The Fourth Sunday in Advent

those who dream...are not alone (love)

focal scriptures Luke 1:26-45 | 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
big ideas This week, we recognize what preceded Mary’s song of praise: news that was disorienting and bewildering, possibly threatening her life. Together, Mary and Elizabeth find courage and comfort in spite of their unusual circumstances. We, too, are called to carry, support, and encourage one
another’s dreams.

Guiding Questions:
* Imagine the story from Mary’s perspective. Why does she flee to Elizabeth’s house? How does she receive and process the angel’s news? What thoughts and emotions wash over her? What does this calling require of her?
* Now imagine the story from Elizabeth’s perspective. Imagine the feeling of deep knowing—ignited within your own core—that something is real and very, very good. How would you respond to that feeling?
* Mary’s Magnificat emerges only after she retreats to Elizabeth’s house. Her joy and confidence emerges and is sustained only through the support of her cousin—Elizabeth confirms that the dream and promise is real. What might have happened if Mary carried this news in isolation?
* Mary’s song proclaims good news for the lowly and the marginalized—her song is not just about her. Her dream is shared and supported by family. What does this show us about how God works through community—through collective action? How does this dispel notions of a solitary hero or heroine?

Quotes & Resources for Inspiration
“If we carefully read the story . . . we know that Mary did not have her baby by herself. The gospel of
Luke tells us that, from the very beginning of her pregnancy, women play central roles. Elizabeth, upon
hearing Mary’s news, celebrated and rejoiced in it. She celebrated the role that her relative would play in
the liberation of their people, as well as bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise to make straight the
crooked lines in life. A careful reading of Luke tells us that both Elizabeth and Mary are sisters in struggle,
united in their common vision of freedom for their people. They are bold and audacious prophets who dare
to speak out in a terrorist state. They speak, knowing that their words can get them killed. From the very
beginning, Mary and Elizabeth alert us to the fact that they are subversives who refuse to use their bodies
as breeding machines for the state.”
—Ruby Sales. “A Christmas Message.” The SpiritHouse Project. December, 2007.

“If Mary’s fear had subsided by seeing her cousin face-to-face, then surprise replaced it. Surprise, because
until that moment, Mary had been caught up in the ‘oh no’ parts of her life. She was very young, engaged,
still at home with mom and dad, and now pregnant with God’s baby. Those are a lot of “oh no’s” to handle
all at once. And those ‘oh no’s’ dominated Mary’s mind. Those ‘oh no’s’ caused her to forget what else that
angel had said to her on that day. Mary had forgotten what the angel had called her when he first laid his
holy eyes on her face. ‘Greetings, favored one,’ the divine messenger proclaimed. ‘The Lord is with you.’. . .
Mary had forgotten that beginning part of their conversation until Elizabeth’s reaction of joy and confidence
reminded her. Mary had been so caught up in the fear, in the haste, in the ‘oh no’ parts of her life, she had
completely forgotten the angel first addressed her as favored one, as one her God claimed.”
—Shannon Kershner. “Singing Mary’s Song.” Preached at Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, on December 20, 2015.

“By greeting Mary with honor, Elizabeth overturns social expectations. Mary is an unmarried pregnant
woman. She might expect social judgment, shame, even ostracism from her older kinswoman. Yet Elizabeth
knows from her own experience the cost of being shamed and excluded. In her culture a woman’s primary
purpose in life was to bear children, so as an elderly, infertile wife she had endured a lifetime of being
treated as a failure. . . . Elizabeth continues the pattern of social reversal by opening her arms and her home
to a relative whom her neighbors would expect her to reject. Instead of shaming Mary, she welcomes, blesses,
and celebrates her, treating her as more honorable than herself. . . . Elizabeth’s words and actions invite
us to reflect on our own openness to the ways that God chooses to act in our world. What is God doing
through unexpected people in our society today? Where is God at work through people whom our neighbors
and fellow church members often exclude or treat as shameful? Will we listen to the Spirit’s prompting when
the bearers of God’s new reality show up on our doorstep?”
—Judith Jones. “Commentary on Luke 1:39-45, (46-55).” Working Preacher.