Introducing Advent 2018: Year C Reflections: Giving Thanks for Luke

by Scott Hoezee

The Year C Lectionary Cycle that begins on the First Sunday in Advent brings us into a year that will focus on the Gospel of Luke primarily.  And what would we do without Luke?!

Think about it: if Luke the physician really is the person who wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, you could almost wonder if Luke maybe missed his calling in life.  In truth, we have no idea what kind of a doctor he was, but what we do know is that he was a cracking good writer and storyteller.

In the New Testament, after all, it’s Luke who gives us what has become the classic telling of the Christmas story.  If it weren’t for Luke, we would never have heard the line “There was no room at the inn,” nor would we know about the stable, the shepherds, or the angels.  Luke alone gives us the memorable parables of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, arguably the two most famous parables in the world.  Luke is the author who introduces us to wee little Zacchaeus and it was Luke who crafted that moving post-Easter story about the now-famous “Road to Emmaus.”  In the Book of Acts, Luke gives us the stirring story of Pentecost, the drama of Ananias and Sapphira, the tale about the Ethiopian eunuch, Saul’s conversion on the Damascus Road, Eutychus toppling out of that window during a really long sermon, and also all those richly embroidered stories about the missionary journeys of Paul, Peter, and the other apostles, capping it all off with the dramatic story of Paul’s shipwreck at the very end of Acts.

Of course, at no particular time in the typical church year do we notice Luke’s literary and narrative prowess more than in Advent and at Christmas.  Whereas Mark and John dispense with Jesus’s birth and early life altogether and Matthew sums up the entire Christmas story in just a couple of verses, Luke gives us two very large chapters to set the stage and tell the story of Jesus’s advent into our time and space.  Luke gives us those amazing songs by Zechariah and Mary, the backstory of John the Baptist, and then all the classic stuff that just is the Christmas Story in Luke 2.  Linus quotes it in “The Charlie Brown Christmas Special” and the story’s narrative details can be spied and detected in every single creche, many of the most popular holiday Christmas Carols, on a gezillion greeting cards, and on not a few Christmas tree ornaments, too.

For preachers, then, Year C’s focus on Luke—especially across these weeks of Advent—gives us the opportunity to savor Luke’s eye for narrative spice and color.  Let’s not let theology, doctrine, or above all over-familiarity with it all hinder our ability to let these stories shine in all their compelling glory.  The Holy Spirit gave us Luke in the New Testament for a reason—well, probably for lots of reasons—but his ability to spin a cracking good yarn is surely one of them.

Christmas has become all about gifts.  Luke is a gift.  Let’s celebrate him in our preaching this year by letting the greatest story ever told shine in all the Spirit-inspired beauty with which Luke imbued it!

Advent 2018: Links to Sample Sermons on Year C Lectionary Texts

First Sunday in Advent, December 2, 2018

Gospel Text: Luke 21:25-36

Sermon by Scott Hoezee: “At That Time” from Luke 21:28-38: http://yardley.cs.calvin.edu/hoezee/2003/advent1Luke21.html

Sermon by John Buchanan: “The Advent of God” from Luke 21:28-38: http://www.fourthchurch.org/sermons/2003/113003.html

Sermon by Neal Plantinga, “In the Interim” from Luke 21:28. (click on the + sign to see the text of the sermon)

Second Sunday in Advent, December 9, 2018

Gospel Text: Luke 3:1-6

Sermon by Scott Hoezee: “The Shrill One” from Luke 3:1-20: http://yardley.cs.calvin.edu/hoezee/2003/advent2Luke3.html

Sermon by Joanna Adams, “Under Construction” from Luke 3:1-6: http://www.fourthchurch.org/sermons/2003/120703.html

Sermon by Craig Barnes, “Straightening out Christmas” from Luke 3:1-6: http://nationalpres.org/sites/default/files/sermon_bulletins/1997.12.14.Barnes.pdf

Sermon by Shannon J. Kershner: “Repenting of Our Words” from Luke 3:1-6, http://fourthchurch.org/sermons/2015/120615.html

Recommended Sermon on John the Baptist: “Have You Ever Heard John Preach?” By Fred Craddock, in A Chorus of Witnesses, Long and Plantinga, eds.   Eerdmans, 1994.

 

Third Sunday in Advent, December 16, 2018

Gospel Text: Luke 3:7-18

Sermon by Scott Hoezee: “The Shrill One” from Luke 3:1-20: http://yardley.cs.calvin.edu/hoezee/2003/advent2Luke3.html

Sermon by Craig Barnes, “It’s Time to Make Changes” from Luke 3:7-18: http://nationalpres.org/sites/default/files/sermon_bulletins/1997.12.21.Barnes_0.pdf

Sermon by Shannon J. Kershner: “Walking the Talk” from Luke 3:7-18, http://fourthchurch.org/sermons/2015/121315.html

Sample Sermon by Leonard Vander Zee from Luke 3: 7-18, Zephaniah 3: 14-20: (click on the + to see the text of the sermon)

Fourth Sunday in Advent, December 23, 2018

Gospel Text: Luke 1:39-45

Sermon by Craig Barnes, “Why Me?” from Luke 1:39-45: http://nationalpres.org/sites/default/files/sermon_bulletins/2000.12.17.Barnes.pdf

Sermon by Shannon J. Kershner: “Singing Mary’s Song” from Luke 1:39-45: http://fourthchurch.org/sermons/2015/122015.html

Sermon: Our Lady – Luke 1:26-44 by Leonard VanderZee (click on the + to see the text of the sermon)

Christmas Day, December 25, 2018

Gospel Text: John 1:1-18

Sermon by Craig Barnes, “Becoming God’s Child” from John 1:10-13: http://nationalpres.org/sites/default/files/sermon_bulletins/1998.12.13.Barnes.pdf

Sermon by Craig Barnes, “Jesus’ Gifts: Grace and Truth” from John 1:14-18: http://nationalpres.org/sites/default/files/sermon_bulletins/1998.12.20.Barnes.pdf

Sermon by Leonard VanderZee, “Christmas” from John 1:1-14 (click on the + to see the text of the sermon)

 

The “This Week in Preaching” page will present further sermon starter ideas each week during Advent.  This page changes every Monday throughout the year with sermon-starter and preaching ideas for the Lectionary passages.

http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php

We also have Audio Sermons in our Archive that deal with Advent and Christmas themes:

God Comes to Bethlehem by William Willimon (no specific Scripture passage), http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/audio-sermons/god-comes-to-bethlehem-a-sermon-for-advent-by-william-willimon/

Christmas Needs to Get More Materialistic by Samuel Wells (John 1), http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/audio-sermons/christmas-needs-to-get-more-materialistic-a-sermon-from-john-1-by-samuel-wells/

A Favor from God by Craig Barnes (Luke 1:26-38), http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/audio-sermons/a-favor-from-god-a-sermon-by-craig-barnes/

Imagine by Laura Truax (Luke 1), http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/audio-sermons/imagine-a-sermon-from-luke-1-by-laura-truax/

God’s Song to Mary by Mary Hulst (Luke 1: 26ff), http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/audio-sermons/gods-song-to-mary-a-sermon-by-mary-hulst/

Worship Resources from our Ministry Partner at the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship:  https://worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/advent-resource-guide/.   At the CICW website you will find a wealth of service planning ideas as well as further ideas for Advent sermon series, Advent music and much more.

Scriptures and Statements of Faith Applying to the Theme of Christmas: The following texts are particularly appropriate for sermons or for supplemental liturgical use:

Psalm 97

Psalm 98

Psalm 147

Psalm 148

Isaiah 52:7-10

Isaiah 61:10-62:12

Isaiah 63:7-9

Jeremiah 31:7-14

Matthew 1:18-2:23

Luke 2

John 1:1-18

Galatians 4:4-7

Ephesians 1:3-14

Ephesians 2:13-18

Titus 2:11-14

Titus 3:4-7

Hebrews 1:1-12

Hebrews 2:10-18

1 John 4:13-16

Belgic Confession, Art. 18-19

Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 35-36

Westminster Confession, Chap. VIII, Sec. 2-3

Our World Belongs to God, st. 24 (https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/contemporary-testimony/our-world-belongs-god)

Here are a few suggestions for possible Advent sermon series:

The Songs of Advent: A series which looks at the poetic words uttered around the birth of the Messiah. The texts of the songs are below, more verses can be added to flesh out the stories.

  • Mary’s song – Luke 1:46-55
  • Zechariah’s – Luke 1:67-79
  • John the Baptist’s – Luke 3:1-18
  • Angels’ – Luke 2:14
  • Simeon’s – Luke 2:28-32

Hidden Characters of Advent: A series which looks at the characters in the Advent story not usually highlighted.

  • Elizabeth – Luke 1:23-25; 39-45; 57-66
  • Joseph – Matthew 1:18-25
  • Herod – Matthew 2:1-18
  • Jesus – John 1:1-18 [The perspective here is that we can forget that Jesus existed before all time, and that creation was made through him, and will be remade through him as well.]

 

The following articles are from past issues of Reformed Worship. In order to read them, the site asks you to register but the articles are free for old issues. Only current subscribers can access articles from the new issue.

1). Preaching through Micah at Christmas.
Old, Hughes Oliphant. Reformed Worship. 9. Fall 1988. 32-34. BV1 .R4.

A six-part series spanning the Sundays from Thanksgiving to New Year’s focusing on the Messianic hope of the Hebrew prophet Micah.

http://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-1988/preaching-through-micah-christmas

2). He Will Come: Seven Themes for Advent and Christmas.
Stolpe, Norman D. Reformed Worship. 21. Fall 1991. 03-17. BV1 .R4.

A series for Advent and Christmas based on the Revised Common Lectionary, year C.

http://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-1991/he-will-come-seven-themes-advent-and-christmas-page-1-2

3). Imaging Tomorrow: Living With Isaiah in Advent and Christmas.
Jones, Willis. Reformed Worship. 25. Fall 1992. 05-17. BV1 .R4.

An Advent and Christmas series based on the Isaiah texts found in the Revised Common Lectionary, year A.

http://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-1992/imaging-tomorrow-living-isaiah-advent-and-christmas

4). Looking for life in all the right places: an Advent series based on John 1.
Brown, Timothy L. Reformed Worship. 33. Fall 1994. 08-12. BV1 .R4.

http://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-1994/looking-life-all-right-places-advent-series-based-john-1

5). Have You Seen the Angels? A Series of Advent and Christmas services.
Koeman, Kenneth D. Reformed Worship. 37. Fall 1995. 12-18. BV1 .R4.

A five-part series exploring the role of angels in the Christmas narrative.

http://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-1995/have-you-seen-angels-series-advent-and-christmas-services-series-advent-and-c

6). When Advent Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas: a series for Advent and Christmas.
Hoezee, Scott E., Reformed Worship. 45. Fall 1997. 04-10,12. BV1 .R4.

A series based on the Revised Common Lectionary, year C.

http://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-1997/when-advent-doesnt-feel-christmas-series-advent-and-christmas-page-1-2

7). Amazing Love: Series for the Season, An Innovative Advent series based on Hosea.
Dekker, James C.. Reformed Worship. 53. Fall 1999. 03-11. BV1 .R4.

http://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-1999/amazing-love-series-season-innovative-advent-series-based-hosea-page-1-2

8). Remembering The Future: Service plans and sermon sketches for Advent and Christmas.
Bos, Kenneth; Hoezee, Scott E., Reformed Worship. 57. Fall 2000. 03-13. BV1 .R4.

A sermon series based on the Revised Common Lectionary, year C

http://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-2000/remembering-future-service-plans-and-sermon-sketches-advent-and-christmas-pag

9). Mary, Mary, Ordinary: Service Plans and Monologues for Advent and Christmas.
Slofstra, Peter. Reformed Worship. 61. Fall 2001. 08-15. BV1 .R4.

A sermon series based on the portrait of Mary in the gospel of Luke.

http://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-2001/mary-mary-ordinary-service-plans-and-monologues-advent-and-christmas-page-1-2

10). Six Biblical Characters, Six Traditions of Faith: an Advent/Christmas series based on Richard Foster’s Streams of Living Water.
Hoytema, Peter. Reformed Worship. 65. Fall 2002. 09-16. BV1 .R4.

http://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-2002/six-biblical-characters-six-traditions-faith-adventchristmas-series-based-ric

11). In the Beginning Was the Word

Eernisse, Roger Reformed Worship. 69. September 2003. 11-17. BV1 .R4.

A four-week Advent series based on John 1

http://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-2003/beginning-was-word

12). What? I Have to Preach the Christmas Story Again?: Fresh approaches to planning

Vroege, David A. Reformed Worship. 73. September, 2004

http://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-2004/what-i-have-preach-christmas-story-again-fresh-approaches-planning

13).  Listening to the Prophets

DeVries, Joan, David Locke and Mike Visser:  Reformed Worship. 81. September, 2006:

http://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-2006/listening-prophets

14). Between Two Advents

Hoezee, Scott Reformed Worship. 85. September, 2007

http://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-2007/between-two-advents

15).  Somebody’s Coming

DeVries, Joan, Reformed Worship. 89. September, 2008

http://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-2008/somebodys-coming