The 3rd Sunday in Advent for December 11, 2022
Psalm 146:4-9; Isaiah 35:1-10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11
The Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as “Gaudete” or “Rejoice” Sunday, so called because of the heightened excitement in anticipation for the birth of Christ. But as we listen to the gospel appointed for this day, it may strike us that today is more like a “Blue” Third Sunday of Advent rather than a “Gaudete” Sunday. In the gospel lesson, we will find John the Baptist languishing in prison. He heard what the Messiah was doing and he was not happy. God works for the oppressed, those for whom no one else will speak, or rarely speak of. The expectation is that people who call themselves after God’s name will also execute justice. As our Creator, God’s sovereignty and faithfulness are emphasized in this reference . His sovereignty expresses itself in compassionate acts of mercy and grace to the unfortunate and this is the result of the faithfulness: “The Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—-the Lord, who remains faithful forever.”
From out Old Testament reading from Isaiah that our own lives, like God’s glorious creation, sometimes become barren and nonproductive. As wild animals frequent the beautiful areas God made,ferocious obstacles can present difficulties to our happiness and security. The God of creation can intervene with His marvelous grace, bringing fresh meaning to fruitless and discouraged lives. He does it, however, as we are willing to be instruments of His redemptive purpose for the world. God’s Messiah would bring in His kingdom. The news of the kingdom is especially good news for the poor, the disenfranchised, and the sick. God intends good for His creation and He intends to secure it through Jesus Christ. Christians are to be ambassadors for the kingdom of God, for it is our task to be involved in Jesus’ concern for haling for the poor and for those that society ignores. Following the Exile the prophet Isaiah referenced was an expectation of a cleansed and disciplined people who would joyfully march across the wilderness back to Jerusalem. God’s people continue to look to the final day of God’s cleansing when sorrows and sighs disappear from human history. God looks forward to the day when the people of this world come cleansed and disciplined to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Our reading from the Epistle of James this morning speaks directly to the coming of the Lord and that it would mean vindication for the faithful. Righteousness will be rewarded, and evil punished. The prospect of that coming offers motivation for patience in the sense of steadfastness or endurance. It also means that the day of judgment will come for some. Each of us must learn patience as it is not an instinctive response, but a learned way of living for all of us. The reward for patiently waiting for the day of the Lord, and living as He has taught us to live is well worth the wait. For those in fear of judgment, it is never too late to turn to the Lord and live a life in righteous patience and obedience to His word.
Our Gospel from Matthew this morning gives us insight into John the Baptist’s preparing the way of the Lord but that he did not fully understand the Way. He expected deliverance but instead was delivered up to Herod. He looked for the coming One, but Jesus’ coming had not brought what he or Israel expected. Jesus pointed to His works for the helpless as signs to identify Him as the expected Messiah. This was the advance of God’s kingdom. Military advance would not be. Violence is not the way to the kingdom. Forceful faith willing to wait for finale victory is the mark of kingdom people. Without faith people find reason to condemn God’s servants whatever they do. Following legalistic rules is not the kingdom way. Imitating Christ in helping others is the Way, beloved. It is in our living our lives helping others and their needs, that they will see Jesus working through us, and find Him for themselves. You can not force anyone to live as Christ lived, we must have the desire within us, to want to be more like Him and to then wait patiently for the day when He returns. This is what we seek to rejoice today and every day until Jesus comes back for us. Amen.