The Third Sunday of Advent falls on 13 December 2020 and the Lectionary readings for this week are: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 and Psalm 126; and 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24 and John 1:6-8, 19-28.
The passages from John’s Gospel (John the Baptist denies being the Messiah) are the basis for Rev. Geoff McKee’s sermon this week.
As this scripture highlights, we are invited to come, to see and to know the Messiah. That’s something which requires the laying bare of our souls. Only then can we be loved as we truly are, as we meet with the incarnate God,
Isaiah 61:1-4 (New International Version)
The Year of the Lord’s Favour
61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendour.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
8 “For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”
10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations.
A song of ascents.
1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
John the Baptist Denies Being the Messiah
19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”
21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptise if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
26 “I baptise with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.
The Lord is good to those who look to him, to anyone who seeks him; it is good to wait in patience for deliverance by the Lord. Lamentations 3: 25-26
Light of the world, you greet us this morning with new possibilities. Shine brightly, we pray, until we see into the dark places of this world, and into the dark places of our own lives. We want to follow you in paths of justice, speak up with you for liberty, and bend with you toward the brokenhearted, even the broken places within ourselves. We trade in our faint spirits for your mantle of praise—and with our whole being, we will rejoice in you.
Merciful God, you love justice; why, then, do we persist in wrongdoing and every form of evil? You have given us the gift of your Spirit; why, then, do we quench the Spirit among us? You have given us the words of the prophets and the Word himself; why, then, do we despise and ignore what we have heard from you? You have sent the light into the world; why, then, have we loved darkness rather than light? Forgive us. Restore us. Till and tend us as your garden until righteousness and praise spring up, for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray.
We thank you, O God, for all those in Scripture who have pointed to Christ: for your prophets Elijah and Isaiah, for other prophets, and for John. We thank you, too, for those in our lives who have pointed us to Christ: pastors and teachers, strangers and friends. Give us eyes to see him today among those who are oppressed, imprisoned, brokenhearted, or beaten down, and we will give our testimony, too: how Christ releases and sets free; how he turns ashes into garlands; how he repairs and builds up what was ruined. We, too, will point others to Jesus, the Light of the world. We bring our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ.
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Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Gracious God, teach us to give thanks in all circumstances, for you are always with us. Thank you for the privilege of sharing what we have with others, of giving ourselves away in love, and of receiving the gifts that others share with us. With our whole being, spirit and soul and body, we rejoice in you.
Lord God, who restores, you have done great things for us and we rejoice! So often you have filled us with laughter, even turning tears of sadness into shouts of joy. You send prophets, who point the way to justice and show the way to you. We thank you for sending good news to us and repairing so much that we have devastated.
In this season of light, we lift up in prayer so many who wait in darkness: people oppressed by poverty and discrimination, by political upheaval or dangerous rulers; people imprisoned wrongly and also those imprisoned justly. Right what is wrong among us and in us and restore us to you, to others, to ourselves.
Make the brokenhearted whole again; comfort those who mourn; repair our ruined cities. In all the commotion of these days, do not let us lose sight of you or those whom you especially came to serve: people who are in need of healing, people who are overlooked or underserved, the ones who are lost, and the ones we have made to feel little and least.
Light of the world, live among us always, full of grace and truth as we bring all our prayers in your name, the one who taught us to pray together…..
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
A number of years ago, St James’ Church choir performed the musical “While Shepherds Watched” by Roger Jones of Christian Music Ministries.
One of the many highlights was the song “Come see the beauty of the King”.
As we look forward to the coming of the Messiah, the light of the world, we can sing in great adoration and humbly worship him.
Prayers of intercession reprinted by permission of Westminster John Knox Press from Feasting on the Word Worship Companion. Copyright 2014 (adapted).