Worship Helps for Advent 4

Artwork: The Visitation
Artist: Jan Lievens

Worship Theme: Since Adam, all have come to life in the sinful image of the first parents. With that image comes death. But now comes one who will shepherd his people Israel, one born God and man, the Word made flesh to bring salvation to every generation. The judgment is coming, yet the Lord’s deliverance for every generation is at hand. 

Old Testament: Genesis 4:1-2, 6-8, 25-5:5 Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man." 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. … 6 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." 8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. … 25 Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, "God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him." 26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD. 5:1 This is the written account of Adam's line. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them "man." 3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. 4 After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 5 Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died.

1. 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 5:3)

2. Adam lived 930 years.  Then what happened?

Epistle: Revelation 12:1-6 A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. 4 His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6 The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

3. Who was the male child?  The dragon?  (See 12:9)

4. We would assume a dragon could easily devour a brand-new baby.  What happened, though in John’s vision?

5. What did God do, meanwhile, for his church on earth (the woman)?

Gospel: Luke 1:39-55 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" 46 And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me-- holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers."

6. What happened when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting?

7. What does Mary first call God in her song?

8. Summarize the content of the song in your own words.

Answers:
1. 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.

2. After Adam lived 930 years, he died.  The same thing happened generation after generation.  The wages of sin is death.

3. The male child in John’s vision was Jesus.  The dragon was the devil, or Satan.

4. 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 Jesus walked this earth, but he could not lead Jesus into sin or defeat Jesus.  Jesus lives. Jesus reigns!

5. He fed her in the desert. Ever since Jesus’ ascension, God feeds his church on earth by Word and sacrament.

6. 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!

7. In her song, Mary calls God her “Savior.”  She was a sinner, just like all of us. No one should pray to her.

8. 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.

Putting your faith into action
When the God of salvation acts, his people respond with praise and thanksgiving. When Elizabeth greeted Mary as the mother of the promised Savior of the world, Mary did what comes naturally to Christians who are impressed with the Lord’s love and faithfulness—she glorified the Lord. Keep that response in mind and heart as you ponder the Christ-filled manger. Here is God’s greatest gift to you! How will you thank him?


A reading from the Book of Concord for the Fourth Sunday in Advent

The will commands the intellect to agree with God’s Word.  We say also, “Just as the terrors of sin and death are not only thoughts of the intellect, but also horrible movements of the will fleeing God’s judgment, so faith is not only knowledge in the intellect, but also confidence in the will.  In other words, it is to want and to receive that which is offered in the promise, namely, reconciliation and the forgiveness of sins.”  Scripture uses the term faith this way.  Paul says in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  In this passage, to justify means to acquit a guilty person and declare him righteous.  But this happens because of the righteousness of another, namely, of Christ.  This righteousness is given to us through faith.  Therefore, since our righteousness is the righteousness of another, we must here speak about righteousness in a way different than in philosophy or in a civil court.  (There we seek after the righteousness of one’s own work, which certainly is in the will.)  It says in 1 Corinthians 1:30, “He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness...”  In 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” In other words, we are made acceptable to God… – Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Articles V, Love and Fulfilling of the Law (paragraphs 183-186)

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