Worship Helps for Advent 2
Artwork: St John the Baptist Preaching in the Desert
Artist: Massimo Stanzione
Worship Theme: Many people look for easy fixes for their problems. God, though, often puts his people through a long, painful process to prepare us to embrace the Savior he has sent. God always works through his Word to develop in us a life that shows the fruit of the purity he has put around us in Christ.
Old Testament: Malachi 3:1 "See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.
1. Look at 3:1. Who is the messenger who will prepare the way before the LORD?
2. What will the coming of the LORD be like?
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 4:1 So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
3. How did Paul want Christians to think of men like Apollos, Peter, and himself? (See 4:1.)
4. If someone’s conscience is clear, does that make him or her innocent? Why or why not?
5. Jesus will not judge superficially on the Last Day. How will he judge? (See 4:5.)
Gospel: Luke 3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar-- when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene-- 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6 And all mankind will see God's salvation.'"
6. In contrast to some of the great men of that era, to whom did the word of the Lord come? Where?
7. On what did John the Baptist center his preaching?
8. How had the prophet Isaiah described John’s task?
1. Here Malachi prophesies about John the Baptizer. (See Matthew 11:10 for details). John would prepare people for the arrival of the Master they were seeking when they complained, “Where is the God of justice?”
2. When Jesus, God’s messenger, came the first time, Malachi said he would be like strong soap or hot fire to purify people. These images picture the often-painful process God uses to remove people’s selfish ways and to create lives of faith which honor the God of justice.
3. Paul wants us to think of apostles, and then pastors, etc. today as “servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.”
4. If your conscience is clear, that does not make you innocent before God. The Lord Jesus will judge all people on the Last Day.
5. Jesus will bring to light what was in hidden in darkness. He will expose the motives of everyone’s hearts.
6. God did not speak directly to the Roman emperor or the Jewish high priest. He spoke directly to John the Baptist, in the desert of all places. (Today too, God casts down the mighty from their thrones, but he lifts up the lowly.)
7. John was known for his baptizing. People were prepared for it by repenting. In baptism they found forgiveness of sins through faith.
8. John would be a lone voice getting people ready to see the Messiah when he arrived on the public scene. It was to be a preparation like that of an arriving king. This spectacular coming would rescue the whole world.
Putting your faith into action
It’s been rightly stated that even the most pious of Christian good works is tainted by sin in some way, small though it may be. If so, then how can God’s people ever bring to our Lord and Savior gifts that please him? Only through the refining, purifying, cleansing love of Jesus. When the Holy Spirit brought us to faith in Jesus, he also sanctified us—set us apart in body and soul— for lives of service to our God. We continue our Advent preparation knowing that we are acceptable to our God by faith in Jesus and so are our gifts of love to him.
What God's Son says remains eternally true, "For apart from Me you can do nothing" [John 15:5].
Paul says, "For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" [Philippians 2:13].
To all godly Christians who feel and experience in their hearts a small spark or longing for divine grace and eternal salvation this precious passage is very comforting. For they know that God has kindled in their hearts this beginning of true godliness. He will further strengthen and help them in their great weakness to persevere in true faith unto the end.
The saints prayed that they might be taught, enlightened, and sanctified by God. Thus they declare that they cannot get those things that they ask of God from their own natural powers. In Psalm 119, David prays more than ten times that God would give him understanding, that he might rightly comprehend and learn the divine teaching. Similar prayers are in Paul's writings (Eph. 1:17; Col. 1:9; Phil. 1:9). These prayers and passages about our ignorance and inability have been written for us. They are not written to make us idle and remiss in reading, hearing, and meditating on God's Word, but that we should first thank God that by His Son He has delivered us from the darkness of ignorance and the captivity of sin and death. Through Baptism and the Holy Spirit He has regenerated and illumined us. – Solid Declaration, Article II, Free Will (paragraphs 14-15)