Romans 16 contains scholarly puzzles. First, Paul knows twenty-nine people in a church he hasn't visited. (Have you a similar conundrum in your Christmas card list?) Greetings to friends, final instructions, and a blessing signal the conclusion of Paul’s epistle. Verses 17-20 are typical Pauline directives, including a warning to preserve the received teachings and a promise that Satan will be crushed. Our text today is an extended benedictory wish that foreshadows a major theme of Paul’s last letters: “the revelation of the mystery . . . made known to all the Gentiles.”

The mystery is that “the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:6). Erudite Paul never recovers from amazement that God’s promises are extended to Gentiles, which is precisely what the risen Christ charges him to do: “Bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles” (Rom. 1:5). The final verses of Romans from today's reading summarize salvation history and rehearse the epistle’s great themes. But how does one proclaim a mystery, something which, by definition, is unknown and at least partially unknowable? Paul proclaims no doctrinal statements with which we must agree, but an action: God’s inclusion of the Gentiles by means of a person, Jesus Christ. As we know, people are always mysterious. When we proclaim this mystery, the best rhetorical strategy is doxology.

Christmas carols reflect this strategy. We don’t sing dogmatic statements about the Trinity or the meaning of the Atonement, though both are important. We join the “multitude of the heavenly host,” singing “Glory to God in the highest.” The proclamation of the Christian mystery begins with doxology. Glorifying God is the point of proclamation and the basis of Christian spirituality.

Do your favorite carols include glorifying? What do your Christmas traditions proclaim?

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Luke 1:26-38

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Lectionary Week
December 14–20, 2020
Scripture Overview

In the fourth week of Advent, we focus on prophecies of the arrival of the Messiah. When David commits to build a temple for God, God promises to build a house for David as well. This is the line of David that will rule forever, and Jesus comes from this line. In the first reading from Luke, Mary rejoices after her visit to Elizabeth, for she understands that her child will play a key role in God’s redemption. Paul reminds the Romans that his message about Christ did not begin with him. Instead, it is the fulfillment of promises made through the prophets. The second reading from Luke might more logically have come first this week, for it describes how Mary reveals the importance of this child in her song of rejoicing.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16. When have you thought you were participating in God’s plans and later realized you had misunderstood God’s desire or instruction?
Read Luke 1:47-55. Consider how you magnify the Lord. How do you pass on your faith to future generations?
Read Romans 16:25-27. Remember the carols you have been singing this Advent and have sung throughout your life. How do they help you proclaim the mystery of the Incarnation?
Read Luke 1:26-38. In this season of giving and receiving, how do you remember that God is the giver of all good gifts? How do you return your God-given gifts to God?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

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