Fourth Sunday of Advent
Micah 5:2-5a; Luke 1:39-55
The Fourth Sunday of Advent is very often skipped and combined with Christmas celebration in cultures that are not predominantly Christian. Here in Taiwan, Christmas is not a national holiday, so people need to work on and around Christmas days as usual. There is also no break for Mary. She is pregnant and bearing a child. There’s no holiday for her in nurturing a life which is already leaping, bouncing, and forming in her womb, causing her all the changes and discomfort in her whole body’s various systems.
Bearing a child in the body is such a miraculous experience of human flourishing and participation in God’s creation. It is also an experience that is very special yet very common to the female gender. Nevertheless, it is not just a personal effort. Mary visited Elizabeth just as pregnant women need all kinds of help from family members as well as friends and neighbours. Joseph participated silently in the upbringing of Jesus.
Being able to bring up and nourish Jesus is very special for Mary and Joseph. Christians today can also participate in the continuing creation of God by responding to Jesus’ call to nourish and bring up a vision which takes much effort without breaks and will bring changes and discomfort to our bodies. For such participation to work: we must be willing to give up control; we have to work in partnership with others for a life-flourishing world and must stop and like Mary praise God for all the wonders we on our own cannot do.
And lest we forget, it is not in central Jerusalem, but in small town Bethlehem; not in imperial houses, but in mangers on the peripheries, where God is at work creating and nourishing a new world order. God is continuing to turn the world upside down to create a world of justice and peace.
-Lian Chin-Siong, Presbyterian Church in Taiwan
Lord, in our mundane and everyday lives, you come to us and create within us something new. Lord, as Mary and Joseph bear Jesus, may you also use us to bring about your kingdom. May you help us to glorify you even if glorifying you causes discomfort to our bodies. Amen.
Partner in Mission
Dear almighty God, We commend to you all the theological students in our member churches and in the wider ecumenical fellowship. Let them be rooted in their faith and spirituality but at the same time be open and respectful towards other traditions, theologies and also religious faiths. Help us to accept the diversity of the Christian faith and see it as a gift, which shows us the beauty of your creation. Let us recognise this diversity as a blessing which enriches us and unites us. Dear creator of all, we ask you to forgive us whenever we have thought a great deal of ourselves and looked down on others by not addressing them respectfully and humbly. Forgive us, Lord. Amen.
May you free the Christian churches from attempts at demarcation and open them to an ecumenism in which the common core truths are witnessed to and lived out together. Give the Christian churches the spirit of brotherhood, so that they may be a mouthpiece for charity, justice and peace. May you encourage church decision-makers to actively seek unity in ecumenism. Please gather the Christian churches together in one house of ecumenism and give new impulses in cooperation which will advance the path of reconciliation. Move the various Christian churches to deal with each other in a spirit of love and to grow towards a reconciled diversity, for which many people long for. We ask that you lead your church, which exists in so many forms in your world, on the path to unity. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Hundreds of refugees have died in the Mediterranean and in the middle of Europe in recent days. These people died not only because their boats were too old, but also because they were denied a safe route to Europe. We ask for forgiveness for the people and institutions who close their doors to refugees. We remember all the dead – including those we do not yet know about who are “disappearing” unnoticed. May you stand by their relatives and friends who now have to cope with this heavy loss. Accompany those who are waiting in their home countries with uncertainty for news of their refugee relatives. Lord, your son Jesus Christ was himself a refugee after his birth. You know the situation of the millions of people who are fleeing. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Benjamin Simon, Partner in Mission (Ecumenical – World Council of Churches)
Image credit: Benjamin Simon