Cradle and cross are inextricably connected on the fourth Sunday of Advent. Between a lovely tribute to the little town of Bethlehem and Mary’s magnificent song of praise, the letter to the Hebrews reminds us in no uncertain terms that Christ’s advent is for “the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” It is the kind of tension in which the church always lives as when in holy communion—with high delight—“we proclaim the Lord’s death.”
Prayer of the Day
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that binds us, that we may receive you in joy and serve you always, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Readings and Psalms
Psalm: Luke 1:46b-55
First Reading: Micah 5:2-5a
2But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
3Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
4And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
5aand he shall be the one of peace.
Psalm: Luke 1:46b-55
46bMy soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
47my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for you, Lord, have looked with favor on your lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
49you, the Almighty, have done great things for me
and holy is your name.
50You have mercy on those who fear you,
from generation to generation.
51You have shown strength with your arm
and scattered the proud in their conceit,
52casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.
53You have filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
54You have come to the aid of your servant Israel,
to remember the promise of mercy,
55the promise made to our forebears,
to Abraham and his children forever.
Second Reading: Hebrews 10:5-10
5Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body you have prepared for me;
6in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
7Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’
(in the scroll of the book it is written of me).”
8When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Gospel: Luke 1:39-45
39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”