Sunday, December 4, 2022

The Sunday Lectionary and Prayers for Sunday, December 4, 2022 — Second Sunday of Advent

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The Sunday Lectionary and Prayers
Sunday, December 4, 2022 — Second Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12
(Revised Common Lectionary Year A)

To Dream God’s Dream

Opening Statement
Prophecy, promises, and preparation—all are part of the Advent tradition. They serve as reminders in this hectic season that there is more to prophecy than guessing what is in this package; more to promises than what Santa Claus will bring; more to preparation than cleaning house and putting on a spread for a holiday party. On this second Sunday of Advent, we are called back to the longing, not for a certain present, but for a messiah who brings about a beloved community of harmony and peace—but not without opposition. These passages speak of wishes, desires, and the hint of fulfillment that is Christmas. We need to hear, believe, and get ready.



Second Sunday of Advent - Peace
Loving God, in this time of preparation and planning,
We thank you for the hope and peace you unfailingly offer us.
Show us the creative power of hope.
Teach us the peace that comes from justice.
Prepare our hearts to be transformed by you,
That we may walk in the light of Christ.

Opening Prayer (Isaiah 11, Romans 15, Matthew 3)
God of hope and encouragement, we come in the midst of this season of busyness and preparations: to find a time and space to slow down, to reflect on what our true preparations should be. We need to prepare our hearts to receive the gifts of love and hope. We need to prepare our minds to focus on your promise that a messiah will come and nothing will be the same. We need to prepare our spirits: to praise God for prophecy, promises, and preparation; to find hope and encouragement; to find peace and joy. May we do so now, in our time of worship. Amen.

The Collect (Book of Common Prayers)
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Prayer of Confession (Isaiah 11, Psalm 72, Matthew 3)
O God, the stories of our faith have lost their power. We have heard the prophecies spoken so many times, the promises retold again and again, the call to prepare ourselves for your coming repeated so often, we don’t really hear or heed them anymore. We have replaced these messages of life: with guessing what presents we are getting, with preparing for parties and the social obligations of Christmas. Bring us back to a sense of mystery: a sense of awe, a sense of wonder, a sense of excitement, a sense of anticipation, a sense that something special is about to break into our everyday world. Help us prepare our hearts, souls, and minds for the coming of the messiah. Amen.

Words of Assurance (Psalm 72)
God’s promises are sure—promises of steadfast love and forgiveness. God deals with God’s people with righteousness and justice. Rejoice and be glad!

Prayer of the Day
Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son. By his coming nurture our growth as people of repentance and peace; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


First Reading
(A ruler brings justice and peace)
The Peaceful Kingdom
1  A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
     and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2  The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
     the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
     the spirit of counsel and might,
     the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3  His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

   He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
     or decide by what his ears hear;
4  but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
     and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
   he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
     and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5  Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
     and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

6  The wolf shall live with the lamb,
     the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
   the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
     and a little child shall lead them.
7  The cow and the bear shall graze,
     their young shall lie down together;
     and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8  The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
     and the weaned child shall put its hand on the
         adder’s den.
9  They will not hurt or destroy
     on all my holy mountain;
   for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
     as the waters cover the sea.

Return of the Remnant of Israel and Judah
10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

A Psalm and A Prayer
Responsive Readings from the Psalms and Prayers
for Public Worship and Private Devotions


Psalm 72

(The righteous shall flourish)
Blessed be the Lord, who alone does wondrous things.

Blessed be his glorious name forever. May his glory fill the whole earth.

Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart.

As for me, my feet almost stumbled and my steps nearly slipped. I was envious of the arrogant and saw the prosperity of the wicked.

When I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end, and the justice and mercy of God.

I am continually with you, O Lord. You hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel. For me it is good to be near God. I have made the Lord God my refuge, and I will tell of all your works.

Heavenly Father, we praise You for the many blessings You bestow upon us. We honor You for the faithfulness You show to Your children from generation to generation. We pray that You will cleanse us from all unrighteousness so we can live and work with pure hearts. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit, so we can tell others of Your saving grace and mighty works, even as we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: “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 trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”

Second Reading
(Living in harmony)
15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Gospel for Jews and Gentiles Alike
7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

   “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
     and sing praises to your name”;

10 and again he says,

   “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;

11 and again,

   “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
     and let all the peoples praise him”;

12 and again Isaiah says,

   “The root of Jesse shall come,
     the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
   in him the Gentiles shall hope.”

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.


Gospel Acclamation
Alleluia. Prepare the way of the Lord.All flesh shall see the salvation of God. Alleluia. (Luke 3:4, 6)


The Gospel
(Prepare the way of the Lord)
The Proclamation of John the Baptist
3:1 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,

   “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
   ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
     make his paths straight.’”

4 Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9 Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”


Here ends the Lessons

Click HERE to read today’s Holy Gospel Lesson message

The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Closing Prayer

Lord, thank you that we are a family in Christ. Help us to share his love and legacy with everyone that we encounter this week. May we lavish Christ’s abounding goodness upon our families, friends and colleagues. Holy Spirit, come and equip us in our workplace, guide us in our school life, and inspire us in our neighbourhood. May we be your hands and feet to the needy, your words of affirmation to the oppressed and your arms of comfort to the lonely.

Thank you for choosing to use us to bring your kingdom here on earth.
Amen


Optional parts of the readings are set off in [square brackets.]

The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission.
The Sunday Lectionary and Prayers for Sunday, December 4, 2022 — Second Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12

“John the Baptizer—Prepare A Way for the Lord” The Gospel Message for Sunday, December 4, 2022


Our Gospel message comes to us today from the 3rd chapter of Matthew, beginning with the 1st verse.

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Matthew 3:1-12 (NRSV)

All mighty God, we thank you for your Word and the way that you in it revealed to us who you are and what you've done for us in Christ. Now, as we open that Word, we pray that your Spirit may be present, that all thoughts of worry or distraction may be removed and that the Spirit will allow us to hear your voice. And so, oh God, fill us with your Spirit through the reading and proclamation of your Word this day. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.


"John the Baptizer—Prepare A Way for the Lord"


Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.


Today, on this Second Sunday in Advent, we encounter one of the most exciting and dynamic characters, outside of Jesus, in all of the New Testament. His name is John. According to Luke's Gospel, he was the son of Zechariah, a priest living in Judea, who was married to Elizabeth, a relative of Mary, the mother of our Lord. But John was not known by his last name as being a son of Zechariah. John was known as the Baptizer.


Now, I use the term John the Baptizer instead of John the Baptist because I wouldn't want to give any of our younger persons reading this morning the impression that he was known for his association with a particular denomination of the Christian Church. John was known as the Baptizer because it was to describe the significance of his unique ministry. God called John to herald and call people to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, the Son of God.


And let's make no mistake about it. Not only was John's ministry unique, but he was also unique. He could have followed in his father's footsteps, become a priest, and used that position to call people to prepare for God's coming among us in the person of Jesus the Christ. But he didn't. Like a hippie from the Sixties, he left his home, striking out on his own to seek a restless urge within him, leading him to find peace with his soul.


But unlike the hippies, who seemed to follow the beat of their own drum, the beat that pounded in John's heart was the call of God. Nevertheless, John wound up in the wilderness, dressed in a garment of camel's hair and subsiding on a locust and wild honey diet. And we might conclude that his hair was long and stringy, with a beard that would drive Nancy to demand that I go and see Rick for a cut and trim.


John was a rough wilderness person, weathered and stern. And his message was as stern as he was. "Repent of your sins, and prepare the way of the Lord, for God's kingdom is coming among us." He called a spade a spade. And yet, the Gospels tell us that despite his lack of tact, the people from all the regions left the comfort of their homes and traveled out in the wilderness to hear him preach, repent of their sins, and have their sins be cleansed by baptism.


But Matthew's Gospel raises a couple of troubling aspects of John's message for us to consider. When the Pharisees and Sadducees, those who lived their lives striving to keep the commandments and live a life of faith, came to hear John preach and seek his baptism of repentance, John rebuked them. Think about this. Some worshiped God regularly and truly strived to live according to God's will, persons not unlike ourselves. And yet, John calls them a brood of vipers, snakes, those who would want to poison and obstruct the message of the Messiah. It is as if they only wanted to have their skins washed, not their hearts and minds.


There is a past, future, and present tense to this message of Advent. John the Baptizer is calling on us, as he did the people of his day, to prepare for the coming of the Christ and the kingdom of God. And although his message is one that is grounded in history, calling the people of his day to prepare and look forward to the beginning of Christ's ministry, it calls them to act in the present moment of their lives with repentance.


And so, if we are to bring John's message into our present moment, to learn from the past as we look forward to the future, we must realize that we, like those who were the religious faithful of the past, cannot escape John's call to repentance. We must realize that in the eyes of God, none of us have lived our lives as God would have us live. We still need to repent and daily renew the promise of our baptism.


I think one of the problems of this passage from Matthew's Gospel is that we don't understand how to interpret John's message. To be sure, like a good Pentecostal preacher, he used the words that described our future in terms of hell and heaven with the words of eternal fire. And as we look at this text this morning, is it not those words of John that speak of fire a little bit troubling to us?


On the one hand, John tells us that unlike his baptism of repentance, Jesus will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire. On the other hand, John tells us that those who do not repent will burn in hell, in an unquenchable fire. Now I don't know about you, but after watching villages in Vietnam burn after being bombed with napalm, I have come to realize the frightening danger of fire.


To put this in perspective, Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book, Gospel Medicine, stated, and I quote: "One of the most frightening things about John's vision of judgment is that unquenchable fire of his. It is impossible to live in the Bible belt without a vivid image of hell, much more vivid than the clean streets of heaven.


Throughout Holy Scripture, fire is the one reliable sign of the presence of God. God speaks to Moses out of the burning bush. A pillar of fire guides the people of Israel through the wilderness after they escape from Egypt. When Moses goes up on Mount Sinai to get the Ten Commandments from God, it looks to those down below as if the mountain itself is being devoured by fire.


I do not mean to minimize the danger. This is not save fire; it can still burn… but it is God's own fire, the fire of God's presence, fire that wants to speak to us, guide us, instruct us, and save us. It is the fire of a potter who wants to make useful vessels out of damp clay. It is the fire of a jeweler who wants to refine pure gold from rough ore.


In other words, it does not have to be the fire of destruction. It may also be the fire of transformation, a fire that both lights us up and changes us, melting us down and reforming us more nearly to the image of God. It is the fire with which Jesus himself baptizes us, inviting us into a bright, not hot relationship with him.


Even when the fire seems bent on consuming us in a fiery furnace, we find that we have company and that we do not sweat alone, even in the hottest regions of our own personal hells."


The point of my message this morning is not just that John was a very unique individual, chosen by God to prepare the people years ago to hear his message, but that we today should repent and prepare to receive the Son of God into our lives. His message, as rough as it was, speaks to us today.


As Barbara Brown Taylor points out, his message is not just a message of doom for those who fail to heed his call of repentance and come to faith in Jesus as the Christ. It is also a call for those of us who do embrace Jesus as the Christ to be purged by the fire of reformation that Jesus inaugurated with his ministry so that we might become his disciples and instruments of his ongoing compassion for those in need.


Personally, I do not fear the image of fire as being an eternal torment for my sins. Instead, I look to the image of fire as the means by which I am molded and shaped into the image of God that Jesus the Christ has modeled for me to emulate.


So let us pray for God's Spirit to come among us, to keep the fire of our Lord's redeeming grace alive in our community, that God's grace might consume us, burn our sins in repentance, and learn to live as God's redeemed people in Christ, who look forward to his presence, not only in the life to come but in every moment of our lives.


Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, God of the prophets, you sent your messenger into the Jordan wilderness to prepare human hearts for your Son's coming. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, help us to prepare for Christ's coming into our presence so that we might hear the good news of your saving grace, repent of our sins, and transform our lives to be witnesses to your redeeming grace. This we ask in Christ's Holy name. Amen.



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Scripture taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)® Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Sermon contributed by Rev. Ronald Harbaugh.
John the Baptizer speaks to us today.

The Morning Prayer for Sunday, December 4, 2022

 

The Morning Prayer
Sunday, December 4, 2022


Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.

Lord our God, strengthen our hearts today through your Word. You are our Father and we are your children, and we want to trust you in every aspect of our lives. Protect us on all our ways, and grant that we may always watch and wait for the coming of your kingdom, for the future of our Lord Jesus Christ. Keep us from becoming confused by present-day events. Help us to remain free, that we may serve you and not be led astray, no matter what happens in the world. Grant us your Holy Spirit in everything, for without your Spirit we can do nothing. Help us, and accept our praise for the many ways you have given us help. Amen.

Verse of the Day for Sunday, December 4, 2022

 

Verse of the Day
Sunday, December 4, 2022


John 8:12
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
When you accept the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, as your Lord and Savior, you cannot hide that you know Him. Rather, you must allow His light to shine through you so that others can also have His light—so they also can accept the salvation He offers.

Read all of John Chapter 8

Listen to John Chapter 8


Scripture from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®.

Travel the World from Home — Mount Tabor, Deborah, And The Jezreel Valley

 

The Holy Land:
Connecting the Land with Its Stories

Mount Tabor, Deborah, And The Jezreel Valley
Season 1 — Episode 6

Have you ever wanted to see where Jesus was baptized? Or where the Transfiguration of Christ occurred?

The Holy Land, a biblical educational-travel series brought to you by Our Daily Bread: Connecting the Land with Its Stories, an eight-episode series hosted by biblical geographer Dr. John (Jack) Beck that takes you to regions throughout Israel to experience the land, the culture, and the customs that surround the sacred stories of the Bible.

In episode 6, fly with Jack Beck over the Jezreel Valley for a bird’s-eye view and see why this agriculturally rich land was something to fight for. With miles and miles of fertile valley, you’ll see why this is called the "breadbasket" of Israel. Ascend Mount Tabor and hear how the prophetess Deborah led the army of Israel in a battle where they were outnumbered and questioning their faith. See how God once again provided the solution for victory proving that He was enough for them and is enough for you.

Season 1 — Episode 6 | Mount Tabor, Deborah, And The Jezreel Valley