Worship Helps for Advent 2

Artwork: The preaching of Saint John the Baptist
Artist: Cornelis van Haarlem
Date: 1602

Worship Theme: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near! The Forerunner prepares for the coming Christ by preaching repentance that brings renewal of life. The Root of Jesse will come in swift judgment on the unrepentant but in mercy and grace for God’s people. His coming will end the wickedness of the world and usher in a new age restored to the perfection with which God made it.


Old Testament: Isaiah 11:1-10
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lordand he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. 10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.

1. List examples of how Jesus fulfilled the description in verses 1–5.

2. How does the description of peace in verses 6–8 give us comfort?

Epistle: Acts 3:19-26
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you-- even Jesus. 21 He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.' 24 "Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.' 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways."

3. When God calls on all people to repent, what does he mean?

4. How do you see that in these verses?

Gospel: Matthew 3:1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'" 4 John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

5. How do you know John the Baptist’s message is aimed at our heart?

6. What is John describing with the “ax…at the root of the trees” and “burning up the chaff”?


Answers:
1. Jesus was descended from David whose father was Jesse. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove at his baptism. Jesus’ earthly ministry was marked by wisdom, understanding, power, etc. Jesus knew people’s thoughts and attitudes (see John 2:25). Other answers will vary.

2. The animals paired in Isaiah’s description are natural enemies. Because of sin, we have all been born natural enemies of God. But because of the Savior’s work on our behalf, we are now at peace with God. While the peace between these animals is symbolic, it’s comforting to know that the peace between God and us is real and lasting.

3. Repentance is God’s work that results in a change of heart, a change of direction, a change of attitude. First, the Law makes us feel contrition over our sin and guilt. Second, the Gospel’s message of forgiveness in Jesus leads us to trust in God’s grace.

4. God used the miracle of the beggar’s healing to capture the attention of the crowd so that Peter and John could preach a message of repentance to the people. They preached the harsh accusations of the law: “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead,” to prepare the hearts of the people to repent. Then they offered the sweetest gospel message that repentance brings renewal by wiping away sins and bringing God’s refreshment through Christ.

5. Just as in John’s day, we too need to “repent” (verse 2), “confess” our sins (verse 6), and “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (verse 8). Our heart’s attitude, not our family tree, is what matters before God.

6. Jesus calls everyone to repent of his or her sins and promises forgiveness and peace to those who trust in him. However, to those who reject Christ, he threatens eternal punishment, and he means it. These words serve as a loving warning even to the believer. We are truly prepared for Christ’s coming at Christmas when we repent of our sins and look to him for forgiveness.



Putting your faith into action
It’s refreshing when someone delivers on what they’ve promised to you, refreshing because we struggle with unfulfilled promises every day in this sinful world. Here’s one of the many promises that our Savior God has fulfilled in you. He has brought you into his Church through the work of his Son, the Branch from Jesse’s stump. And in that Church you enjoy the peace of forgiveness and a loving relationship with the holy God. How many others are there in our world that still need to be brought into his Church by faith in Jesus? That’s our mission. May the Lord richly bless your efforts in carrying out and supporting that work!


A reading from the Book of Concord for the Second Sunday in Advent
God’s foreknowledge is nothing else than this: God knows all things before they happen.

This foreknowledge extends over the godly and the wicked alike.  But it is not the cause of evil or of sin.  In other words, it is not what causes people to do wrong (which originally arises from the devil and mankind’s wicked, perverse will). 

Predestination, or God’s eternal election, covers only the godly, beloved children of God. It is a cause of their salvation, which He also provides.  Our salvation is founded so firmly on it that the gates of hell cannot overcome it.

God’s Word leads us to Christ, who is the Book of Life, in whom all are written and elected who are to be saved in eternity.  For it is written in Ephesians 1:4, “Even as He chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world.”
Christ calls all sinners to Himself and promises them rest.  He is eager ‹seriously wills› that all people should come to Him and allow themselves to be helped. He offers them Himself in His Word and wants them to hear it and not to plug their ears or ‹neglect and› despise the Word.  Furthermore, He promises the power and working of the Holy Spirit and divine assistance for perseverance and eternal salvation ‹so that we may remain steadfast in the faith and gain eternal salvation›. – Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article XI, God’s Eternal Foreknowledge (paragraphs 3-5, 7-8)


Hymns: 16; 311; 27


1  On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
Announces that the Lord is nigh;
Come, then, and listen, for he brings
Good news about the King of kings.

2  Then cleansed be ev’ry life from sin
And furnished for a guest within,
And let us all our hearts prepare
For Christ to come and enter there.

3  We hail you as our Savior, Lord,
Our refuge and our great reward.
Without your grace we waste away
Like flow’rs that wither and decay.

4  Stretch forth your hand, our health restore,
And lift us up to fall no more.
Oh, make your face on us to shine,
And fill the world with love divine.

5  All praise to you, eternal Son,
Whose advent has our freedom won,
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Spirit evermore.


Text: Charles Coffin, 1676–1749; tr. John Chandler, 1806–76, st. 1-3, alt.; composite, st. 4-5.

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