Sermon for 3rd Sunday of Advent 12/13/20
Psalm 126; Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; 1st Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
The psalm this morning is a preserved song of return from exile and is an affirmation that the gathered worshipers might safely believe in the God who already had returned them to the Promised Land. The writer had hope for the future because of what God had already done. The you of the Hebrew people in worship preceded the actual occurrence which they celebrated. The people celebrated in advance, counting on God to be true. Why should we do less? Salvation history extended beyond the Exodus and conquest to the Exile and beyond. Revelation shows God at work in past history and in our own history. Why should we not expect Him to do so again?
God’s delivering acts were confessed the great acts of God from creation to Exodus to restoration from Exile. Still beloved, they looked forward to new acts, and God’s people wait expectantly for His deliverance, once again. Verses 1-6 of this prayer is a petition, yet nothing is complete until God is finished His work with us, His people is complete. Momentary joy does not guarantee permanent satisfaction, but constant prayer assures eventual joy with God.
In Isaiah, the first three verses were originally intended to give comfort to the exiles. Jesus used it as His manifesto delivered in the synagogue at Nazareth, at the beginning of his ministry. He lived the fulfillment out in the years of His earthly ministry. Jesus intends His followers to continue living it out in our own time. Jesus also understood that the Spirit of God gave Him prophetic power to preach God’s message and to provide salvation for oppressed people. He also calls us to minister as He did and the Spirit will empower our ministry as it did Him.
In 1st Thessalonians, Christians are called, by the Spirit, and told to never let the Spirit be put out. With the help of the Spirit, we are to be joyful always; pray continually; giving thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. We are to not treat prophecies with contempt. We are to test everything, holding on to the good, and avoid every kind of evil. We are to let God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify us through and through. May our whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless as the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wrote this to the church in Thessalonica and sought prayers from the church; he sent a holy kiss to them and charged them before the Lord to have this letter read to all, and then said, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
In the Gospel of John, we see John the Baptist takes the front and center, as he is baptizing with his disciples the people on the banks of the Jordan and people are coming to Him. He required confession of sin, before baptism and the people complied. The Jewish religious hierarchy are there to question John. Is he the Christ, and he says, “I am not.” They asked him, “Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” They pressed John further and said, “What do you say about yourself?” His reply was from the prophet Isaiah, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert.” “Make straight the way for the Lord.” Some then asked him, “If you are not the Christ, or Elijah, nor the Prophet,” then why are you baptizing? John said, “I baptize with water,” “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of who sandals I am not worthy to untie.” Thus, John was foretelling Jesus’ arrival.
In each of these scriptures, we are taught to persevere, whether we are in tough times, it will not last forever, so expect it to change; conversely, if we are in good times, know that it too will no last forever, so prepare for our situations to change. However, in all situation, praise the Lord, for He is the constant in all things. Clear? Amen!