Worship Helps for Advent 3

Artwork: Salome Visiting St. John the Baptist in Prison
Artist: Francesco Barbieri
Date: 1621

(Salome is the daughter of Herodias, the step-daughter of King Herod. It is Salome who dances for Herod and then asks for the head of St. John the Baptist on a platter. Matthew 14:3-11.)

Worship Theme: In the Messiah’s kingdom things are not always what they seem. Appearances can be deceiving and lead to doubt. Today the Church asks Christ to drive the darkness of doubt from our hearts and fill us with the light of the knowledge of Christ. Faith in Christ leads us to patiently hope in the Lord’s caring plan despite any appearances to the contrary.

Old Testament: Isaiah 35:1-10
The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow. And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, 10 and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

1. Where had the Israelites seen the “glory of the Lord” years before?

2. How does God’s deliverance affect his children’s attitude? (See verse 10.)

Epistle: James 5:7-11
Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. 9 Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! 10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

3. In what way is a believer waiting for Jesus’ coming like a farmer?

4. How does the account of Job remind us of the Lord’s compassion and mercy?

Gospel: Matthew 11:2-11
When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" 4 Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 6 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." 7 As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written: "'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' 11 I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

5. How could John the Baptist have doubts or be confused about the identity of the Messiah?

Answers:
1. When the Lord led his chosen people out of Egypt, the “glory of the Lord” appeared as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God was delivering his people from the captivity they faced in Egypt. Here Isaiah says that people will see the glory of the Lord when he comes to deliver his people from their sins.

2. Isaiah says that God’s children will enter Jerusalem with singing. Joy and gladness follow. For us who live in a sad world because of sin and its effects, we have an attitude change—thanks to our gracious God’s deliverance.

3. James says the Lord’s coming is near. Yet we wait for him to come. The farmer knows every spring that fall is near, but he still has to wait for it to arrive.

4. While most of us recognize the name Job and remember the hard times he faced, maybe we don’t remember how that account ended. Read Job 42:12–17 for an example of God’s compassion and mercy.

5. Things were not what they seemed. John languished in prison for preaching righteousness. When he saw the works of Jesus questions rose in his mind and doubt filled the hearts of his followers. John knew that Jesus was the Christ, but where were the acts of judgment promised? Why did John look like a failure and the wicked look like they were winning? John sends his disciples to the right place, to Jesus. When we take our doubts and questions to Jesus, he drives the darkness from our hearts and fills us with light. Jesus pointed to his works as signs from God fulfilling the words of the prophet and marking him as the Coming One. Jesus was far more than he appeared to be: he was the Messiah who makes the blind see, the dead live and the poor evangelized. Jesus then points to John and shows greatness hiding behind the cross and persecution. Though John did not seem it, he was the second Elijah and a prophet without peer.


Putting your faith into action
Distractions while driving a vehicle can be dangerous, even fatal. The Lord reminds us that, as his redeemed people, we’re traveling on the highway of glory to eternal life with him. At this time of year especially, there are plenty of deadly distractions. Keep your focus on Christ, your coming King and Savior!


A reading from the Book of Concord for the Third 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: 14; 414; 415; 751

1  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.

2  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.

3  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.

4  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.

Text: Valentin Thilo, 1607–62, alt.; tr. Arthur T. Russell, 1806–74, st. 1-3, alt.;

The Lutheran Hymnal, St. Louis, 1941, st. 4, alt.

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