Worship Helps for Advent 2

Art: Baptism of Christ
Artist: Pietro Perugino

Worship Theme: Since his coming is sure and so important, he sends out forerunners in the footsteps of St. John the Baptist who help us to make proper preparation for his coming. They do that with a message not their own. They do it with the message that he himself has given. Pay close attention to those heralds of the coming Lord, the prophets and apostles, and to the pastors and teachers in our midst who have succeeded them to get us ready for his coming.

Prayer of the Day:
Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the way for your only Son.  By his coming give us strength in our conflicts and shed light on our path through the darkness of this world; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Old Testament: Isaiah 40:1-11
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call out to her. Her warfare really is over. Her guilt is fully paid for. Yes, she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
3A voice is calling out: In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord. In the wasteland make a level highway for our God. 4Every valley will be raised up, and every mountain and hill will be made low. The rugged ground will become level, and the rough places will become a plain. 5Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh together will see it. Yes, the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
6A voice was saying, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry out?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like a wildflower in the countryside. 7Grass withers, flowers fade, when the breath of the Lord blows on them. Yes, the people are grass. 8Grass withers, flowers fade, but the Word of our God endures forever.
9Get up on a high mountain, O Zion, you herald of good news. Lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, you herald of good news. Lift it up! Do not be afraid! Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10Look, God the Lord will come with strength, and his arm is ruling for him. Look, his reward is with him. The result of his work is in front of him. 11Like a shepherd he will care for his flock. With his arm he will gather the lambs. He will lift them up on his lap. He will gently lead the nursing mothers.

1. How will the people receive “double” for all their sins?

2. Who is the “voice of one calling in the desert to prepare a way for the Lord?”

3. What purpose does the Lord want to achieve in verses 6-8?


Epistle: 2 Peter 3:8-14
8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: For the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 9The Lord is not slow to do what he promised, as some consider slowness. Instead, he is patient for your sakes, not wanting anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance.
10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that day the heavens will pass away with a roar, the elements will be dissolved as they burn with great heat, and the earth and what was done on it will be burned up. 11Therefore, since all these things will be destroyed, what kind of people ought you to be, living in holiness and godliness, 12as you look forward to and hasten the coming of the day of God? That day will cause the heavens to be set on fire and destroyed, and the elements to melt as they burn with great heat. 13But according to his promise we look forward to new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
14Therefore, dear friends, as you look forward to these things, make every effort to be found in peace, spotless and blameless in his sight.

4. “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day.” What does that have to do with this reading?

5. Knowing that the Lord will come suddenly and destroy the earth, what change should be evident in our lives?

6. On the basis of verses 10, 12, and 13, describe what will happen at the end of the world. (Note: The Bible is not 100 percent definitive on whether the earth will be completely annihilated, to be replaced with a new creation, or simply burned up and remade anew. Which option does this section from Peter lean toward?)


Gospel: Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2This is how it is written in the prophet Isaiah:  Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare the way for you. 3A voice of one calling out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make his paths straight.”
4John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him. They were baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins. 6John was clothed in camel’s hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. 7He preached, “One more powerful than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals! 8I baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

7. With which event in the life of Christ does Mark begin his gospel? How is his beginning different from the other three gospels?

8. What was the focus of John’s baptisms?

9. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit?”  What was to be different?



Answers:
1. God was not going to punish them twice as hard as they deserve.  Instead they would receive “double” grace – much more blessing than any one could expect.  This is not something that can be earned, but what we inherit by his free grace - a full forgiveness we don’t deserve.

2. The Lord makes it clear (Mt 3:3, Mk 1:3 and Lk 3:4) that this is pointing ahead to the person of John the Baptist.  He was the voice who preached stern and pointed law to the people to prepare their hearts with repentance.  And he was the one who preached the sweet gospel as he pointed out the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  This is the good news we are also to shout out to people – a word that will outlast worldly “experts.”

3. He is reminding the people of Israel that they must not trust in themselves or in any human power. Such powers are like the grass, here today and gone tomorrow. But the Lord’s Word remains firm forever. If they keep this in mind during the long years of captivity, they will not give in to despair.

4. We are bound to clocks and passing schedules. But God is not restrained by time, which he created for us.  He sees and knows all things as if they were “now.”  The end of the world may seem like a long ways away for scoffers, but God sees it clearly as “today” and patiently opens opportunities all over the world to come to repentance and avoid perishing eternally at that time.

5. It should be evident in our lives that we are looking forward in Christ to the transition into heaven.  Every effort should be made to be at peace with God realized by faith in Christ.  Every effort should be made to live lives that represent the holiness he has destined us for.

6. The Last Day will come quickly. The sky will disappear with a loud noise, and the earth will melt. The concept of “laid bare” is harder to interpret. Some versions use the variant reading, “shall be burned up,” which is easy to understand. The NIV uses the variant “will be laid bare,” which means to be exposed. This could refer to the deeds of mankind, laid bare for all to see. It could also refer to the complete destruction of everyone and everything on the earth. We cannot be sure about the last question. Peter leaves room for the interpretation that God will re-create a new heaven and earth out of the burned up elements of this present world.

In verses 10 and 12, “the heavens” mean the sky, not God’s dwelling place. It is the opposite of “the elements,” which refers to the earth. Also in verse 12, “speed its coming” means to live in eager expectation. Much like a child might look forward to the celebration of Christmas or his or her birthday, so a child of God can’t wait for Christ’s return and promised deliverance.

7. Mark begins his gospel with two Old Testament prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. This is followed by a brief account of the ministry of John the Baptist. By contrast, Matthew and Luke begin with Jesus’ birth. John begins his gospel with the divine-human nature of Christ and his relationship to his Father. It is clear that Mark wants to get quickly into the account of Jesus’ life.

8. John baptized with a focus on the reality of our sinfulness and the forgiveness God gives us in the Lamb of God – Jesus.  This is the same focus you hear from Peter on Pentecost as he sets the pace for our baptisms.

9. Although true baptism always carries the Holy Spirit’s presence, Jesus carries the full authority to send the Spirit in a miraculous way as was first evidenced at Pentecost.  It is Christ the gives baptism its power.


Putting your faith into action

A reading from the Book of Concord for the Second Sunday in Advent
Lead us not into temptation.

Although we have received forgiveness and a good conscience and are entirely acquitted, yet our life is of such a nature that we stand today, and tomorrow we fall [Isaiah 40:6–8].  Even though we are godly and stand before God with a good conscience, we must pray again that He would not allow us to fall again and yield to trials and temptations.

Temptation is of three kinds: of the flesh, of the world, and of the devil.  For we dwell in the flesh and carry the old Adam about our neck.  He encourages us daily to unchastity, laziness, gluttony and drunkenness, greed and deception, to defraud our neighbor. In short, the old Adam encourages us to have all kinds of evil lusts, which cling to us by nature.  They often wound and inflame even an innocent heart.

Next comes the world.  It drives us to anger and impatience.  In short, there is nothing but hatred and envy, hostility, violence and wrong, unfaithfulness, vengeance, cursing, railing, slander, pride and haughtiness.  No one is willing to be the least.  Everyone desires to sit at the head of the group and to be seen before all.

Then comes the devil to agitate matters that concern the conscience and spiritual affairs.  He leads us to despise and disregard God’s Word and works.  He tears us away from faith, hope, and love, and he brings us into misbelief, false security, despair, denial of God, blasphemy. – Large Catechism, Part III, The Lord’s Prayer (paragraphs 99-104)


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.

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.

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.

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.

All praise to you, eternal Son,
Whose advent has our freedom won,
Whom with the Father we adore

And Holy Spirit evermore.

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