earn” God’s call; it comes to us by the Holy Spirit through the grace of God and Jesus.  Like Mary all we have to do is stand there and say “Thanks!  Yes!  Let it be with me according to your word.”

Why did God choose a woman from Nazareth and not from the center of religious and political power Jerusalem?  You might say it was to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy but there is more at work here.  God’s choice of Mary is all a part of God’s great reversal where God chooses the poor over the wealthy, the weak over the powerful, the humble over the proud, the hungry over the well fed, an unknown person from a small town over a celebrity from Washington D.C. or Hollywood.   Read Luke 1:46-55 which is the Psalm Reading for this Sunday.  These are revolutionary words.  If the Romans had heard Mary singing this song she could have been arrested or worse.  But this is the way God works…in ways we do not expect, in ways that go against the stream.  Again, the Good News here is take a look around the room and take a look at yourself…not many of us are powerful or a celebrity.

Finally, we are never told the age of Mary but we know that women in the Middle East at that time married young.  Most scholars who concern themselves with Mary’s age say she was most likely between thirteen and sixteen years old.  That puts her a little bit older than Robby Elmers, around the age of those in the You Tube video above and about the same age as most people who are reading or using this Faith Lens blog!  The great prophet Jeremiah tried to use his age as an excuse to get out of the prophetic call (see Jeremiah 1:4-8) but God would have none of it.  We are never too young and we are never too old to receive the call of God to service in the world.  That’s because the call is not rooted in us.  The call is rooted in our baptism where God adopts us as God’s children, brothers and sisters of Jesus and where God bestows on us the power of the Holy Spirit.  Mary stands as a shining example in this season of Advent of a person who takes their faith in the Lord seriously and is ready and willing to act on that faith.  Standing in that kind of faith in God and Christ one person can make a difference in the community they live and in the world; you and me included!

Discussion Questions

  • Think about the traditional Christmas creche or painting of Christmas night.  No biblical text puts all the elements in the same place, but we usually depict parents, animals, shepherds, and magi gathered around the manger. What is the significance of each of these things for the meaning of the nativity? What does each these elements contribute to our understanding of this event.
  • Some traditions regard Mary as the model of discipleship.  If that is true, what attributes does a disciple have, based on what we know about Mary.

Activity Suggestions

When couples are expecting a baby they often prepare a birth announcement.  The birth announcement not only gives us information about the child (sex, length and weight) but sometimes they include some of the parent’s expectations for the child.  Pretend for a moment that you are Mary or Joseph, how would you write a birth announcement for Jesus?  Be as creative as you can be:  make it song (rock, country or rap), a picture, a video, a poem (or Spoken Word), even a tweet.  No matter what medium you choose remember to include the revolutionary words and/or ideas in Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).

For inspiration you might want to take a look at the hymn “Canticle of the Turning”, ELW #723.  The hymn was written by Rory Cooney (b. 1952) and is a paraphrase of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).  Cooney wrote the hymn to emphasize the radical nature of Mary’s words particularly how God renders the powerful powerless and raises up the lowly.  Even the tune chosen for this hymn reflects the radical nature of the text with its dance-like rhythm and wild flair.

Closing Prayer

Almighty and merciful God, we are not worthy to come before you but instead you come to us in Jesus and you call us to be Christ’s disciples in the world.  Through your call of Mary and Joseph you proclaim to us that we are never too young or too old to be your hands and feet in our world today.  By the Holy Spirit given to us in baptism, strengthen our faith, calm all our fears, and give us the courage to serve you and our neighbor in lives of service.  As your sons and daughters we make a difference in this world on your behalf.  To you be all glory and honor now and forever.  Amen.