Fourth Sunday in Advent

December 20, 2020

Watch our live-streamed worship service:

You can follow the liturgy and hymns here:

We have been working our way through the ‘Songs of the Season’ this Advent, beginning with the prophet Isaiah, then Zechariah’s song of praise and Mary’s Magnificat. Today we get to hear the shortest song, but one that we remember every Christmas – the Angels’ Song to the Shepherds. May God bless our reading of the Word:

Luke 2:8-20

  • This is such a familiar story for most of us, one we’ve seen performed at pageants countless times. What keeps the story fresh for you this Christmas? Take a few minutes to watch this unique re-telling: How does hearing children re-tell this narrative give us a new perspective?
  • Read the story through slowly, practicing St. Ignatius’ sacred imagination. If you were one of the shepherds in the field, what would you touch? smell? hear? see that night? How does this practice make the text come alive for you?
  • When you picture an angel, what do you imagine? Though ‘Precious Moments’ might have us believe that angels are gentle and sweet, these heavenly beings are fierce! Read the description in Ezekiel 1:4-14 or Daniel 10:5-6; how would you draw such a being? How would you feel if you saw one? Do you think the shepherds had good reason to be “terrified” (verse 9)?
  • Angels are messengers of God (as we see Gabriel coming to Zechariah and Mary in Luke 1), and these angels are bringing the shepherds “good news of great joy for all people” (verse 10). Consider each part of that phrase. What ‘good news’ are you longing to hear from God this Christmas? What has brought you ‘great joy’ this year and how have you shared it? The shepherds are an example of this message being for ‘all people’ – they aren’t priests or rulers – just every-day, common workers. We’ve all discovered this year how essential some of those people on the margins of our society are to keeping everything going. How do we make sure they are included in our Christmas celebrations?
  • Angels are also the warriors of God. The “heavenly host” is an army (2 Kings 6:15-17 and Revelation 12:7), but this multitude is singing about peace. What do you make of this juxtaposition? Luke begins the chapter by reminding the reader that these were the days of Emperor Augustus, whose famous Pax Romana brought ‘peace’ throughout the empire by having garrisons of Roman soldiers occupy conquered lands. How is the peace and shalom of God different and deeper than the mere ‘absence of conflict or opposition’? What does it mean to call the baby in the manger ‘Lord’ rather than the emperor? What sort of Kingdom does Jesus rule? How are we called to live in it now?
  • The shepherds run from the fields “with haste” (verse 16) to see this child the angels have told them about, foreshadowing the disciples that will leave their nets to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:19-22). When you were called to be a disciple, was there anything you left behind to follow Christ? The shepherds continue to praise God and amaze others who hear their story. How are you called to give witness to what God has done in your life? Why is it important to share our testimonies with one another? How does it encourage you to hear what the Holy Spirit is doing for someone else?

“Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (verse 19). The shepherds return to the fields and continue in their routines, but I don’t think they ever forgot the miraculous Angels’ Song. We all carry this well-known Christmas story in our hearts, and as cliché as it may sound, part of our discipleship is to share the joy and hope and peace of this season all year long. May we do so as gladly as the shepherds!

Christmas Blessings to you all this week! Pastor Maggie Rust

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