Preparing to Encounter | Advent Week 4 | 2018
Welcome to the Constant Source Weekly Advent series! This post is the fourth and final blog in our Advent series. If you didn’t read week one, two, or three, we recommend that you start here. If you missed week two, click here. If you missed just week three, click here to catch up.
Read: Luke 1:46-55
(Every Constant Source Weekly is inspired by four pieces of Scripture from all different parts of the Bible. One of those texts becomes the main foundation for the lesson and is interwoven throughout. Start by reading the text linked above.)
(Every Scripture reading is paired with a commentary section that explains the core themes of the passage, discusses the way the reading informs our faith, and helps interconnect all parts of the Bible. Read that next below.)
If you’ve been following along through our Advent series, then this scripture may seem familiar to you. As we’ve mentioned before, we follow the traditional schedule of the lectionary as the foundation for the scripture passages that we study each week. Sometimes passages can be very linear over the course of the month, but sometimes we get a unique variance that causes us to pause and reflect on the beautiful mystery that early Christians wanted to emphasize. The placement of our text this week seems to be chronologically out of place, but as we dive into the final Gospel text of the Advent season, we will begin to see the ways that it transitions us from waiting to encountering Jesus.
There is no better person to conclude the Advent season and to usher us into Christmas than the one who birthed Jesus. Mary’s song opens with praise and the recitation of an Old Testament scripture (Habakkuk 3:18). In verse 48, Mary declares that God has looked on her with favor and that now she may be called blessed for many generations to come. In the first couple of verses of Mary’s song, that which could easily be misconstrued as a boast is actually a reminder of the work that God is setting out to do through Christ. As we heard from John the Baptist who was quoting Isaiah, “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low.” This prophetic promise, which describes the ways that God is rebalancing creation, begins to come to fruition in the life of Mary. Mary was a teenage girl in a patriarchal society, which means that according to Jewish religious practices, she was both distant from God and held very little social capital. This is what she is recognizing about herself in verses 48 and 49. When she notes that she may be called blessed by future generations, she is pointing out that her story has been rewritten and that God is doing great things for her. Mary is the first person to preach and testify to the power of Christ at work within her life.
As Mary carries on in her message, verses 50-55 are filled with the ways that God has been faithful throughout history. Yet even though she is proclaiming past moments of faithfulness, she is also declaring that God’s work remains the same and that as the world encounters her son, God’s work is just beginning. As we conclude the Advent season and we reflect on the ways we’ve prepared ourselves to receive Jesus, we recognize that this is just the beginning of the work, both in our lives and in the world. During Advent, we remember past promises and celebrate the realization of those promises in the person of Jesus Christ.
As we shift our focus to Christmas day, it is important to reflect on who Jesus is. Who is this person, and what does this God-man mean to us anyway? During this season, we often talk about Christ as Emmanuel, God with us. I want to emphasize this point today because while we’ve all heard the phrase, I don’t think that we’ve allowed it to impact our theology enough. Our dependence on God with us needs to grow because while Jesus was with us, He changed everything. Athanasius, one of the early church fathers, talked at great length about the power of the almighty God, fully divine yet completely integrated into the fully human body of Jesus. He wrote that Jesus’s human body wasn’t a limitation, but an instrument. By being in the flesh of creation, Jesus wasn’t defiled; rather, He redeemed that which had strayed from its original, created form.* The truth of God with us is that when we encounter Christ, we are changed and transformed towards that which we were meant to be. This is what Mary sang about in our text today. This was echoed in the prophet Isaiah and the teachings of John the Baptist. But most importantly, this is true in our lives too. As we celebrate the life of Jesus in the months ahead, we will see time and time again throughout the Gospels places where Jesus is fixing, restoring, and rewriting. When God took on flesh, God infused the human situation, our reality, with the possibility of being reconciled back into right relationship with God. Jesus closed the gap between creation and the creator simply through being both. Advent has been a time to prepare ourselves to receive Christ and to encounter God. God is with us. I hope that your family will encounter Christ this holiday season.
*Athanasius, translated by Lawson, Penelope, and Lewis, C. S. The Incarnation of the Word of God: Being the Treatise of St. Athanasius, De Incarnatione Verbi Dei. New York: Macmillan, 1946. P. 45-46
(The reflection section provides prompts to help you think through what God is teaching you and how it applies to the world around you. Take 3-5 minutes to ponder and respond to each question below. We recommend keeping a journal to write in, so that you can revisit it later.)
How has focusing on Mary’s story broadened your perspective of the work that God is doing in the world?
How have you seen God rewriting your story?
Take time to reflect on what you know about Jesus and the stories of His actions that you can recall. Then consider that everything Christ did was an extension of that which God longed for in the world. How does this enrich your understanding of God with us?
(This section notes the other three scripture verses that come from the Lectionary and influenced the direction of the theme. Each reading helps you dive deeper into the Bible and provides a quick note on how that text applies to the theme. Finally, there is a reflection question for each verse as well.)
Hebrews 10:5-10 - In this text, the writer of Hebrews reminds the reader that Jesus Christ’s obedience on the cross has allowed for us to be sanctified. This is a particularly powerful Advent text because as we prepare to encounter Jesus, this text helps us to keep the end in mind. Through encountering Christ and Christ sacrificing His life for ours, we are given an opportunity for new life.
How does holding the end of Christ’s life in tension with the beginning of it make you feel? Whether it be solemnity or gratitude, share your feelings in prayer with God.
Micah 5:2-5a - In this text, Micah prophesies about the “ruler from Bethlehem,” which we know is Jesus. This reminds us of the way that Jesus cares for His people like a shepherd cares for his flock. This prophecy further nuances what it means to encounter Christ and names security and peace as byproducts of being in a relationship with God.
Jesus is often referred to as the Prince of Peace. How have you personally internalized that title? What does it mean to you?
Psalm 80:1-7 - In this text, the Psalmist is pleading for God to deliver and restore Israel. In the Advent season, this text reminds us of God’s faithfulness, while also declaring Christ’s mission in the world: to restore and redeem us.
We all recognize that the world around us is broken. The hope that comes with Jesus is that as we act like Christ and are present in the world, we too can help reveal the ways that God is on a mission to restore it. Pray that God would help you emulate Christ and be an instrument of restoration in the world.
Each week of Advent, we encourage you to set aside time for your family to come together and create space to intentionally focus on preparing your hearts for the coming of Jesus Christ. We recommend Sunday evenings, as it is the traditional time that the Advent story has been shared in families for hundreds of years, but any time when you can gather together will work great. To help you navigate this time, each week you will find a reading from the traditional Advent story, discussion prompts, questions, a thematic song, a craft, and a prayer. We pray that your time will be filled with the Holy Spirit and that God would prepare your hearts this Advent season for the coming of the Messiah.
Jesus Is Born | Advent Story | Luke 2:1-21
(This section is to help you see the connection between what you studied above and the Advent story we are going to share below.)
The time has come! Christmas is just around the corner. As we talked about above, when Jesus encountered the world, the world was never the same again. Similarly, when we encounter Jesus, everything changes in our lives too. Advent has allowed us to create space to prepare for Jesus’s coming. Now that Jesus is here it’s time to talk about how things have changed. As we read through Luke 2 we will be talking about how things are different for our main characters now that Jesus has come.
Begin by recapping Advent and ask your kids what they remember from the previous three weeks.
Read, or have one of your older children read, Luke 2:1-21.
Ask your family: What is going on in this story? Who are the key characters?
Have your family close their eyes imagine what it would be like to meet baby Jesus in a stable. Ask them what they would see, smell, and hear.
Share what you learned about worship this week with your kids. Emphasize the ways that encountering Jesus changes everything. Share with your kids how your life is different because you have encountered Jesus.
Ask: How did you think the lives of each of our main characters changed because of Baby Jesus? (This can be tangible day to day things like caring for a child or internal things like the Shepherds having a new outlook on life after encountering an angel and then the promised Messiah.
With Older Kids: Ask them their thoughts about having this time together. Talk about ways that this family time could become more routine.
Craft | DIY Nativity Scene | Jesus in the Manger
Over the course of these four weeks, we have been using our craft time to create a DIY nativity scene with our family. By creating a tangible and tactile implementation of the Christmas story, our young ones will be better able to process through the story and then can retell the story through the use of their nativity as a prop. You will also have a great keepsake decoration to help you revisit memories for years to come.
NOTE: If you have multiple kids who are going to participate in the creation of the nativity scene, you can either divvy up the steps and who gets to paint each doll or you can create an extra set to gift to a relative. Just be sure that you purchase enough peg dolls.
TWO NEW SUPPLIES FOR THIS WEEK
If you purchased supplies last week, you should have everything else that you need.
Wooden Peg Dolls (3 “Mom” Dolls will be used for this craft, but we will use many of these dolls throughout.)
Step 1: Build Manger
The manger is definitely the harder of the two steps this week and is a lot easier with two sets of hands. Also, this step involves cutting popsicle sticks. Sharp cutting tools work best, so please be careful. To build the manger, cut three popsicle sticks in half and trim the ends. Then line up the halves side by side in pairs. Glue them together, using smaller popsicle stick pieces as support (see image). These become the bottom and two sides of the manger. With a partner, glue one side to the bottom by having one person hold them together in an “L” shape, while the other person puts a line of glue down the seam. After the first seam dries, repeat to attach the other side of the manger. Measure and cut popsicle sticks for the open ends and then glue them on. If you want, you can cut small yellow pipe cleaner to fill your manger before adding Jesus.
Step 2: Paint Jesus
If you’ve been following along for the last three weeks, we are going to be using the same steps for baby Jesus as we have for our other characters. The outline for baby Jesus is really simple, just draw a small circle on the head of the doll. Then paint the face brown and everything else white. Then add a face and you’re done. For a little accent, you can draw/paint a line on the body to act as a seam for the wrap.
Bonus Step: Finishing Spray
For durability, spray with clear protective finish to keep paint from chipping during play.
Each week take some time to sing together. Each song is on theme, and the lyrics can be another awesome conversation starter with your older kids. If you’re unfamiliar with the song or if you’d like some an accompaniment, we recommend that you search for a video online and play it while you sing. The lyrics are included below for reference, either while you sing or while you talk about their meaning.
the dear Christ enters in.
O morning stars, together
proclaim the holy birth,
and praises sing to God the King,
and peace to men on earth.
How silently, how silently
the wondrous gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of His heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive Him still
the dear Christ enters in.
O little town of Bethlehem,
how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
the everlasting light;
the hopes and fears of all the years
are met in thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary
and, gathered all above,
while mortals sleep, the angels keep
their watch of wond’ring love.
where meek souls will receive Him still
the dear Christ enters in.
(Pray this prayer in conclusion of your time together.)
“Lord God, you love us so much. Thank you for sending your son and giving us the chance to live different lives because we have encountered him. Lord, as we prepare for Christmas day, help us to remember that it is about your love being made present with us. Thank you for the times that we have shared over the last month and help us to grow closer and closer to you in the new year. We love you, Lord. We ask these things in Jesus’s name, amen!”
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Happy Advent and God Bless.
*Transparency Disclosure: Each of the Amazon links above are associate links, which means that Constant Source collects a small percentage of each item purchased via the above links. These links are examples of the supplies that can be used and alternative supplies will work just as well.