Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Luke's Advent


This Sunday is the last Sunday of Advent, which means that Christmas is coming soon. Although Advent's lessons change on the three-year cycle, Christmas is always the same. Despite the lectionary's set options for Christmas Day, I don't know many preachers or churches that choose John 1 over Luke 2:1-20. And it's no surprise. Luke is the only gospel account that includes a birth narrative. His is the Christmas story our congregations know. That means that this year is special. It excites me that this year's Advent--Lectionary Year C--is also based in Luke.

Think about the gospel lessons we've heard during Advent this year: Luke's mini-apocalypse (21:25-36), the inauguration of John the Baptist's ministry (Luke 3:1-6), his message of repentance (Luke 3:7-18), and now Mary's visit with her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-55). Think also about the Lucan canticles that have gone with them: Zechariah's song at the birth of his son and Mary's song--a duplicate from Sunday's gospel lesson. Perhaps it goes without saying, but there's a remarkably Lucan focus this year in Advent. All of those lessons and canticles have had his peculiar theological approach in them. John's repentance as sharing coats and food and conducting one's self honorably. Mary's vision of the weak becoming strong and the powerful being brought down from their lofty places. Zechariah's prediction of those who dwell in darkness receiving a great light. If you're going to read the Christmas story, it helps to have read all of these in preparation.

Of course, the Christmas story doesn't need any background. The miracle of the incarnation stands alone. But Luke's telling of that story--in a stable and witnessed by shepherds--is the natural conclusion of all the time we've spent in Luke this Advent. This has been Luke's Advent. Christmas always belongs to Luke, but this year, to me, it will feel particularly rich because of the time we've spent preparing for it Luke's way. This Sunday is a chance to bring all of that together--to pull our Advent journey toward God's upside-down reordering of the world to its near conclusion. Then, we'll be ready to go to Bethlehem.

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