2018-19 RCL-C Advent 04
Additional Resources for Proclamation & Preaching
Fourth Sunday of Advent: December 23, 2018 • Gospel Text: Luke 21:25-36
It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)
Proclamation for Today
by Rev. Dr. Clint Schnekloth
Sometimes the fourth Sunday of Advent is really close to Christmas. When it is, the juxtaposition of this apocalyptic text with the holiday season will be particularly stark. On the one hand: the end of the world. On the other hand: did I stack the packages in the trunk wrong and crush the ribbons?
Of course, this makes even more ironic the warning present in Luke 21: “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.“ Undoubtedly a few listeners will panic, but not for the reasons the text has in mind. They’ll panic because “that day” is Christmas, and they’ve still got presents to wrap (or buy) and food to cook.
Meanwhile, the UNHCR Global Trends Report indicates 68.5 million people on the globe are forcibly displaced. This is not only the highest recorded number ever, but also the largest increase from a previous year. Between that and the news about climate change, it’s enough to make people “faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world“ (21:26). To a considerable degree, whether and how these forces matter to you at the holiday is a product of your economic class. In fact, a class analysis of various religious communities reception of the apocalyptic is warranted and fruitful (bottom line, although a dominant theory is that apocalyptic arises out of and is popular especially in marginalized and economically disadvantaged groups, this theory has been challenged more recently in New Testament studies).
But of more interest, and ultimately more useful for the preacher, is an analysis of what the end of the world can do as a signifying event for anyone also experiencing the “holy days.” Consider: “Subjectivity is itself a form of sacrifice, since to accede to meaning is to abandon being… the symbol is the death of the thing. Once reality is articulated, carved up into a play of difference, we shall never recapture that sensuous repleteness we enjoyed before the birth of the signifier, or at least fantasised that we did” (Terry Eagleton, Radical Sacrifice, 5). That’s a rather dense sentence, but worth the unpacking. Basically, he’s arguing that the coming of “signs'“ (like the ones mentioned in Luke 21:25) are the end not because of an actual “end” of the world, but because of the meaning the signs bring themselves.
The symbol is the death of the thing. To give meaning to whatever is coming to the world is already the end of the world. If you can get your head around this, it “fixes” so much of what is otherwise troubling about the text. For example, 21:32 indicates everything that will take place during this generation. If there is a future world-ending event that was to have taken place in the first century, it didn’t happen. However, if meaning happens, if the signifier is born, then already and just so then all the things have already taken place. We might call this awakening. The world doesn't end until we wake up. The moment we wake up, the world has already ended.
The following links and resources are not produced or maintained by RCL Worship Resources or Clergy Stuff. However, at the time of this posting, the links were active and considered to be good source material for proclamation for the text for this week. Please scroll down or click on the quick jump menu you find below. Click here for more free RCL worship resources & planning materials.
Historical Exegetical Resources
The Five Gospels Parallels, John W. Marshall, University of Toronto.
Homilies on Luke. Origen. (Cited from muse.jhu.edu.)
Commentary, Luke 1:39-45, (46-55), Judith Jones, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2015.
Free-for-use images for this Sunday
“Shout to the Lord” by Darlene Zschech
"Magnificat" by David Haas
Free RCL Daily Devotional Calendar
More Reading For You
Current RCL Worship Trends
Dramatic Reading of the Text
Readers: Narrator, Mary, Elizabeth
Narrator: In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry,
Elizabeth: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.
optional reading follows
[Narrator: And Mary said,
Mary: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.
Narrator:And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.]
Zechariah: zak’uh-RI -uh