Mary, Mary, ordinary: service plans and monologues for Advent and Christmas, Page 2 of 2


Luke 1:46-56

Sermon Starter

By all means read the Christmas story from Luke today. But if you want people to get what God is really up to, preach a Christmas Day message on Mary’s Song.

One approach to this passage is to reflect on two competing world-and-life views. On the one hand is Darwin and his theory of natural selection. It’s the idea that survival depends on brawn, brains, and beauty—a view celebrated in all the Reality TV shows. Truth is, this is the way the world seems to work. But throughout Scripture, God laments that this is not the way it’s supposed to be. Darwin’s world is a world flipped over like a turtle pawing the air, ultimately going nowhere.

Sample HomeLink Devotion

For ordering information, see inside front cover.

Please note that these devotions are not linked to a specific calendar date. For the first time last year, the HomeLink devotions were organized so that they could be used in succeeding years. “Back to the Future,” also by Scott Hoezee, is also available; those devotionals are connected to the service plans in Reformed Worship 57.

On the other hand is the Bible’s teaching of election. This view holds that the Lord comes alongside the victims of natural selection, instilling them with faith, hope, and love. Biblical examples abound of God’s great reversal, beginning with the older Esau serving the younger Jacob and including the teachings of Jesus about the greatest and the least, the first and the last. God brings about the kingdom by flipping the turtle back on its feet.

Mary’s Song highlights God’s mercy. Proud rulers are scattered and brought down; the humble are lifted up. The rich are sent away empty; the hungry are filled with good things. Through Jesus, God sets up a kingdom of love and peace and humility in the brutal world of King Herod and in the bullying playgrounds, workplaces, and homes of our millennial world.

Mary’s Song is about a mighty arm that sets things right. Her song might also be called “God’s Great Reversal.” What theological profundity from the mouth of this teenage Jewish girl!

Song Suggestions

Songs Before and After the Greeting

“Once in Royal David’s City” PsH 346, PH 49, RL 201, TH 225, TWC 161
“O Come, All Ye Faithful” PsH 340, PH 41, RL 195, TH 208, TWC 173
Mary’s Song
“Magnificat” PsH 622, PH 600

Psalm 98: “Sing a New Song to the Lord” SNC 112

Song of Response
“Come and Stand Amazed, You People” PsH 338
“Meekness and Majesty” SNC 109


Nine months pregnant, riding a hundred miles on the back of bonydonkey. I felt like a sack of badly loaded cabbages tossed and joltedfrom one step to the next. I walked as much as I could, but that wasslow going because I got tired easily. It took us ten days.

I was glad for the rolling to stop, believe me. In Bethlehem, wetrudged from place to place, everything full to overcrowding. I wasgetting more and more desperate, knowing my time was near.

An innkeeper’s wife took pity on us when she saw my condition. She madeher husband sweep out the stable at the back for us. With a bit ofclean straw, it wasn’t too bad. I was glad of the peace and quiet, awayfrom the drinkers around the front.

We were settled in none too soon. My labor pains began almostimmediately. Joseph, bless him, did his best to make me comfortable,but he’s no midwife. I don’t know what I would have done if theinnkeeper’s wife had not returned. She had obviously delivered manybabies in her time; to her this was just another one, a break fromroutine before she hurried back to her guests out front.

To hold that baby—how can words describe the wonder? Every baby is amiracle. All the pain, the discomfort, the ordeal vanished as I heldhim. But you know what was almost more of a miracle? After Joseph and Iwere married, I could not shake a great fear—had he done it only out ofduty, and how would he react to the child?

So when Joseph asked to hold him, I could scarcely breathe. Hiscalloused carpenter’s hands reached down and took the baby and broughthim up to his face. And then the miracle happened. A look of mingledwonder, awe, and love spread across Joseph’s face as he cradled thechild. And then he wept. Tears of joy fell without shame, and Josephknelt beside me. He put the baby back in my arms and held the two of usin his strong embrace.

At first I was astonished, but as I listened to his words, I came tosee that he too had been visited by an angel. I realized that God hadindeed been with me and had given me what I needed. Joseph knew thatthe baby had been conceived by the Holy Spirit. He knew that the babywould grow to be the Messiah. He even knew the name by which the childis to be called—Jesus!

—Adapted from The Song of Mary by John McNeil. Used by permission.

Luke 2:8-20

Sermon Starter
Questions of style, personality, culture and tradition aside, worshipis “recalling and celebrating the saving acts of God in Christ” (OnBecoming a Woman, Bishop John Shelby Spong). So when we find Mary“pondering everything,” we find her worshiping.

Luke 2 is all about worship. Angels and shepherds alike praise andglorify God. And a teenager busies herself with the heart of worship,committing everything to do with Jesus to memory.

Mary reminds us that worship reenters the door of your heart when yousee God in everything you do and in everyone you meet. Seminariansreturning to school from internships learn this when they theologicallyreflect on their experiences with their professors. How did God revealhimself to you? What did God accomplish through you? When did you feelchallenged, encouraged, or comforted by God? The unexamined life, it’sbeen said, is a life not worth living. Let me propose instead that thelife lived with theological reflection is a life of worship well worthliving.

Mary’s reflection involved treasuring and pondering. She treasured allthat was said and all that happened in the account of Christ’s birth.She pondered (literally, “to throw with or around”) all these things,beginning a lifetime of wondering, questioning, grappling. That too isthe nature of worship. Don’t worry if there is more wondering about Godthan wonder. Because that too is worship.

Song Suggestions
Songs Before and After the Greeting

“The King of Glory Comes” PsH 370, SFL 156, TH 240, TWC 134
“Meekness and Majesty SNC 109
Mary’s Song
“Tell Out My Soul” PsH 487, RL 182, TH 26, TWC 350

Song of Response
“The Heart of Worship” (Matt Reddman, in I Could Sing of Your Love Forever)

[For this monologue we used an adult to play the part of Mary, whichhelped us see that her teenage pondering later became the basis forLuke’s opening chapters.]

Understanding so much and so little. [chuckles] It is good of you tocome and visit me, Luke. Though whether it is out of concern for me orfor your history, I’m not sure. . . .

No one ever had it more clearly spelled out. Prophets. Angels. Butthough the words were sweet in the mouth, many times they proved bitterto the soul. Who could know the full meaning except in hindsight? Itwas better that I didn’t.

There were other comings and goings that night. Shepherds from thehillside came at the angels’ bidding. Angels too had a big part to playin this whole story!

Then, several weeks after, the Magi. We’d been up to Jerusalem topresent Jesus in the temple and have him circumcised. We were back inBethlehem and ready to start for home when they turned up.

I didn’t realize until later what this represented—the Gentile nationscoming to worship the Son of God. Oh I know it’s all through theprophets, but we didn’t see it then.

Goodness knows what the people of Bethlehem thought. It was like acircus parade. Horses and servants everywhere. They could have atraveled a bit more discreetly, but no, they had come to honor aking—and so they did. Very impressive. I just wish they had notimpressed Herod quite so much on their way through Jerusalem.

As soon as they turned up, we knew trouble was ahead. God confirmedthat in dreams—to us and to the Magi. Get out, fast, God said. We hidthe Magi’s gifts as best we could in our baggage, and Joseph found acaravan heading down to Egypt that night. We fled, and just in time. Weheard horses coming as we left town, but it wasn’t until later that welearned the full horror of that night—the deaths of all those children.Those poor mothers!

—Adapted from The Song of Mary by John McNeil. Used by permission.



Order of Worship for the Series

We Gather to Magnify the Lord


Gathering Songs

Call to Worship

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Let us glorify the Lord

And rejoice in God our Savior.

For the Mighty One has done great things for us

and holy is his name.

Song of Praise

God’s Greeting and Our Passing the Peace of Christ


The Lighting of the Advent Candle

We used readings by Richard J. Fairchild found on the website


Each week we sang two different stanzas of “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” that served as a conclusion to the candle lighting and as preparation for hearing the Word.

God Is Revealed Through the Word

Scripture Reading

Mary’s Song

A different setting each week sung by teenaged girl(s).



We Respond to the Greatness
of the Lord

Song of Response

Congregational Prayer


Closing Song

Benediction and Our “Amen”


Reformed Worship 61 © September 2001, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.