Fourth Week of Advent

(18 - 23 December)

We recommend that you read the Scripture passage and short reflection in our “Advent Readings” on the Sunday of each week – beginning on the first day of Advent: Sunday, 27 November. You can reflect on it all week. Below are some additional resources for consideration, wondering, and worship during this season. Enjoy! 

Isaiah 7:10-16  |  Ihāia 7:10-16
Psalm 80  |  Waiata 80
Romans 1:1-7  |  Rōma 1:1-7
Matthew 1:18-25  |  Matiu 1:18-25

*Note: For those who follow the Lectionary Calendar and Church Year, Advent 2022 marks the beginning of cycle or “Year A”. The weekly Scripture passages in our readings are from each Sunday of Advent – with the exception of Epiphany. If you would like additional Bible readings, you can follow along with the daily recommended readings for this season. 

From: Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

You can download the 2022 (for Advent and Christmas) and 2023 (up to Epiphany) versions of the lectionary.

Another resource is the Vanderbilt Divinity Library

Click on the title or icon to listen to the playlist.

CHRISTMAS & EPIPHANY: The King has come!

You can find songs about Christ’s joyous arrival in our Christmas & Epiphany playlist, along with songs about the incarnation and what it means that God became human and lived among his people. 

The first part of the playlist includes contemporary renditions of Christmas carols and hymns. The second part of the playlist includes sacred and choral music for the Christmas season. 

The past few years have felt particularly chaotic and at times hopeless. The prophesy that God would send a child, who would literally be “God with us,” was given to his people in the midst of chaos – as they were shuddering in fear, lacking in trust, and filled with disobedience. (Isaiah 7:10–16) 

The darkened leaves in this painting are the leaves of Christ’s family line, according to his flesh (Romans 1:4). They tumble twining around from the royal line of David, represented by the royal crown. They are autumnal: fallen, frail and beautiful, but destined to die. 

The Christ child lies buried within the young woman’s womb. Vulnerable but kingly. Crowned not with the golden crown of David but with a crown of thorns. He entered into the chaos and suffering of this world. As a human baby in utero he was fully reliant on the life of his mother. As the King of the universe he is the life-giver and sustainer of her life. This child, buried in his mother’s womb, would be buried once again in the depths of a tomb. And just as he was born into this world clothed in frail humanity, he was exalted as the powerful Son of God, by the Holy Spirit, by his resurrection from the dead. (Romans 1:4) Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus Christ our Lord. From him bursts life, love and grace. The golden light of hope shines through into the darkness as he answers the cries of his people. Making his face to shine upon them, saving them and restoring all things (Psalm 80:3).

Leigh Greyling, Theology Student

Isaiah and Matthew texts: Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son. 

Rough. Incomprehensible. A nightmare journey. Springtime rains turning dust into slush. Why is God doing this? The donkey is traditional, not Biblical. Heavily pregnant Mary may have walked the whole, never-ending, way. All at the command of a hated invader decree. Is God really in control? But the Messiah must be born in the city of David. Caesar was unwittingly doing God's will in God's perfect timing. God in full control.

In the painting I backgrounded the texts with the Greek of Matthew 1:18 to 23. But as you can see I ran out of room at the end of verse 21—a great place to finish! I wrote in Uncials in the style of Papyrus 52 which can be dated around 100 CE. Matthew-Levi's original would have been 30 years earlier but the style would not have hugely changed. Blood red gives the painting a basic glow.

As the Greek dried I chose blue as an harmonic contrast to the red but it got lost even though capitalised, so I highlighted it with thin white and it came up nicely. Blue is traditionally Mary's colour. White for purity. Holiness. As the climax approached I reversed the colours to blue on white, which worked well. Then the climax of THE VIRGIN SHALL CONCEIVE AND BEAR A SON demanded gold on white—Royalty on purity.

I left out the last two verses in line with my Greek, also deciding against Psalm 80. Maybe in another painting sometime. The Magnificat despite its fabulous words was also put aside. This painting's subject is limited to the birth of Jesus, so I left out Paul's even more distant words to stay on subject. Instead I did my own word-for-word translation from the Greek of Matthew 1, altering the word order only when the meaning became unclear. Here is the NKJV version:

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Both my writing and my version are really rough. This really rough time for the young couple ended in a cowshed birth. Such scenes have been prettied up by artists over centuries so it is time to redress that fiction. Mary must often have wondered if God had deserted her. A smelly stable was no place for the birth of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! But here it was happening and she was in the centre of it. The shepherds would have helped. Especially with their description of the angel choir. What a breathtaking display of Heavenly fireworks! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Chris Strom, NZBTI Alumni

Glorious wonder, Holy awe,
In you Lord, the vine is restored.
Heavenly mystery, the perfect One,
Emmanuel, the Only Son. 

All royalty, all majesty, all glory,
Found in the breath of a baby.

From David to Mary,
Through our Lord Holy Spirit,
The glory of Your plans, revealed. 

Redemption grows in Mary’s womb
Salvation in human form. 

Glorious wonder, Holy awe,
In you Lord, the vine is restored!
Heavenly mystery, the perfect One,
Emmanuel, the Only Son!

Villette Iosefa-Lowe, Theology Student

To witness the birth of my children can only be described as some of the most joyous and humbling experiences of my life. Not only because of the awesome wonder of welcoming a child into the world, but also the overwhelming love and respect that I felt for my wife due to the resolute and tenacious way in which she brought our babies into the world. The preparation and fortitude that was needed beforehand and during their arrival should not be underestimated. The mental toughness, the physical stamina, the emotional resilience, together with the spiritual confidence and faith my wife displayed, galvanised our belief that God was at work, and in control of the whole process. For what happened in the delivery suite was the culmination of many months of preparation - doctor’s appointments, antenatal classes, exercise, sleepless nights, dieting, research, as well as a constant seeking of the Lord for his presence, guidance, and strength. In short, one of the underpinning beliefs that sustained us, was that we had a responsibility to ensure we did everything in our power to preserve and bring forth God’s gift of life.

My friends in Christ, it is a similar sense of responsibility, preparation, and hope that we are challenged with this week, as we meditate on our assigned scriptures and their significance for this Advent season! As we prepare to welcome and celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we are called to acknowledge the “Immanuel” of God who was proclaimed and conceived by the prophet Isaiah in his time, but later actualised through the events that Matthew writes about so vividly. A message that embodied a judgement on King Ahaz and the House of David for their relative lack of faith and trust, but for Joseph (also a son of David), would represent a watershed moment of clarity and purpose for the fulfilment of prophecy, God’s will, and faithfulness. We are reminded as God’s people and community in the chosen verses of Psalm 80 that we have a responsibility to not only be open in our declaration of our faith and disciplined in our response to God’s goodness and mercy, but above all obedient in our relationship with him. Ultimately, as saints and servants of God, we too are called to embrace the challenges of mission and service, and like Paul can be assured of God’s grace and presence through his personal calling on our lives.

May God’s Spirit of Faith, Hope, Love and Peace be upon us, our families, and communities of faith as we journey towards celebrating and embracing the totality of what it means to receive the gift of “God with Us”.

In Jesus’ name…Amen.

Rev. Dr Imoa Setefano, Student and Community Coordinator (Manukau)

Miriam Fisher (Location Lead & Lecturer - Education, Ōtautahi/Christchurch), has prepared an activity based on the theme of each week of Advent. You can download this week's right here.

These may need amending to suit the age and stage of those in your whānau but we hope they will offer you an opportunity to engage in this season simply and meaningfully with your tamariki. You might come up with new variations!