Third Sunday of Advent

11th December 2022

Reflection (readings follow on afterwards)

“…prepare and make ready your way …. that at your second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people…” What would John the Baptist be saying to us this Advent? Would he see  in us a people likely to be found acceptable when Christ Jesus passes judgement on the world?

Isaiah envisaged how the world would look when renewed by the glory of God – or as we would now understand it, when transformed by the good news manifesto of Jesus. In today’s passage from Isaiah, Isaiah describes the wonder and the beauty of the age to come, a time of abundance and joy, an era when needs would be met and people would no longer be fearful. 

When we look around our world today, we are faced with multiple needs and  and great fear. In our own country we hear of people who lack the wherewithal to feed themselves and their families, who lack the wherewithal to heat their homes. We hear of people who lack homes, who lack jobs and opportunities. People who lack freedom to make choices about their lives. And we sense their fears for the future. 

Jesus in his conversation with John’s messengers, echoes the words of Isaiah that in God’s kingdom the blind will see, the deaf hear and the incapacitated walk. But what of those who do not see the people starving to death in East Africa? What of those who do not see the destruction of the rain forests and the escalating loss of biodiversity? What of those who do not hear the pleas of the people of Pakistan for aid to rebuild their country after this year’s floods? What of those who do not hear the pleas of climate activists for a safe future for their children and grandchildren? What of those who will not step out of their SUVs and walk, or walk outside their gated communities to see how others live?

The words of Isaiah tells us what we should be doing to be called ‘an acceptable people’. The words of Mary tell us what we should be doing if we wish to follow the example of Jesus. Advent is the time to examine our selves and our lifestyles, to measure ourselves against the words of Isaiah and the words of the Magnificat. Do we need to recommit ourselves to the task of bringing down the mighty and lifting up the marginalised? Do we need to recommit ourselves to feeding the hungry and safeguarding the future of generations to come?

As we look forward to the coming of Christmas, let us also look forward with renewed commitment to the coming of the kingdom of God and the establishment of God’s reign on earth. Let us echo the cry of the angels that there should be peace in earth and goodwill – wellbeing – for all. With God as our strength and Jesus as our guide we can do this.

Collect

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 and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Isaiah 35:1-10

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear!

Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,

with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;

the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;

the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;

the unclean shall not travel on it,
but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.

No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;

they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

The Song of Mary Magnificat

Luke 1:46-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; *
for he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

James 5:7-10

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Matthew 11:2-11

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.”

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,

‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’

“Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Author: Judith Russenberger

Environmentalist and theologian, with husband and three grown up children plus one cat, living in London SW14. I enjoy running and drinking coffee - ideally with a friend or a book.

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