Key Bible Reading:
If you would like to look up the reading for yourself – simply click the link:
Set Readings for today (Fourth Sunday of Advent):
2Samuel 7:1-11, 16 – In many ways this seems a strange passage to be linking to Mary and the subject of Jesus’ birth as it seems to talking principally about building a Temple of stone and cedar in the time of King David. How can these two events be linked?
The answer comes in the form of what the Temple represents – the meeting place between God and Creation, heaven and earth. It is in this regard that vs 16 is interesting that such a meeting place needs to be created not by humanity but by God.
Of course, although David himself did not get to build a Temple, his Solomon did, and God did indeed make His home there. But we should not loose sight that ultimately it is God who does indeed build there house, how and wherever He chooses – it can be in a building, it can, and truly is, in His Son (often considered to be the ‘new’ Temple – the ‘new’ place of meeting), but it can also be in our hearts and minds. All of which are relevant and true – all of which involve not just human endeavour and partnership – but ultimately a willingness to submit and all “God to build the House” of His dwelling.
Romans 16:25-end – Paul is closing his letter with an incredible exultation. What is worth noting are two things. First, that the foundations of how God was to ‘save’ and reconcile the earth to Himself through the birth, life and death of His Son, was indeed sown into the fabric and story of the world from the very earliest of times but which was hidden until those who could God in Jesus could see the long and good line of evidence and breadcrumbs that God had sown to point them to this fact over many hundreds, if not thousands of years.
The second thing is that this message is not just for the few, “the Chosen,” the Jews, but indeed for all people – the Gentiles. Gentiles at the time of Paul were considered ‘other,’ somehow ‘lesser’ human beings than those created Jewish and in some sense ‘closer’ relationship to God. By saying this message of salvation is for Gentiles, Paul is saying this message is “for everyone,” not just a religious elite, either then or now. “God so loved the world,” the whole world and everyone in it as a child of God. Something to keep in mind in this age of ‘identity politics’ and so many labels of ethnicity, race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, whatever – that first and foremost 95-98% of who we are as human beings is the same, as a child of God, before ever we start looking at what makes us different.
Luke 1:26-38 – The story of the Annunciation is one of the best known of all biblical stories and leads us head-on into having to wrestle with the idea of supernatural intervention and in a most personal and intimate way as to lead to conception.
But however much we struggle, and certainly before we dismiss such a possibility out of hand, let us look very briefly at what such an event could be trying to communicate and say.
First and foremost the passage, in some way or other, is trying to fulfil the words we have heard previously in 2Samuel7 – that it is God, not us, who is choosing to make His ‘new tabernacle,’ His ‘new tent’ amongst us and within us.
Secondly, let us look at what such an initiative on God’s behalf means – it means the spiritual ‘wedding’ itself to the physical in a way from which it can never go back. Once, Immanuel, God with us has been born, God can never retreat again and hold humanity and creation at arm’s length. From here on is God is stating He is fully committed, whether we are or not to the purpose for which God sent Jesus in the first place.
And thirdly, we should not under-estimate the wonder that God, in all His majesty, glory and strength, Creator of the Universe, should choose to engage in such a venture ‘in partnership’ with humanity rather than imposing Himself upon it; choosing to ‘ask’ Mary’ rather than dictating, or assuming, or takin Mary for granted. Blessed be God Himself that He should wait and hope for our, “yes,” just like Mary gave that wonderful and beautiful day when all of heaven held its breath.
Hymns and Songs for Fourth Sunday for Advent: today we have been looking at how Mary has inspired musicians and songwriters over the years, in all genres and traditions, to compose music and song inspired by the story of Mary and the Nativity:
- As per previous weeks, we have begun our Advent service with “O come, O come, Emmanuel” as we have been playing it Sunday by Sunday to introduce our service.
- So to introduce our service once again, a beautiful live instrumental recording by Liz Chappell and Katie Davies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gG_ec1erv4&feature=youtu.be
- Also, as per the last few weeks – other versions of this very popular hymn are:
- set in the context of our Jewish roots with the Christian singer/songwriter Joshua Aaron in a concert recorded at the “Tower of David:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFoFOZmSIfY
- A more traditional version that we would sing in our English Churches – taken from Songs of Praise, with Lyrics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQ7gSOXQ6rs
- “The Angel Gabriel from heaven came”:
- Version by Liz, Hugh and Toby: (110) The Angel Gabriel – YouTube
- Version from King’s College, Cambridge: (110) The Angel Gabriel : Kings College, Cambridge – YouTube
- “What child is this” (set to the tune of Greensleeves):
– traditional version with Lyrics: (110) A Beautiful Christmas Carol – What Child is This – YouTube
- Cover version by The Petersens (American Bluegrass) – works well: (110) What Child is This – The Petersens (Live) – YouTube
- “Mary came with meekness” (tune Noel Nouvelet):
– Version with Liz, Hugh and Toby: (110) Mary came with meekness – YouTube
- Only other version we could find, version for sopranos: (110) Mary came with Meekness Soprano – YouTube
- “Tell out my Soul” (The Magnificat) – by Timothy Dudley-Smith:
- Song of Praise version (with Lyrics): (110) ARUNDEL CATHEDRAL-TELL OUT, MY SOUL – YouTube
- Cover Version by Sutton Coldfield Baptist Church (during Lockdown): (110) Tell Out My Soul – YouTube
- “Wexford Carol/The Magnificat” (Live) – by Keith and Kirsten Getty: (110) Wexford Carol/Magnificat (LIVE) – Keith & Kristyn Getty – YouTube
Thoughtful music to close your eyes and reflect upon one of the greatest events of history.
- “Christ our Emmanuel” by John Rutter (Choral Highlights 2020) – audio only, just released: (110) Christ our Emmanuel (SATB) – YouTube
On the theme of Mary:
- “You’re here” by Francesca Battistelli:
- Version with Lyrics: (110) Francesca Battistelli – You’re Here (Official Lyric Video) – YouTube
- Cover version with Jamie Afronso: (110) You’re Here- Jamie Alfonso (Francesca Battistelli cover) – YouTube
- “Breath of heaven” (Mary’s Song) – by Amy Grant. Modern take on the traditional words of the Magnificat: (110) Amy Grant – Breath Of Heaven (Mary’s Song) (Lyric Video) – YouTube
- “Perfect Love” (Mary’s Song) – by Darlene Zschech. Very powerful film/video clip (WARNING: from “The Passion of the Christ” – therefore “Adult content”) but very fitting: (110) Perfect Love (Mary’s Song) with lyrics – YouTube
- “Magnificat” (Mary’s Song) – by Christy Nockels. Modern setting of these familiar words. With Lyrics: (110) Magnificat – Mary’s Song (with lyrics) – YouTube
- “Mary did you know” – made famous by Pentatonix (Acapella artists):
- Pentatonix video version: (110) [Official Video] Mary, Did You Know? – Pentatonix – YouTube
- Version by Jamie Carter – sung in Church in front of the Crib: (110) Mary did you know – YouTube
- “Mary’s Song” – dramatized adaptation and expansion of what it means (2010.) Very good: (110) Mary’s Song – Christmas 2010 – YouTube
- “The Chosen” – Episode 1 – the worldwide phenomenon which is the world crowd funded TV adaptation of the Life of Jesus called “The Chosen.” Series 1 has already been released and funding for Series 2 is just about complete and due to be released over the Christmas period.
“The Chosen” can be obtained for free, either via YouTube (simply type in “The Chosen” or via an App, which can be downloaded to your Smartphone or Tablet.
Its all very exciting. Details of how to find Episode 1 on YouTube: (92) The Chosen: Complete Episode One – YouTube