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 two: God’s peaceful embrace!
Week of December 5
Focus Scripture: Luke 1:68-79
Additional Lectionary Scriptures: Malachi 3:1-4; Philippians 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6
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 were eventually invaded by other nations. Some of the 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 rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem, so we call this the Second Temple Period. They began to hope for a Messiah.
But before that Messiah came, God sent someone to go first, someone to prepare the people. Baby John, cousin to Jesus, was born to Zechariah and Elizabeth, an older couple who thought they couldn’t have children.
This week’s Scripture is the prophecy that Zechariah spoke when John was born. Sometimes we call it “Zechariah’s song.” These words describe what we sometimes call “shalom.” It means peace but also so much more than peace: wholeness, harmony, the community of all God’s creation in right relationship. The writers of the resource found in Leader magazine call it “God’s all-encompassing embrace.” When this little baby is born, his father speaks of God’s shalom of the past, present and future. He sees that this helpless little one is going to play an important role in what God is up to. Zechariah’s words prompt us to dare to imagine God’s peaceful embrace.
Tell the story: Luke 1:68-79
If you have the Shine On story Bible, this passage is part of the story on page 158.
Talk about it: Choose a few of these prompts to explore:
- These words were actually the first Zechariah had spoken for several months. Read Luke 1:5-25 to find out why.
- Zechariah catches God’s vision, one that is full of hope and peace, and his heart is so full that he bursts out with this song! When he does this, he becomes part of a long tradition. Miriam and Moses sang out in Exodus 15, Deborah and Barak did similarly in Judges 5, Hannah cried out in 1 Samuel 2, as did many others in Scripture! In Luke 1-3 alone, we have three songs (sung by Mary, Zechariah and Simeon). Look some of these up and note the similarities and differences.
- Notice that there are two distinct parts to this song. A big proclamation (vv 68-75), then a specific blessing (vv 76-79). Try reading it dramatically, with a shift at that spot, and see what new things you notice.
- This passage is commonly called the “Benedictus.” The name comes from the first couple of words, “Blessed be.” It has been an important part of worship for many Christians, including Anabaptists, throughout the centuries. For a contemporary Anabaptist take on the passage, check out this article by Mary Shertz (https://www.christiancentury.org/article/sunday-november-21-2010).
- Most of Zechariah’s song quotes and references Jewish Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament). If you’re intrigued, get out your study Bible and start looking them up!
- Notice what baby John’s job is going to be (vv 76-77). How can we prepare the way for Jesus in our daily lives?
Imagination Station: How did this story prompt you to imagine and create?
Daily worship ritual
- Light two purple candles and say something like, “Jesus brings God’s hopeful goodness! Jesus brings God’s peaceful embrace!” If you want to keep it simpler, say, “Jesus brings hope. Jesus brings peace.”
- Read part of Luke 1:68-79 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 surprise us and inspire us. Give us courage to sing your song and prepare the way for Jesus. Make us bold enough to imagine and see your peaceful embrace breaking into our world! Amen.
- Blow out the candles.
- Sing a song of peace.
Visit MC USA’s Faith Formation page to find a one-stop hub of formation resources for all ages, curated through an Anabaptist lens.