God’s Great Promises Become Reality
These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Advent.
God’s Word for This Week
The birth of a baby usually thrills parents, family, and friends. Today’s readings about the births of the world’s first children and the birth of Jesus excite us—and more. They show us how the wages of sin is death. They comfort us with Satan’s inability to nab Jesus. They renew our faith that God in Christ casts down the mighty from their thrones but lifts up the lowly.
Traditional First Lesson – Micah 5:2-5a
What is going to make little Bethlehem great?
In connection with Christmastime, the city of Bethlehem will be known throughout the world because the Ancient of Days, the Ruler of Israel, the Savior will be born there.
What effect will that child of Bethlehem have on us today?
He will be our peace and calm our hearts. He will be the one who watches over us like a shepherd but with the power of the universe at his disposal. Such a picture of his tender care for us will reach throughout the world. (Do you realize that peace?)
Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 4:1,2,6-8,25; 5:1-5
The birth of the world’s first son must have been joyful. Cain killed his brother years later, though. How could this have happened? (See Genesis 5:3.)
Cain killed Abel because Cain had not been born in God’s image (holiness) but in his father Adam’s image (sinfulness), and Cain had failed to resist the power of sin inside him.
Adam lived 930 years. Then what happened?
After Adam lived 930 years, he died. The same thing happened generation after generation. The wages of sin is death.
Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 10:5-10
Why wasn’t God pleased with the sacrifices of the Old Testament times?
The ritual offerings of the sacrifices could not do away with sin nor could they calm the guilty conscience. They did however help the nation of Israel realize the death sentences of sin as well as look forward to the promised substitute, the Messiah who would provide eternal forgiveness.
What assurances do you have now that Jesus has finished his work?
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross of Christ had to be done only once and it became effective for everyone. Because of it, we are considered holy in God’s sight and prepared for being transformed to be like him. (Is this the central part of your faith and life?)
Supplemental Second Lesson – Revelation 12:1-6
Who was the male child? The dragon? (See Revelation 12:9.)
The male child in John’s vision was Jesus. The dragon was the devil, or Satan.
We would assume a dragon could easily devour a brand-new baby. What happened, though, in John’s vision?
In John’s vision, the dragon was not fast enough to seize the child. Jesus was born and went straight to heaven. What a comforting picture: The devil wanted to harm Jesus as he walked this earth, but he could not lead Jesus into sin or defeat him. Jesus lives. Jesus reigns!
What did God do, meanwhile, for his church on earth (the woman)?
He fed her in the desert. Ever since Jesus’ ascension, God feeds his church on earth by Word and sacrament.
Gospel – Luke 1:39-55
What happened when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting?
The baby in Elizabeth’s womb, John the Baptist, leaped for joy. Then the Holy Spirit filled her with new insight into what was happening. What awesome things the Spirit does in connection with the message of Jesus!
What does Mary first call God in her song?
In her song, Mary calls God her “Savior.” She was a sinner, just like all of us. No one should pray to her.
Summarize the content of the song in your own words.
Mary knew God was fulfilling the promise he had made to Abraham and had repeated for centuries. Generations to come would look at this event and see how God powerfully lifts the humble up to experience the great things God has done for us by his grace in his Son.