4th Sunday in Advent, Year C

Micah 5:2-5a
Psalm 80:1-7
Hebrews 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)

Do you ever read the Preface to a book?

You know...the little preamble that a writer often gives us (the reader) before the book really Starts. Now we are not talking about the Foreword. The Foreword is often written by someone else other than that book's writer....usually talking about how this book or this writer is breaking new ground and finding new horizons, etc.

The Preface can be such a wonderful warm up to the book itself. Sure, sometimes it is a drag, but so many times we get the chance to sort of step in to the writer's head a little. We get an understanding of the intention of what the purpose of the book is and how it is arranged and how it is intended to develop. Sometimes the Preface is the most coherent part of a book!

We see the season of Advent as something of a Preface. Especially the writings that are chosen for the Advent lectionary cycles. The writings of the prophets and the writings of the gospels are all attempting to set the stage for the purpose, intention, and scope of the life of Christ.

This week in particular, the selected scriptures read like the Preface to the story of Jesus that is about to begin.

First, in Micah we hear the words of a prophet who was hoping and expecting a difference to occur. In a day when most of the other prophets (he was writing in about the same time as Isaiah) were singing the praises of Jerusalem / Mount Zion, he singled out Bethlehem as the place from which the Messiah would come. He was looking toward how things would be different one day when the fortunes of Israel changed again.

The next bit of Hopeful Preface we receive comes from the Psalmist. He prays, as he does so often, that there might be restoration. He prays for a future that will be better and different from the anger, tears, scorn, and derision his people are currently experiencing.

In the passage from Hebrews the writer imagines what sort of conversation Jesus might have had....sort of what Jesus might have written as his own Preface before coming in to the world. The purpose of the passage is to help further explain the purpose and intention of the coming of Christ. Now remember that this passage is written to an early Christian community AFTER Christ's ministry, death and resurrection. We as readers are invited to read this as preface, but in reality it was a bit of an epilogue.

And finally we have the beautiful story of Mary (the mother of Jesus) visiting her cousin Elizabeth. At this point, we know that Mary knows Who / What she was carrying, and we know that her Older (barren) cousin Elizabeth had been graced to give birth to John (later to become John the Baptist / John the Baptizer / Saint John the Forerunner). And when Mary walks in, Elizabeth calls out, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord." Then Mary goes on to give a bit of a Preface to the life she was carrying in her womb.

Have you ever thought of your life as a Preface to something to come?
Is there any chance that you are being prepared for some great work to come?
How are we invited during advent to use the season as Preface to something that is next?
Are you familiar with the phrase, "The past as Preface?" What of our shared past as children of Abraham and/or as Christians may be Preface?

My soul magnifies your work
and my spirit rejoices in you.
Let my life be preface and testament
To the birth of a New Kingdom
Where peace and love reign.
Let me be an instrument of mercy
and justice and kindness
according to Your will.

© matt & laura norvell 2009 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.

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