Revised Common Lectionary: Malachi 3:1-4; Luke 1:68-79; Philippians 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6
Narrative Lectionary: Ezekiel: Valley of Dry Bone, 37:1-14 (John 11:25-26)
The prophet Malachi spoke of a messenger being sent ahead of God in 3:1-4. The prophet was concerned about abuse of temple worship and corruption. Malachi declared the messenger of the covenant was coming. God’s presence would suddenly be known in temple. The messenger to come would purify, like refiner’s fire and soap, those who served God in the temple, so that sacrifices and offerings would once again be acceptable.
Zechariah sings praise to God for raising up a mighty savior in Luke 1:68-79. Upon the birth of his son, John, who would later be known as John the Baptizer, Zechariah sang this song. God remembered the covenant made with their ancestors, and the words spoken through the prophets long ago. Zechariah also sings for his son, who will be called the prophet of the Most High and will prepare the way. Zechariah concludes with a blessing that light will break upon those who are in the shadow of death, and they will be guided into the way of peace.
Paul thanks God for the church in Philippi in Philippians 1:3-11. Paul is especially grateful for the way the Philippians have not forgotten him while he was in prison and have cared for him. Paul prays that they would continue to know the overflowing love of God and all the knowledge and insight, so they may be authentic in their conveyance of the Gospel and in judgment before Christ.
Luke 3:1-6 contains Luke’s account of John the Baptizer emerging from the wilderness. Luke firmly places John the Baptist as one prophesied to come before the Messiah in the time of Emperor Tiberius. Like the other Gospel accounts, the writer of Luke quotes Isaiah and links the voice of the one crying out of the wilderness with John the Baptist. While the writer of Isaiah was addressing the people coming out of exile and returning home, Luke links John the Baptizer with the work of justice and restoration, preparing for the work of Christ.
The Narrative Lectionary focuses on Ezekiel’s Valley of Dry Bones in 37:1-14. The prophet had experienced the first exile into Babylon and knew the fall of Jerusalem was coming. Yet, the prophet beholds a vision of God restoring Israel, raising up the bones from a battlefield, growing sinews and muscles. God will open the graves and breath the Spirit upon them. Those who live again, who survive the exile, will know that God is with them, and they will thrive. What seems dead is waiting to rise.
In John 11:25-26, John declares to Martha after the death of her brother Lazarus that he is the resurrection and the life. Those who believe, even though they die, will live. Those who live and believe in him will never die, for death will have no hold on them.
Prepare the way! Sweep clean! Purify yourselves. Be ready. Advent is a season of preparation. While the traditional theme of the day is peace (though no one knows where those traditions of hope, peace, joy, and love came from), peace is part of preparation. Resisting the worry of the world, resisting the news that causes us to fear. Peace prepares us for God’s presence to take root. It doesn’t mean we won’t still have anxiety or fear, but that in preparation for Christ to enter our world and lives in a new way, we do what we can to let go and remember that we are children of God, and that God is with us, now.
Call to Worship (Luke 1:69-70, 72, 78-79)
“God raised up a mighty savior for us,
As God spoke through the prophets,
God showed mercy promised to our ancestors;
God remembered the holy covenant.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
To give light to those in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Eternal God, we confess that we’re still not ready. We haven’t done all we can to be ready for Your reign on earth as it is in heaven. We have procrastinated and delayed, and at other times simply forgot who we are and who You are in our lives. Call us into noticing this moment, this time of Advent, this season of preparation. Help us to recall that You are Eternal and always with us, and remind us to set aside a moment and prepare our hearts and minds for You. We can make the time to allow Your peace to enter in and reign in our hearts. We can find the way. Eternal One, guide us in this season of Advent, of watching and waiting, signs that You are doing something new in our world and in our lives, right now. Amen.
God calls out to us from the wilderness of our lives, from the places that are tangled and full of shadows. God calls out to us and leads us in the way of peace. Listen to God call your name, and know that you are loved. Listen to God’s voice, and know that you are forgiven. Listen to God’s proclamation, and know there is new life, restored life, now. Go and live into the Good News. Amen.
Singer of Dreams, You sang into Hannah’s heart long ago when she longed for a child, and brought forth the prophet Samuel. You sang into Zechariah’s heart long ago when he longed for a child, and brought forth John the Baptizer. You sang into Mary’s heart, though she was so young, and sang a song of revolution to bear Your Son. Sing into our hearts, sing into our dreams, Singer of Songs. Sing into us the melodies of liberation and the harmonies of righteousness. Sing into us Your song, a new song, so that we might be ready for You, Singer of Life, as we sing the song of resurrection. Amen.