Wednesday, December 2, 2020



Magnificat: My Soul Magnifies the Lord

Week 1 December 2, 2020



In this Advent time of waiting and watching,

the words of the angel Gabriel break into our world:

“Greetings! The Lord is with you.

Do not fear, for nothing will be impossible with God.”

We respond with Mary to the angel’s message:

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord;

let it be with me according to your word.”

We join with Elizabeth to greet the mother of our Lord:

“Blessed are you among women,

and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

We echo Mary’s song of praise:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

In this Advent time of waiting and watching, let us pray:

Gracious God, you come to us in new and surprising ways.

You make the impossible possible.

Help us, like Mary, to answer your call,

that the light of Christ may spread to all the world.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.



The angel Gabriel from heaven came ELW 265

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Psalm 138

I give thanks to you with all my heart, Lord.
    I sing your praise before all other gods.
I bow toward your holy temple
    and thank your name
    for your loyal love and faithfulness
        because you have made your name and word
        greater than everything else.

On the day I cried out, you answered me.
    You encouraged me with inner strength.

Let all the earth’s rulers give thanks to you, Lord,
    when they hear what you say.
Let them sing about the Lord’s ways
    because the Lord’s glory is so great!
Even though the Lord is high,
    he can still see the lowly,
    but God keeps his distance from the arrogant.

Whenever I am in deep trouble,
    you make me live again;
    you send your power against my enemies’ wrath;
    you save me with your strong hand.
The Lord will do all this for my sake.

Your faithful love lasts forever, Lord!
    Don’t let go of what your hands
    have made.



Luke 1:26-45


26 When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, 27 to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” 29 She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. 31 Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. 33 He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son. 36 Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. 37 Nothing is impossible for God.”

38 Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

39 Mary got up and hurried to a city in the Judean highlands. 40 She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 With a loud voice she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry. 43 Why do I have this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her.”

The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.



The Gospel text is two linked stories, which connect other stories in the Gospel. These stories all demonstrate God’s Spirit entering into the human world, into human history.


Luke begins by telling how Elizabeth became pregnant, because of divine intervention through Zechariah, her husband. Six months later, Mary herself has a visit Angel Gabriel, who tells her she will become pregnant and bear a child who will be the Savior of the world. Mary accepts the words of Gabriel. Soon after she runs to the town where Elizabeth and Zechariah live, where she stays, presumably to help them until the baby comes.


I have long been fascinated by this story. As a young mother, I was in a women’s circle with other women who were also young mothers. Those who were not mothers were elementary school teachers. Often during our meetings, the conversation turned to topics related to children – being pregnant, giving birth, raising children, teaching them right from wrong as well as their ABCs.


So, it’s easy for me to imagine these two women bonding over their unusual pregnancies and the births of their unusual children. They must have been wonderful support for each other in the days and even years to come as they raised these boys.


I love these stories, too, because they remind us of how human Jesus was. He was born into a regular family – well, sort of, once we get past the unwed mother status and the Joseph issue. It seems that Jesus was raised in a normal household, with parents, grandparents, and extended family. And siblings.


This reminds us that Jesus knows so well what it is like to be human, to be raised with the same family dynamics of love and rivalry that you and I experience. We know Jesus’ family wasn’t wealthy; tradition teaches us that they were poor, or at least poor-ish. If Joseph was a carpenter, did he have his own shop, or was he an employee? Some speculate that Joseph was a manual laborer, probably a stone cutter, working in a quarry. If that’s true, he was likely quite poor.  


These stories of Jesus conception and birth tell us that God wants us to know how much God cares about us. That God would become human, and experience all that humans experience, love, trauma, physical and emotional and spiritual pain, tells us a lot about God’s heart.


God rejoices when we rejoice, weeps when we weep, loves when we love. This Advent season, while we wait with Mary for the birth of her son, let’s be aware of his already-and-not-yet presence among us. Let’s look for him, let’s turn to him, let’s be ready to share him with those who are also looking for him.






The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!



A list of prayer concerns is gathered.

Each portion of the prayers ends with these or similar words.

O God for whom we long,

show us your mercy.



Gathered into one by the Holy Spirit, let us pray as Jesus taught us:


Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.



Let us bless the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

The God through whom all things are possible

grant you grace, mercy, and peace.




My soul proclaims your greatness ELW 251

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Copyright © 2020 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved.

Scripture from Common English Bible © 2011



Sunday, November 29, 2020

Oh, that you would come down to us!


Isaiah 64:1-9; Mark 13:24-37

Today, we begin a new liturgical year, a year of reading Mark’s story of Jesus’ life. Each Gospel writer has his own audience, his own purpose for writing, his own interpretation of the events, and his own writing style.

 Mark’s gospel is the first to be written, around 30 years after the crucifixion and resurrection. It is the shortest, with only 16 chapters. And it reads as if Jesus was in a hurry, or as if Mark was in a hurry for us to hear the story. The Gospel is heavily sprinkled with the word “immediately.” As we read we’ll note that Mark often says, “This happened, and then immediately, that happened.”

When we read anything, from a novel to a scientific study to scripture, it is helpful to keep the opening sentences in mind, as they set the stage for what is to follow. So, let’s take note of what Mark says first: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” We know at once what Mark is going to tell us. The Gospel literally means good news. Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one. Jesus is the Son of God.


The Gospel ends with the women at the empty tomb and an angel telling them that they should go to Galilee because they will see Jesus there. The ending echoes the beginning of the Gospel. The empty tomb is good news.

 As we begin the church year with the season of Advent, we don’t begin with stories of the conception of Jesus. We begin with readings about why Jesus came. Jesus came because the world was in a mess, the people were hurting, and God knew they needed some good news. God knew they needed a different way of seeing the world and a different understanding of the Divine.

 Every time the world seems to be in a real mess, there is a lot of talk and speculation about the end of the world, about Jesus’ second coming. Right now, there are wars, hurricanes, and a global pandemic. Wouldn’t this be a great time for Jesus to come again? Wouldn’t this be a good time for God to come and take all the good, believing folks out of this mess?

  Except, that’s not how God works. God calls us to be God’s hands on earth, to help fix the mess we are in. God called Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, David and Isaiah to help fix the mess people were in. God did not take them out of the world, but called and trained them to do God’s work among the people.

 Isaiah said, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” Just so, Jesus came down to us. God sent Jesus, God’s son, God with skin and voice and power on earth, to teach us how to be God’s hands, feet, and voice among the people. Jesus trained and sent the disciples who trained and sent others, in an endless chain of people called and send by God to be God’s hands and voice in the world.  

Look for these signs, Jesus said. There will be cosmic signs, the sun and the moon and the stars will tell the story of God’s power and glory. And there will be signs from nature. Just as we know the fig tree is about to bloom and bear fruit when it sprouts leaves, so there will be signs of God’s coming.

The early church leaders took Jesus’ words as a sign that he would come again soon, in a blaze of glory. Perhaps even Jesus thought this would be God’s way. But, as the years and decades and centuries passed, it seemed less likely that Jesus’ coming would be any time soon. And, every time the world seems to be in a mess, expectations of Jesus’ return abound.

 But, Mark doesn’t seem to be saying this. The good news for Mark is that Jesus is God’s son, and the tomb is empty. The good news is in the cross, which changes everything. For Mark, the cross is God’s sign that death is not the last word, that we do not have to earn a place in God’s heart, that God wants to give us life not punishment.

For Mark, then, Jesus has already returned. The glory of Easter morning is the sign from the sun and moon and stars that Jesus mentioned. Instead of waiting for a glorious return when God will make everything right, we should be alert, looking for signs of Jesus all around us, now, today.

The readings in Advent help us get ready for the birth of baby Jesus by reminding us, year after year, of the reason for his coming. They help to prepare our hearts for the gift we will receive, for the gifts we continue to receive.

So, Advent reminds us to notice, to pay attention, just as I said last week. Here’s another opportunity to consider “Where do we see Jesus?” What are some signs of his coming to live among us?

We see him in the manger, a huggable baby. This time of year, every baby we see reminds us of Jesus who came to us as an infant – at least as Matthew and Luke tell the story.




We see him in the children we know and love, and in the children we’ve never met. We remember how Jesus called the children to himself, welcomed them and told people that children are important.




We see Jesus in our neighbors, in the neighbors we know and love, those we only wave at, and those we don’t know. We see Jesus in all sorts of people, of every skin color and ability.


Especially during the last year, we see Jesus in essential workers, and those for whom they care. We see Jesus in those suffering from COVID, in those who die in ICUs without family, and in families who grieve their deaths.


And we see Jesus in each home where people are living in isolation. Even if we live alone, we are not alone, because Jesus lives there with us.



The Prayer of the Day for each Sunday in Advent begins, “Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.” It is a reminder of Isaiah’s cry, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!”

 God has heard our cry. Jesus came to earth with God’s power, and passed that power to us. It’s a reminder for us to stir up our own power and be Jesus for those who are looking for him. So, go and be Jesus for someone. Amen