Advent 4 Yr C (12/23/12)

11 Dec

Micah 5:2-5a

Hebrews 10:5-10

Luke 1:39-45(46-56)

 

Canticle 3 or 15, or Psalm 80:1-7

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.  Surely, from now on generations will call me blessed.”  (The Magnificat – from Luke)

 

Opening Questions

  • How can we enhance empathy (which seems to have catalytical power to build relationships)?
  • Where (and from whom) do you find hope in our world today?
  • How can children be catalysts for change in their parents?

 

Appointed Passages[1]

Micah 5: 2-5a

2But you, O Bethlehem of Eph’rathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. 3Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. 4And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; 5and he shall be the one of peace.

  • In what ways does the description of “ruler” apply to Jesus (v. 2)?
  • What characteristics qualify someone to bear the title “the one of peace” (v.5)?

Hebrews 10: 5-10

5Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; 6in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).” 8When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

  • What changes does the phrase “a body you have prepared for me” (v.5) require?
  • If “the Law” (v.8) is  to be replaced by a new era of something, how would you describe it? (i.e., “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired….in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure”)

Luke 1: 39-45 (46-56)

39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechari’ah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” 46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

56And Mary remained with her for about three months and then returned to her home.

  • In what way do the special feelings from a mother towards her children convey a spiritual quality?
  • How does the concept of a virgin birth impact your perspective of the humanity of Jesus?
  • What, if any, actions did Mary’s role require beyond routine motherhood?

Comment

I am always in awe of the Magnificat, beginning with the phrase “My soul magnifies the Lord.”  It is an extremely compact way of capturing not only the sense of spiritual connection with God, but also the genuine hope that mothers feel in their role of creating and nurturing a new life.

There is a timeless sense of humble spirituality that accompanies the idea of a child on the way.  Mothers have a remarkable opportunity to live the value of giving of themselves to some one and some thing in an unabashed and unselfish way.  Humanity evolves, can be enhanced, and looks forward to creation of new people with new capacities for life.  Motherhood defines hope and a positive vision of the future.

Of course that positive vision of hope is tempered with the reality of raising a child – beginning with changing diapers, comforting a crying baby, teaching children values, and the grind of helping shape children’s perspectives as they grow.  This is the reality of the task of building character (intended for the child, but simply having children is a character building experience for parents).

Exemplary parenthood is difficult, but seems to depend on the ability to embrace a belief of positive joy and expectations for good.  This positive emotional energy would seem to reflect the sense of Mary in saying her “soul magnifies the Lord” .   I think it is the positive spiritual energy of hope emerging from our faith that transforms and enhances all of us when we embrace it in our hearts.  It can be a catalyst for the fundamental good in our actions.

There is another trait that I think, when combined with hope. makes for a dynamite combination.  It is what “good” mothers in particular (but all of us should develop) in order to improve how we relate with others.  The trait is empathy (the capacity to recognize and perhaps actually feel the emotions being experienced by someone else).  While Jesus (obviously) had spiritual connections beyond ordinary humans, we might describe him as having an unusual capacity for empathy.  It provided him the ability to reach into the core (soul?) of others and construct his actions with them appropriately – usually intended to help them.

This Christmas season, we can (and should) reclaim the fundamental value of giving to others.  That value is not determined by the gift itself, but it’s origin in coming from our heart.  The quote below by Oren Arnold is an excellent shorthand way of crystallizing the idea.  I pray for this Christmas season that all of our souls magnify the Lord, by considering the transformative power of hope and empathy both in our lives and those around us.

 

Quotes for Today:

Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.

Elizabeth Stone

When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments; tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become.

Louis Pasteur

Christmas gift suggestions:

To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.

Oren Arnold


[1] New Revised Standard Version of biblical passages

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