Worship Helps for Advent 3

Art: The Preaching of St. John the Baptist
Artist: Francesco Bacchiacca

Worship Theme: Most people don’t want the Savior who promised to come. Do you? 
The Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete, a Latin word that means “rejoice.” The rose candle is lit to emphasize this theme of joy. It is a glimmer of gladness in an otherwise more solemn season. 

Prayer of the Day:
Hear our prayers, Lord Jesus Christ, and come with the good news of your mighty deliverance.  Drive the darkness from our hearts and fill us with your light; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Old Testament: Malachi 4:1-6
Look! The day is coming, burning like a blast furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble. The day that is coming will set them on fire, says the Lord of Armies, a day which will not leave behind a root or branch for them. 2But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise, and there will be healing in its wings. You will go out and jump around like calves from the stall. 3You will trample the wicked. They will surely be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I take action, says the Lord of Armies.
4Remember the law of my servant Moses, which I dictated to him at Horeb to serve as statutes and judgments over all Israel. 5Look! I am sending Elijah the prophet to you before the great and fearful day of the Lord comes! 6He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I would come and strike the land with complete destruction.

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
16Rejoice always. 17Pray without ceasing. 18In everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19Do not extinguish the Spirit. 20Do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21But test everything. Hold on to the good. 22Keep away from every kind of evil.
23May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The 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
6There was a man, sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as an eyewitness to testify about the light so that everyone would believe through him. 8He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. 19This is the testimony John gave when the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?”
20He confessed and did not deny. He confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21And they asked him, “Who are you then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” “No,” he answered. 22Then they asked him, “Who are you? Tell us so we can give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
23He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ just as Isaiah the prophet said.” 24They had been sent from the Pharisees. 25So they asked John, “Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, or Elijah, or the Prophet?” 26“I baptize with water,” John answered. “Among you stands one you do not know. 27He is the one coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” 28These things happened in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

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

7. What was John’s attitude toward Christ?
  


Answers:
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)


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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