Fourth Sunday of Advent
Year C: December 23, 2018
First Reading: Micah 5:2-5a
The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson
(Written for ages 5-10)
Comment: Audrey Faye Hendricks was just nine years old in 1963 when she joined the Children’s March in Birmingham, Alabama. She is arrested and spends seven days in jail. The story and illustrations introduce young readers, in age-appropriate ways, to the injustice of segregation, the atrocity of sending a child to jail, and the impact of standing up for what’s right. In the end, Audrey is reunited with her parents and revels in “hot rolls, baptized in butter!” The prophet Micah points out that Israel’s hoped-for ruler, the “one of peace” will come from a place most unexpected – the tiny, seemingly inconsequential tribe of Bethlehem. Using this story in conjunction with the prophetic texts offers an opportunity for children to explore how they can change the world in unexpected ways.
Second Reading: Hebrews 10:5-10
Good People Everywhere by Lynea Gillen
(Written for ages 3 and up)
Comment: This passage from Hebrews highlights the difficult, seemingly paradoxical concept of God’s grace and our response; we do nothing to earn God’s love, yet everything we do should be in response to that love. Jesus’ words affirm a theme we find throughout the Hebrew Bible and New Testament – that God desires not sacrifice, but obedience. These are difficult, abstract concepts for children to grasp, but Gillen’s focus on people doing good deeds is a place to start. Musicians playing music, students trying their best on a science test, a boy caring for a friend’s skinned knee, and a sister watching over her brother are all examples of ways people work to make life better for their friends, family, and neighbors. These echo Jesus exclamation that “I have come to do your will, O God!”
Gospel Reading: Luke 1:39-55
Joseph and the Sabbath Fish by Eric A. Kimmel
(Written for ages 5-6)
Comment: Mary’s song of praise to God is structured around a series of reversals – the proud are humbled, the powerful are brought down, and the rich lose everything; the lowly are elevated, the hungry are filled. In Kimmel’s retelling of an old Jewish parable, Joseph offers a rich feast to anyone who wishes to attend – even those who are poor. His neighbor, Judah, scolds him for foolishly spending his money on those who can’t repay him. Ultimately, Judah’s desperate efforts to hold onto his wealth leave him poor and destitute, and Joseph welcomes him to his Sabbath table, where they find an unexpected blessing together. This story provides a concrete image for children of how Mary’s prophetic song comes true in our common life.
Thanks to Joshua Andrzejewski for writing the Revised Common Lectionary Links this week. Josh serves as a chaplain for the pediatric and women’s health units in the VCU Medical Center, Richmond, VA.