Worship Helps for Advent 3

The Preaching of St. John the Baptist
Francesco Bacchiacca
c. 1520
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Worship Theme: Most people don’t want the Savior who promised to come. Do you? 

Old Testament: Malachi 4:1-6 
"Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire," says the LORD Almighty. "Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. 3 Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things," says the LORD Almighty. 4 "Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. 5 "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse."

1. Chapter 4 talks about the day of distinction. What would happen to the wicked according to verse 1? What would happen to the righteous according to verses 2 and 3?

2. Why is salvation pictured “like calves released from the stall?”

3. Read Matthew 17:11-13 and Luke 1:17. Who is “Elijah” (verse 5)?

Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 
Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not put out the Spirit's fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil. 23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

4. What attitudes are to emerge from the Spirit-driven change in us?

5. How in the world are we to keep our whole spirit, soul and body blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus?

Gospel: John 1:6-8,19-28 
There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 19 Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Christ." 21 They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No." 22 Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" 23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" 24 Now some Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" 26 "I baptize with water," John replied, "but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie." 28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

6. Who was the focal point of John’s message?

7. What was John’s attitude toward Christ?

1. The wicked would be destroyed. The righteous would be filled with joy when they saw the “sun of righteousness” coming to them with its forgiveness. And they would be able to crush the wicked.

2. Calves are kept in a pen for the first six months of their lives. When they are finally let out onto the pasture, they leap and jump because of their newly found freedom. Our first step into eternity will be filled with that same joy!

3. Elijah is John the Baptist.

4. Joy, continual prayer life, unflappable thanks despite obstacles, respect for God and his word all have a part in our Christian living.  In all things we are to stay away from every brand of evil.

5. This is the working of the one who called us. Too often we try to make these changes on our own and come up even more frustrated and guilty. These are attitudes that emerge as a fruit of the Spirit as he works in us. “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

6. Some might have focused on John as their leader.  But John said he wasn’t the “light” but only the messenger to point out the light.  Jesus is the Light of the world.  

7. John didn’t want the spotlight on himself but on Christ.  His selfless humility is heard as he voiced that he wasn’t even worthy to do slave duty for Christ. Can we have any less an understanding of our relationship to Christ?

Putting your faith into action

A reading from the Book of Concord for the Third Sunday in Advent
We tell godly minds to consider the promises, and we teach about free forgiveness of sins and about reconciliation, which happens through faith in Christ.  Afterward, we add also the teaching of the Law.  It is necessary to distinguish these things aright.  We must see what Scripture says about the Law and about the promises.  For it praises works in such a way that it does not remove the free promise.

Good works are to be done because of God’s command and for the exercise of faith—confessing the faith and giving thanks.  Good works are done in the flesh, which is not as yet entirely renewed.  The flesh hinders the Holy Spirit’s motives and adds some of its uncleanness to the works.  Yet, because of Christ, they are holy, divine works, sacrifices, and acts belonging to the rule of Christ, who in this way displays His kingdom before this world.  For in these works He sanctifies hearts and represses the devil.  In order to retain the Gospel among people, He openly sets the confession of saints against the kingdom of the devil and, in our weakness, declares His power.  Consider the dangers, labors, and sermons of the apostle Paul, Augustine, and the rest who taught the churches.  These deeds are holy works and true sacrifices acceptable to God.  They are Christ’s battles through which He repressed the devil and drove him away from those who believed. – Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article V, Love and Fulfilling the Law (paragraphs 67-69)

Text of the Hymn of the Day: Arise, O Christian People
Arise, O Christian people! Prepare yourselves today.
Prepare to greet the Savior, Who takes your sins away.
To us by grace alone The truth and light was given;
The promised Lord from heaven To all the world is shown.

Prepare the way before him; Prepare for him the best.
Cast out what would offend him, This great, this heav'nly guest.
Make straight, make plain the way: The lowly valleys raising,
The heights of pride abasing, His path all even lay.

The humble heart and lowly God raises up on high;
Beneath his feet in terror The haughty soul shall lie.
The heart sincere and right, That heeds God's invitation
And makes true preparation -- It is the Lord's delight.

Prepare my heart, Lord Jesus; Turn not from me aside,
And help me to receive you This blessed Adventtide.
From stall and manger low Come now to dwell within me;
I'll sing your praises gladly And forth your glory show.


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