Bible Study

Bible Study: Advent 4 (B) – 2011

December 18, 2011

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

In today’s Old Testament reading, we find David trying to take care of God. In response, God firmly reminds David that, in fact, it is God who is in charge, who will make a house for David. So often we, like David, allow our own anxiety to propel us into action. We fail to recognize God’s abundant care in our lives. Rather than slowing down to listen to God, we race to control our lives: our churches, our families, our bank accounts. We often squander so much energy taking care of the details of our lives that there is no room left for God. We don’t actually turn to God, rely on God. Yet God tells David, and with him all of Israel, that God is ever with him, every moment of every day. So for David to want to build a house of cedar for God’s presence is to fundamentally misunderstand who God is and how God works in the world and in human lives. We don’t take care of God; God takes care of us.

  • What are you anxious about that God may be waiting to provide for you this Advent?

Canticle 3 / Canticle 15 (Luke 1:46-55) The Song of Mary

This is a familiar song, yet I am struck each time I come to it by the depth of the transformation it presents. Mary’s words here are part of a broader conversation. Just prior to this, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth honors Mary as the mother of God. Mary, though, turns the praise back toward God, honoring the way God uses the lowly and insignificant, the poor and unimportant, who will receive the deliverance of God. The rich and powerful, though, will reject it and walk away empty. God’s mercy transforms lives, turns things upside down, liberates us so that we can see with new eyes the changes that God brings into the world.

  • In what aspects of your life do you feel lowly and poor?
  • In what ways might God be using these to transform and liberate you?

Romans 16:25-27

Romans ends as it began: in praise of God, whose story is given through the prophets and revealed in Jesus Christ so that believers can be faithfully obedient. In these closing verses of chapter 16 (which is one long sentence), the author is giving a doxology – a saying about God’s glory. In it we find again that God works throughout the ages to be revealed. What was once mystery has been revealed: Jesus’ coming is how God’s glory is disclosed. God breaks into history for all humanity – Jew and Gentile. And as we approach the culmination of Advent, this passage points us to anticipate the ways in which God’s glory is revealed – in our lives, in our churches, in our world, in all history.

  • What does Jesus’ coming disclose about God?
  • How is God’s glory shown in lives today?

Luke 1:26-38

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord” (Luke 1:37-38).

We live in a modern world, based on scientific hypotheses and observations. Even the most unscientifically minded of us is a product of the scientific revolution. So we come to this passage full of questions, seeking explanations, demanding that things make sense. Yet this is a story of faith. Gabriel, here for the second time in this first chapter of Luke, gives a birth announcement, much like that of Samson or John the Baptist. Only this birth is special, miraculous. Mary is confused at first, but Gabriel’s words reassure her: with God nothing is impossible. By accepting God’s initiation, Mary becomes part of the in-breaking of God into the world through the incarnation in Jesus. Mary accepts the unexplainable and offers herself to God’s service.

  • What are the unexplainable things in your world today about which you seek answers from God?
  • In what way may God be calling you to bring to birth some part of God’s kingdom?

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Christopher Sikkema


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