Sunday, 14 December 2014

Can't make it to Church? 14 December 14

Here we are at the third Sunday of Advent and this goes under a variety of names but my favourite is 'Gaudete Sunday'. The reason for this being that this a Sunday where we remember John the Baptist but more especially we do a bit of rejoicing at the good news of Jesus - and that's what 'gaudete' means, 'rejoice'!

Always happy to take up the opportunity to play Steeleye Span, have a listen to this (even after 35 years they're great):

Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born of the Virgin Mary – Rejoice!

Now that's a great thought to be getting to grips with this Sunday as we look at the readings, the first of which coming from Isaiah is extra special because these are the words Jesus uses almost six hundred years later to speak of himself in a synagogue (in his home town) after His being tempted in the wilderness and at the beginning of His ministry.

Here we have reason to rejoice because of the benefits of having Him around: Good News (which is what Gospel means); healing of broken hearts; freedom for those held captive (physical and spiritual) and to set the prisoner free - proclaiming the year of the Lord's favour. The 'favour' bit (or year of jubilee) was about cancelling debts, setting free those who had gone into slavery, and zeroing the accounts - it meant that the rich didn't grow richer by virtue of misfortune of others or abuse of their power.

Every seven years there was a 'sabbatical' year and after seven periods of seven years, the next year was regarded as the year of jubilee. It speaks of restoration and justice and a balanced socio-economic reality. Perhaps this is why we are called in our second reading to 'Rejoice Always' and to hold onto the prophecies (of the Messiah and of God's provision) and to keep ourselves doing that which is good and right until Jesus returns; for Just as John the baptist prepared the way for His earthly ministry, we are called to do the same now. Rejoicing at the coming of Jesus, the Christ, as Saviour to us and (I believe) Messiah to the Jews.

As we reflect on the life and ministry of John the Baptist. As we remember that he preached fearlessly and died because of it, we must remember that He whom we follow went to the cross for us and should be willing to walk that same path for Him and His Gospel of peace.

let us live rejoicing and proclaiming Jesus, the Christ, and encouraging those around us to live holy, righteous and peace-filled life (just like we are living ourselves - we are, aren't we?).

Isaiah 61.1-4,8-11
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion - to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

The Collect
God for whom we watch and wait, you sent John the Baptist to prepare the way of your Son: give us courage to speak the truth, to hunger for justice, and to suffer for the cause of right, with Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Thessalonians 5.16-24
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

John 1.6-8,19-28
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord” ’, as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptising if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ John answered them, ‘I baptise with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptising.

Post Communion Prayer
We give you thanks, O Lord, for these heavenly gifts; kindle in us the fire of your Spirit that when your Christ comes again we may shine as lights before his face; who is alive and reigns now and for ever. Amen.

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