Saturday

8 December 2018

Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will. (v1 11)

Psalm: Psalm 113

 Background

We end this week’s readings on a rather different note. From the power struggles of tribal politics in 1 Samuel we turn to the soaring prose of St Paul, and from the local concerns of the people of Israel to the universal impact of the Christian gospel. The opening verses are in the form of a traditional Jewish prayer, blessing God for the gift of Christ and all that that means. And then Paul moves on to pile up more and more phrases that underline the greatness of God’s grace in Christ. It’s inspiring stuff.

The reason for this passage of scripture today is that some Christian traditions mark this day as the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. Protestants, Methodists included, have tended to say very little about the place of Mary, no doubt worried about the kind of excessive Marian devotion that has emerged in some other traditions. But this neglect is both unfortunate and unnecessary. Mary is part of the story of Jesus and the best way of understanding some of the dogmas about her is to see in them a sense of God’s holiness at work in the life of a lowly human being. In the biblical stories that have featured on other days this week God has chosen a particular person – often a very unlikely person – for a particular role. Samuel and David could only become the person God had created them to be by fulfilling their destiny as prophet or king. The same is true of Mary. Part of the Advent story is of her accepting her destiny to be the mother of the Messiah, to allow the grace and holiness of God to flood her life so that through her God’s presence in a human life was complete.

 

To Ponder:

  • Do you have a sense of being chosen by God? If so, how have you responded to it?
  • What makes you think of yourself as an unlikely choice for God’s call?
  • Think of some phrases to express your own praise and thanks to God.

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck

Richard Clutterbuck is a minister of the Methodist Church in Britain. Between 2004 and 2017 he served the Irish Methodist Church as principal of Edgehill Theological College in Belfast. Previously his ministry has been divided between pastoral appointments in North London and theological education in the South Pacific (Tonga), Britain and Ireland.