The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer

Introductions to the readings for Advent 3, 2015

Our first reading this morning comes to us from Zephaniah, one of the less well known books in Hebrew Scriptures.  Listen to how this adaptation taken from the New International Readers’ Version of the text (copyright 1995) describes God’s promise to renew and restore a wandering people as they come out of a time of lengthy exile.   Reading from the book of Zephaniah, Chapter 3 selected verses chosen from verses 14 to 20:  “Sing, daughter of Zion, God brings you home!”

 ‘People of Zion, sing! Israel, shout loudly!

People of Jerusalem, be glad!  Let your hearts be full of joy.

God has stopped punishing you.  God has made your enemies turn away.

Because your God is with you, you need never be afraid again!

The time is coming when people will say to Jerusalem: “Zion, don’t be afraid. Don’t give up.  God will save and take great delight in you. The quietness of God’s love will calm you.  God will sing with you because of you.”

 People of Zion, know this:  “I will bring you back to Jerusalem. 

I will save those among you who are disabled.  I will gather those who have been scattered.  I will give you praise and honour in in every land where you were put to shame.   I will bring you home.

I will bless you with great success again, giving you honour and praise among all nations on earth”

 Here ends the reading from Hebrew Scriptures this day.  In response to God’s promises to God’s people, let us add our own voices as we sing together: 

 

VU#2 “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”

 

Turning now to our reading from Luke’s gospel we hear another story about Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, whose powerful and charismatic preaching style drew many, many followers.  Here this morning, we hear a meaningful conversation between John and those gathered for baptism in the River Jordan. 

 Among the crowds are also tax collectors and soldiers who, though caught in the trap of colluding with the Roman Emperor, also come longing for a new day and a new way of being in relationship with one another and with God.  Listen to what speaks to your heart this third Sunday in the season of Advent as John’s conversation with the gathered crowd unfolds.  Reading from the New Standard Revised Version, Chapter Three from the gospel according to Luke, selected verses between 7 and 18. “John, the Baptist preaches the Way”

 “John spoke to the crowds coming to be baptized by him saying, “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bear fruits worthy of repentance.  Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children of Abraham.  Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in to the fire.”

 And the crowds asked him, “What should we do?”  In reply, he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”  Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you. “  Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?”  He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered them by saying: “I baptize you with water but one who is more powerful than I is coming ….So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.”

 

May these, our words from scripture, be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path today and in the coming days.  Amen.