Grace and Peace to You,
Two announcements to begin with:
1. A reminder to members of Peace United Church that we are having a congregational meeting on Wednesday, December 5, at 7:00 PM at Peace United Church North (524 Central Ave.) to discuss and vote on selling the South Building.
2. This Sunday, December 9, at Grey Eagle UMC, we will have the Sunday School Christmas Program during the worship service. Children will rehearse on Saturday morning at 9:30.
Our Gospel reading this week and next turns to the texts in Luke about John the Baptist. Every year during Advent we spend two weeks on this enigmatic character who proclaimed the Day of the Lord. It always seems a little strange to me as we move toward Christmas to focus on him.
Our readings this week are:
Malachi 3:1-4 – Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. The name Malachi means messenger in Hebrew. All of the prophets of the Old Testament were essentially messengers for God to the people of Israel. The greatest prophet for the Jewish people was Moses. Our reading in Malachi is God’s proclamation that there will be another messenger who will prepare the people for coming of the Lord. In verse two, who is the one who is like a refiner’s fire or fullers’ soap? What is the purpose of refining or soap? Who will be refined or washed? This lesson is referred to in our Gospel lesson.
OR Baruch 5:1-9 – You will find this Book in Catholic Bibles or in Protestant Bibles with the Apocrypha. Here is a link to the passage: Bible Gateway. This passage, and a parallel passage in Isaiah 40:3-5, is also referred to in our Gospel lesson. Baruch says that we should put away our sorrow because something good is coming: the restoration of Israel. This restoration will be made easy by God.
Luke 1:68-79 – Instead of a lesson from the Psalms, the lectionary gives us a song or prophesy from Zechariah, who was John the Baptist’s father. Earlier in the chapter an angel tells Zechariah that he and his wife, Elizabeth, both of whom are old, will have a son to be named John. When Zech doesn’t believe him the angel makes him mute. (What does Zech and Liz do when Zech gets home?) When the boy is born and Zech writes out what his name will be his voice is restored and this song results. It is often referred to as the “Benedictus” from the Latin word for “blessed”.
Philippians 1:3-11 – Like last week’s reading in 1 Thessalonians, this reading is a prayer of thanksgiving Paul gives to God for the people of Phillippi. What have they done since Paul founded the church? Who does Paul say started the good work among them? What does he wish for the people of the church? The answer to this question is not that it will grow more and more but that it will grow WITH 2 things and that it will have a certain result: purity and blamelessness. Where does the “harvest of righteousness” come from and for what purpose? How can we, as individuals and as a church, be a “harvest of righteousness”?
Luke 3:1-6 – Compare verses 1 and 2 to Luke 1:5 and Luke 2:1-2. What do these verses do for the story that Luke is telling? Where did John the Baptist do his work? How does Luke, like Mark and Matthew before him, connect John the Baptist to a long line of prophets in the Old Testament? What was John’s message (verse 3)? We will get more detail of his message in next week’s Gospel reading.
May God bless you and may you share the Good News of Jesus with all you meet this week!
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor