Let It Be

23 December 2018 – Fourth Sunday in Advent

Luke 1:39-55

The story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth is . . . set after two annunciations of miraculous births and before two songs of praise in response (Mary’s and Zechariah’s). Retelling the familiar story can be made fresh by comparing the accounts. . .

Mary hurries to make an unplanned and unaccompanied journey of some days to the rugged hill country. . . In what may be a reversal of custom, the visitor greets the host, but the response comes first from the baby in the womb. . . and then from Elizabeth. . . [who] apparently knows Mary’s news already and cries out words framed with blessing.

. . . The young woman receives honor from her older relative. . . The blessing is in a sense returned as Mary sings, “all generations will call me blessed,” because God has looked with favor on the lowly state of his servant (vv 46–48, cf. 1:28, 38). As she sings it, Mary’s story becomes a paradigm for “those who fear him, from generation to generation” (v 50) and an early statement of Luke’s central theme.

. . . We may say that the Magnificat takes up Elizabeth’s story and connects it with the older stories of children who are born to those who had none (Abraham and Sarah, Hannah and Elkanah). Like Hannah, Mary connects her story (vv 46–49) with all who are in need (vv 50–55). . . New is the bold claim that this is the way God will fulfill the promises made to Abraham and his descendants through her son. . . –– Paul E. Koptak

Micah 5:2-5a

Micah predicted the destruction of city and temple (3:9–12), and the fall of Israel’s ruler (5:1), but here he holds out hope for a future ruler who will come from Bethlehem, birthplace of King David. . . There will be a time when the nation is abandoned, but when this leader is born, the kindred will return. . . The anticipation of a special birth resembles Isaiah 7:14–16, and the promise to David of an everlasting dynasty may stand in the background (2 Samuel 7). The strength and character of this shepherd (v 4) also reminded the early Christian writers of Jesus, descendant of David, whose greatness and kingdom has no end (Luke 1:32–33), while the common image of the good king as shepherd for the flock points to the narratives of Jesus’ care for all people. –– Paul E. Koptak

Hebrews 10:5-10

Repeatedly, the writer of Hebrews uses quotes from Psalms to explain the superiority of Christ’s new covenant sacrifice over the older system. While many reasons are offered throughout, here it is God’s desire for obedience over burnt offerings and sin offerings (cf. 1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6:6; Psalm 51:16–17) that establishes Christ’s offering as effective and final. . . . The deliverance prayed for and promised means that the great shepherd must offer his life for the sheep (Isaiah 53:5–6). –– Paul E. Koptak

Paul E. Koptak is professor of communication and biblical interpretation at North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.

Homily Service 40, no. 1 (2006): 41-51

David Turnbloom