Mennonite Church USA’s 2021 Advent at Home devotional, “Dare to Imagine,” was written by Talashia Keim Yoder, pastor of Christian Formation at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana.
We invite you to wait for Jesus as we share weekly reflections and activities for all ages. Download the full Advent At Home worship guide.
Week four: God’s loving face!
Week of December 19
Focus Scripture: Luke 1:39-55
Additional Lectionary Scriptures: Micah 5:2-5a; Psalm 80:1-7; Hebrews 10:5-10
Weekly worship ritual
Connect to the “big story”
God created a good world. We were created to live peacefully, but we often miss the mark. When that happens, we have to deal with the consequences, but God sticks with us. Our whole story is a story of God sticking with us. In the Bible, God called Abraham and Sarah’s family to be a blessing to the earth, and even when they missed the mark, God stuck with them. When the people were in slavery and cried out to God, God stuck with them by sending Moses to lead them. When the people of God had a hard time understanding how to live God’s law of love in community, God sent leaders like Joshua, judges like Deborah, and prophets like Samuel to bring the people back to God.
The people wanted to be ruled by kings. Things didn’t always go well under kings, and the kingdom divided in two. Both of these kingdoms eventually were invaded by other nations. Some people were taken away into exile, and some were left in the ruins of the land. God continued to stick with the people, often through calling prophets, who pointed the people back to God and back to a community of shalom. Eventually, the exiled people were allowed to return home. They began to hope for a Messiah.
That Messiah was announced to a young Galilean woman named Mary, when an angel told her she was to bear the Christ. She courageously responded with, “Let it be,” and that’s the beginning of God becoming God incarnate — forming as an infant in her womb, with a body to be born into the world. This last week before Christmas, the Scripture dares us to imagine God’s loving face.
Tell the story: Luke 1:39-55
If you have the Shine On story Bible, this passage is part of the story on page 161.
Talk about it: Choose a few of these prompts to explore:
- This passage provides us with some interesting time markers. Verse 26 says, “in the sixth month.” What is this the sixth month of? It’s the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Imagine time is being measured by gestation. Then Mary leaves three months later. Do that gestation math.
- Get out your map and find Galilee, then find the hill country of Judea (the area around Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron). Trace Mary’s travels as a young pregnant woman in first century Palestine.
- Like the song of Zechariah, this passage is full of quotes and references to Jewish Scripture. If you’re curious, break out the study Bible and look up a few of these references!
- Mary’s song paints a picture of a powerful and good God. It’s also a very political song. Mary’s God is a threat to the establishment!
- There are a lot of woman-to-woman connections here. Mary-Elizabeth, of course, but also Mary-Hannah-Deborah (all women who sang some similar songs), and Mary-Sarah (“Nothing will be impossible with God,” from Luke 1:37 is a direct quote of what was said about Sarah’s pregnancy with Isaac).
- Notice in Mary’s song all the bodily references to God: God looks, has arms, scatters, brings down, lifts up, feeds, sends and helps. This is an active God!
- God became flesh. God developed inside a woman’s womb. A mother waited with anticipation to see the face of her baby. This is miraculous and mysterious, and a little bizarre!
Imagination Station: How did this story prompt you to imagine and create?
Daily worship ritual
- Light two purple candles, then the pink candle, then the last purple candle and say something like, “Jesus brings God’s hopeful goodness! Jesus brings God’s peaceful embrace! Jesus brings God’s joyful song! Jesus is God’s loving face!” If you want to keep it simpler, say, “Jesus brings hope. Jesus brings peace. Jesus brings joy. Jesus brings love.”
- Read part of Luke 1:39-55 or one of the other lectionary Scriptures for the week. Alternatively, read the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke 2:1-20.
- “Imagine the Journey:” Move Mary and Joseph a little closer to the Nativity scene.
- Prayer: God, you are miraculous and mysterious. You do big and powerful things and small and intimate things. Make us bold enough to imagine your loving face looking upon us with favor! Amen.
- Blow out the candles.
- Sing a song of love.
Visit MC USA’s Faith Formation page to find a one-stop hub of formation resources for all ages, curated through an Anabaptist lens.