Archive for the ‘Magnificat’ Tag

Feeling Uncomfortable   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Magnificat

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Micah 5:1-5

Luke 1:46-56

Hebrews 10:5-10

Luke 1:39-45

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The Fourth Sunday of Advent is, appropriately, a time to focus on the Messiah.  As I wrote in the previous post, Zephaniah 3:14-20 is not a messianic prophecy.  Micah 5:105 is, however.

The Magnificat is a beautiful and a familiar text.  Perhaps the main problem one has when reading a familiar text is going on autopilot.  I challenge you, O reader, as much as I challenge myself, to resist that temptation.  Read the Magnificat again, with eyes as fresh as possible.  Consider the theme of reversal of fortune; that theme is prominent in the Gospel of Luke.  Does that portrayal of God make you uncomfortable?  Does it challenge any of your values?

The Magnificat is one of the texts that remind me of an observation I read on the back of a church bulletin years ago:

The purpose of the Gospel is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

That description applies to the Gospel of Luke.

Then turn with me, O reader, to Hebrews 10:5-10, usually a text for Good Friday.  One may recall that the Passion Chorale is present in the Christmas Oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach.  Reading Hebrews 10:5-10 on this Sunday and hearing Hans Leo Hassler‘s Passion Chorale in the Season of Christmas reminds us of why the Incarnation occurred.

That becomes very uncomfortable quite quickly.  If we find it uncomfortable, we need to consider how Jesus felt on the cross.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN SWERTNER, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMNAL EDITOR; AND HIS COLLABORATOR, JOHN MUELLER, GERMAN-ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AENGUS THE CULDEE, HERMIT AND MONK; AND SAINT MAELRUAN, ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT EULOGIUS OF SPAIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOLEDO, CORDOBA; AND SAINT LEOCRITA; ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 859

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS WAYLAND, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAL PRENNUSHI, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1948

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/11/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-c-humes/

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Disclosing and Bringing Out Into the Open   2 comments

Above:  A Light Bulb in Darkness

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Exodus 1:8-2:10 or 2 Samuel 1

1 Samuel 2:1-10

2 Corinthians 1:3-22

Mark 4:21-34

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Nothing is hidden except to be disclosed, and nothing concealed except to be brought into the open.

–Mark 4:22, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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That timeless truth, contrary to what some argue, is not “fake news.”  No, it is the Gospel.  The Gospel is much like proper journalism; both exist to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.  So be it.

What do the assigned readings disclose and bring into the open?

  1. Exodus 1:8-2:10 exposes the perfidy of the Pharaoh, who ordered infanticide.  The text also reveals the morality and bravery of Shiphrah and Puah, Egyptian midwives and the the only women the passage names.  Exodus 1:8-2:10 affirms civil disobedience.
  2. 2 Samuel 1, read in the context of 1 Samuel 31, reveals that the man who claimed to kill King Saul was lying.  One may assume reasonably that this unnamed man was trying to gain David’s favor.  The text also reveals that David probably believed the man.  Some lies prove fatal.
  3. 1 Samuel 2:1-10, or the Song of Hannah, an influence on the much later Magnificat, reveals the faith of Hannah, mother of Samuel, and speaks of the terrifying judgment and mercy of God.
  4. 2 Corinthians 1:3-22 reveals St. Paul the Apostle’s spiritual maturity and his troubled relationship with the congregation in Corinth.
  5. The parables in Mark 4:21-34 reveal, among other things, that the Kingdom of God, simultaneously present and future, defies expectations by being invisible yet eventually public and by coming in small packaging.

We cannot hide from God, who knows everything, glorifies disobedient Egyptian midwives, aids distraught and faithful people, and who uses the death and resurrection of Jesus to effect new spiritual life in Christians.  We cannot flee from God, who often works in ways we do not expect.  We cannot hide from God, from whom both judgment and mercy flow.  We cannot hide from from God, who shines a flood light on secrets we hope to keep.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMÉ DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/18/devotion-for-proper-8-year-b-humes/

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Jesus and Categories   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Most loving Father, who would have us give thanks for all things

and dread nothing but the loss of thee:

preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties;

and grant that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the

light of thy love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 117

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1 Samuel 1:21-28

Galatians 3:23-29

Luke 1:39-56

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If one keeps reading past the pericope from 1 Samuel and continues into Chapter 2, one should recognize the similarity between the Song of Hannah and the Song of Mary (the Magnificat).  Those two stories, separated by centuries, tell of God intervening dramatically, for the benefit of many people, down to the present time.  The legacy of Samuel continues.  Regarding Jesus, any words I would offer here would prove inadequate.

St. Paul the Apostle, in Galatians 3:23-29, reminds us down the corridors of time that, in Jesus, many of our previous categories are irrelevant.  Jesus is the great eraser of categories that are human, not divine.  That is quite dramatic!

Do we love many of our categories more than Jesus?  That is a fine question to ask oneself at any time, but especially close to Christmas.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARA LUPER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC POET AND JESUIT PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY DOWNTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ROLAND ALLEN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MISSIONS STRATEGIST

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Happy Advent and Merry Christmas   1 comment

Above:  Magnificat

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Jeremiah 31:7-14

Luke 1:46-56

Romans 16:25-27

Luke 1:26-38

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Advent begins with foreboding and ends in joy.

The presence of texts related to exile (Jeremiah 31:7-14, for example) in Advent is notable.  The recollection of salvation history during Advent takes the church down the paths of exile and and exodus in glorious pericopes.  The image of Yahweh as a shepherd in Jeremiah 31fits easily with imagery of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

I have little to write about these assigned readings this week.  I could put on my academic hat, of course, but I prefer to wear the proverbial hat of a devotional writer at these times.  So I invite you, O reader, to read and internalize the poetry and the prose, and to let it inform who you become in God.

Happy Advent, and in a few days–for twelve days–Merry Christmas.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARA LUPER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC POET AND JESUIT PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY DOWNTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ROLAND ALLEN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MISSIONS STRATEGIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/08/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-b-humes/

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Judgment and Mercy, Part VI   1 comment

Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary

Above:   The Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Holy God, our righteous judge, daily your mercy

surprises us with everlasting forgiveness.

Strengthen our hope in you, and grant that all the

peoples  of the earth may find their glory in you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 9:1-16 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 9:17-26 (Friday)

Jeremiah 14:1-6 (Saturday)

Psalm 84:1-7 (All Days)

2 Timothy 3:1-9 (Thursday)

2 Timothy 3:10-15 (Friday)

Luke 1:46-55 (Saturday)

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Happy are the people whose strength is in you!

whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.

–Psalm 84:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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And woe to those who hearts are not set on the pilgrims’ way.  They are deceitful, advancing from evil to evil.  They cheat each other and lie.  They wear themselves out by working iniquity.  Those of them who claim to be religious preserve an empty, outward shell of religion.  God, who scatters the proud in their conceit and casts the mighty from their thrones, is not impressed with such people:

Speak thus–says the LORD:

The carcasses of men shall lie

Like dung upon the fields,

Like sheaves behind the reaper,

With none to pick them up.

–Jeremiah 9:21, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Yet this same deity is also God the merciful.  In the midst of judgment we read the following words:

For what else can I do because of My poor people?

–Jeremiah 9:6c, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Later we read:

Thus said the LORD:

Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom;

Let not the strong man glory in his strength;

Let not the rich man glory in his riches.

But only in this should one glory:

In his earnest devotion to Me.

For I the LORD act with kindness,

Justice, and equity n the world;

For in these I delight–declares the LORD.

–Jeremiah 9:22-23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Furthermore, as Luke 1:46-55 (the Magnificat), echoing the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, reminds us, God has filled hungry people with good things, sent the rich away empty, and remained faithful to divine promises.

What is one supposed to make of this seeming contradiction between divine judgment and mercy?  I propose, as I have written repeatedly in weblog posts, that good news for the oppressed is frequently bad news for the unrepentant oppressors.  Furthermore, one should consider the issue of discipline, for a responsible parent does not permit a child to get away with everything.  Judgment and mercy exist in balance with each other; God is neither an abuser nor a warm fuzzy.  God is God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-25-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Grace and Misfortune   1 comment

Flood

Above:   Flood, 1924

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-npcc-11224

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The Collect:

God of heaven and earth, before the foundation of the universe

and the beginning of time you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of salvation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide is to all truth by your Spirit, that we may

proclaim all that Christ has revealed and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 1:1-21

Psalm 124

Luke 1:46b-55

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…our help is in the name of Yahweh,

who made heaven and earth.

–Psalm 124:8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The theme of divine favor unites the readings for this day.  Daniel and his companions obey kosher food laws in a foreign land.  They are therefore healthier than they would have been otherwise.  They also gain the favor of a Gentile potentate.  Of course, their fidelity pleases God.  Psalm 124 thanks God for delivering the people from threats.  One might note that the Assyrian and Babylonian Exiles still occurred, of course.  Nothing in Psalm 124 denies the reality of both divine judgment and mercy, however.  And the Magnificat speaks of God’s favor for St. Mary (later of Nazareth) and the downtrodden.  The theme of the reversal of fortune, which is prominent in the Gospel of Luke, is on display in the passage from chapter 1.

I have learned the hard way that certain misfortunes come simply because one has breath.  Sometimes one is merely unfortunate–even in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Even then one is never alone, for God is ever-present.  Grace transforms unfortunate circumstances into occasions of abundant grace.  Even as one suffers God sets a table for one cup in the presence of one’s enemies, and one’s cup overflows.  One can, during times of adversity, speak as the author of Psalm 124 wrote:

Then water was washing us away,

a torrent running over us;

running right over us then

were turbulent waters.

Blessed be Yahweh for not letting us fall

a prey to their teeth!

–Verses 4-6, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 26, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EMILY MALBONE MORGAN, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE COMPANIONS OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF FRED ROGERS, EDUCATOR AND U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/devotion-for-wednesday-after-trinity-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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God, Challenging   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  The Visitation

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Micah 4:1-5 (December 22)

Micah 4:6-8 (December 23)

Luke 1:46b-55 (Both Days)

Ephesians 2:22-22 (December 22)

2 Peter 1:16-21 (December 23)

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And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord

and my spirit exults in God my savior;

because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.

Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,

for the Almighty has done great things for me.

Holy is his name,

and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.

He has shown the power of his arm,

he has routed the proud of heart.

He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.

The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.

He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy

–according to the promise he made to our ancestors–

of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.

–Luke 1:46-55, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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One function of rhetoric regarding the fully realized Kingdom of God is to criticize the errors of human social, economic, and political systems.  Exploitation of people, often via the artificial scarcity of wealth, has been a serious problem for a long time.  Many of the hardest working people are among the poorest, for many economic systems are rigged to benefit a relative few people, not the masses, and therefore the society as a whole.  Violence is among the leading causes of poverty and hunger, corruption frustrates poverty and creates more of it, and labeling groups of people “outsiders” wrongly for the benefit of the self-appointed “insiders” harms not just the “outsiders” but all members of society.  Whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves.  As even many antebellum defenders of race-based chattel slavery in the United States of America admitted, keeping a large population “in their place,” that is subservient to Whites, held back Whites and the entire society also.  After all, if keeping a large population “in their place” was to be a reality, who was going to keep them there without forgoing other tasks?  In human brotherhood free people could have advanced together, but slavery delayed the society in which it existed.

In Christ, we read in Ephesians 2, we are:

no longer strangers and aliens, but…citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.  In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord….

–Verses 19-21, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

2 Peter 1 reminds us “cleverly concocted tales” to quote The Revised English Bible (1989), form the basis of the declaration of the majesty and power of Jesus.  The oral tradition, which informs many canonical writings, has a flexible spine which preserves the core of stories yet permits variation in recall of minor details.  Nevertheless, the narrative retains its integrity, even if it contradicts itself about, for example, in whose house a woman anointed Jesus.  So, without committing the error of biblical literalism, I affirm that something happened and that we can have at least an outline of what that was.

This is a devotion for December 22 and 23, two of the last three days of Advent.  This is a time when I complain about the inaccuracy of many manger scenes.  The shepherds, from the Gospel of Luke, were at Bethlehem.  The Magi, from the Gospel of Matthew, were at Nazareth a few years later.  What are they doing in the same visual representations?  Why have more Christians, churches, and artists not paid attention to these details?  Regarding those details I acknowledge that, even if all of them are not literally true, something still happened and we can have some reliable idea about what that was.  Via the Incarnation God broke into human history and started a new chapter in the grand narrative of salvation.  That is no “cleverly concocted tale.”

God, via Jesus and other means, seeks to reconcile us to God and to each other.  Part of this reconciliation is the correction of social injustices, the perpetuation of which provides certain benefits to many of us while harming us simultaneously.  In baby Jesus we have a reminder that God approaches us in a variety of ways, some of which we do not expect.  We might miss some of them because we are not looking for them.  Our functional fixedness is counterproductive.

God’s glorious refusal to fit into the proverbial boxes of our expectations challenges us to think and act anew.  May we rise to the challenge.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2015 COMMON ERA

 THE FEAST OF JOHN ATHELSTAN LAURIE RILEY, ANGLICAN ECUMENIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/devotion-for-december-22-and-23-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Why the Birth of Jesus Occurred   1 comment

magnificat

Above:  Magnificat

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that would obstruct your mercy,

that willingly we may bear your redeeming love to all the world,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 1:1-18 (Monday)

1 Samuel 1:19-28 (Tuesday)

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (Wednesday)

Luke 1:46b-55 (All Days)

Hebrews 9:1-14 (Monday)

Hebrews 8:1-13 (Tuesday)

Mark 11:1-11 (Wednesday)

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My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 119

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Stories of and set in the context of angelic annunciations of conception and birth are, of course, appropriate for the days leading up to December 25.  In the previous post I dealt with the story of Samson.  These three days we have Hannah (mother of Samuel) and St. Mary of Nazareth (Mother of God).  To read Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2:1-10) now is appropriate, for it was the model for the Magnificat.

This is a time to celebrate new life.  I mean that on more than one level.  There is, of course, the birth of Jesus.  Then there is the new spiritual life–both communal and individual–available via Christ.  As we celebrate this joyous time of year–one fraught with grief for many people also–may we, considering the assigned readings from Mark and Hebrews, consider why a birth occurred.  The pericope from Mark tells of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.  The readings from the Letter to the Hebrews, after much Greek philosophical language, culminate thusly:

For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

–Hebrews 9:13-14, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

To the passage above I add that we must move along to the Resurrection, or else we will have Dead Jesus.  I serve the living Messiah, not Dead Jesus.  Christ’s Resurrection conquered evil plans, as the Classic Theory of the Atonement states correctly.

We find foreshadowing of the crucifixion in the words of Simeon to St. Mary:

…and a sword will pierce your soul too.

–Luke 2:35b, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

In a similar vein, one can sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” to the tune “Easter Hymn,” to which many people sing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.”  (The Methodist Hymnal/The Book of Hymns (1966) provides this option.)  Advent and Christmas lead to the crucifixion and the Resurrection.

That is why the birth of Jesus occurred.  Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE VICTIMS OF THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Advent and Christmas Message   3 comments

Advent and Christmas Message

Above:  The Beginning of the Draft of This Post

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And Mary said,

My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior….

–Luke 1:46-47, The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1993)

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One of the great virtues of High Churchmanship is having a well-developed sense of sacred time.  So, for example, the church calendars, with their cycles, tell us of salvation history.  We focus on one part of the narrative at a time.  Much of Protestantism, formed in rebellion against Medieval Roman Catholic excesses and errors, has thrown the proverbial baby out with the equally proverbial bath water, rejecting or minimizing improperly the sacred power of rituals and holy days.

Consider, O reader, the case of Christmas–not in the present tense, but through the late 1800s.  Puritans outlawed the celebration of Christmas when they governed England in the 1650s.  Their jure divino theology told them that since there was no biblical sanction for keeping Christmas, they ought not to do it–nor should anyone else.  On the other hand, the jure divino theology of other Calvinists allowed for keeping Christmas.  Jure divino was–and is–a matter of interpretation.  Lutherans, Anglicans, and Moravians kept Christmas.  Many Methodists on the U.S. frontier tried yet found that drunken revelry disrupted services.  Despite this Methodist pro-Christmas opinion, many members of the Free Methodist denomination persisted in anti-Christmas sentiment.  The holiday was too Roman Catholic, they said and existed without

the authority of God’s word.

Thus, as the December 19, 1888 issue of Free Methodist concluded,

We attach no holy significance to the day.

–Quoted in Leigh Eric Schmidt, Consumer Rites:  The Buying and Selling of American Holidays (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1995), page 180.  (The previous quote also comes from that magazine, quoted in the same book.)

Many Baptists also rejected the religious celebration of Christmas.  An 1875 issue of Baptist Teacher, a publication for Sunday School educators, contained the following editorial:

We believe in Christmas–not as a holy day but as a holiday and so we join with our juveniles with utmost heartiness of festal celebration….Stripped as it ought to be, of all pretensions of religious sanctity and simply regarded as a social and domestic institution–an occasion of housewarming, and heart-warming and innocent festivity–we welcome its coming with a hearty “All Hail.”

–Quoted in Schmidt, Consumer Rites, pages 179 and 180

Presbyterians, with their Puritan heritage, resisted celebrating Christmas for a long time.  In fact, some very strict Presbyterians still refuse to keep Christmas, citing their interpretation of jure divino theology.  (I have found some of their writings online.)  That attitude was more commonplace in the 1800s.  The Presbyterian Church in the United States, the old Southern Presbyterian Church, passed the following resolution at its 1899 General Assembly:

There is no warrant for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, but rather contrary (see Galatians iv.9-11; Colossians ii.16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the gospel in Jesus Christ.

–Page 430 of the Journal of the General Assembly, 1899  (I copied the text of the resolution verbatim from an original copy of the Journal.)

I agree with Leigh Eric Schmidt:

It is not hard to see in this radical Protestant perspective a religious source for the very secularization of the holiday  that would eventually be so widely decried.  With the often jostling secularism of the Christmas bazaar, Protestant rigorists simply got what they had long wished for–Christmas as one more market day, a profane time or work and trade.

Consumer Rites, page 180

I affirm the power of rituals and church calendars.  And I have no fear of keeping a Roman Catholic holy day and season.  Thus I keep Advent (December 1-24) and Christmas (December 25-January 5).  I hold off on wishing people

Merry Christmas

often until close to Christmas Eve, for I value the time of preparation.  And I have no hostility or mere opposition to wishing anyone

Happy Holidays,

due to the concentrated holiday season in December.  This is about succinctness and respect in my mind; I am not a culture warrior.

Yet I cannot help but notice with dismay the increasingly early start of the end-of-year shopping season.  More retailers will open earlier on Thanksgiving Day this year.  Many stores display Christmas decorations before Halloween.  These are examples of worshiping at the high altar of the Almighty Dollar.

I refuse to participate in this.  In fact, I have completed my Christmas shopping–such as it was–mostly at thrift stores.  One problem with materialism is that it ignores a basic fact:  If I acquire an item, I must put it somewhere.  But what if I enjoy open space?

I encourage a different approach to the end of the year:  drop out quietly (or never opt in) and keep nearly four weeks of Advent and all twelve days of Christmas.  I invite you, O reader, to observe these holy seasons and to discover riches and treasures better than anything on sale on Black Friday.

Pax vobiscum!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/nineteenth-century-evangelical-support-for-a-secular-christmas/

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http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/advent-and-christmas-message/

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Children of God Through Faith   1 comment

mother-and-daughter

Above:  Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun and Her Daughter, by Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come!

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that hinders our faith,

that eagerly we may receive your promises,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 7:18, 23-29

Luke 1:46b-55

Galatians 3:6-14

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Some Related Posts:

2 Samuel 7:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/week-of-3-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/devotion-for-august-18-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Galatians 3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/week-of-proper-22-thursday-friday-and-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/devotion-for-july-14-15-and-16-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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His mercy is for those who fear him

from generation to generation.

–Luke 1:50, The New Revised Standard Version

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The readings for today tell us that God has done mighty things.  God has made a shepherd the founder of a great dynasty.  And, through a descendant of that shepherd we have the Good Shepherd who has fulfilled the Law of Moses and extended the blessing of Abraham to Gentiles and made us children of God through faith.

This faith, in Pauline theology, is inherently active.  Thus Paul and James agree that works are essential.  The difference between Paul and James is purely semantic.  One defines faith as intellectual, and therefore dead without works.  The other conceives of faith as encompassing works.  This faith–this active faith–is something to celebrate all year, but especially at the cusp of Christmas, when we observe the birth of the one through whom we Gentiles are children of God through faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY ZACCARIA, FOUNDER OF THE BARNABIES AND THE ANGELIC SISTERS OF SAINT PAUL

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ADALBERO AND ULRIC OF AUGSBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF H. RICHARD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF WILLEM A. VISSER ‘T HOOFT, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/devotion-for-december-23-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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