Collect and Readings for 3rd Sunday of Advent, Zephaniah 3:14-20, Isaiah 12:2-6, Philippians 4:4-7, Luke 3:7-18The Prayer for today O Lord Jesus Christ, who at your first coming sent your messenger to prepare your way before you: grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready your way by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at your second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in your sight; for you are alive and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Over the first two weeks of Advent, we have been focusing our attention on putting our lives straight, and this may well have been a very challenging and painful task. We may still be wrestling with its implications.
The shaft of hope has always been present in all this. But now it is as if the forgiveness we are receiving, resulting from real repentance, has enabled that shaft of hope to flood us with unexpected light and joy. From the viewpoint of forgiveness, the coming of Christ, both as we look back to Bethlehem and forward to the last day, is not something to fear, but to anticipate with great delight and enthusiasm.
There is Zephaniah’s image of light-hearted and liberated singing and dancing, with something of the flavour of the street parties which celebrate peace after war. And there is Paul’s signing of message as he draws to a close his letter to the Christians at Philippi, the sense of God’s closeness throbbing through the words. Everything is going to be all right; they can rejoice, whatever the immediate sufferings, because God has them ultimately safe.
And the people are enthusiastically taking up John the Baptist’s challenge and throwing themselves into giving up the behaviour they’d probably always known was wrong, but which they had never had the desire to address before.
In the gathering momentum some of them get over-enthusiastic, and how easily John could have been tempted to go along with their misguided assumptions.
Thankfully his own rigorous self-awareness keeps him humble, and he is able to use their questions to point their expectations in the right direction towards Christ.
Some things to reflect on:
God bless and stay safe and well.
Rev’d Fiona Robinson