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Message of the Week

Reflections from the December 13 Gospel

Luke 3:10-18
Tax collectors, soldiers, and countless other people gathered to hear John the Baptist preach. For generations upon generations they had been waiting for the coming of the promised Messiah. And now, John the Baptist had appeared with such a striking message and such a powerful presence that “all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.”
But he wasn’t. John’s mission was to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. In the process, however, people began to think that John was the main attraction. He set the record straight though, when he emphasized that “one mightier than I is coming.” If this great prophet was so humble, how much more should we humble ourselves in preparation for the coming of the Messiah?
As we mediate upon the coming of Christ this Advent season, we would do well to make our approach towards Christmas with humble hearts. What have we done to deserve this incredible gift of a Savior? The fact is that nothing we could ever do would possibly earn our redemption. May we be humble enough to acknowledge that our salvation is the greatest gift we could ever receive.

Questions of the Week

Luke 3:10-18:
If John were alive today, what advice
do you think he would offer contemporary Christians?
Zephaniah 3:14-18a:
What do you think Zephaniah’s seven-hundred-year-old prophecy reveals about God?
Philippians 4:4-7:
Both Paul and Zephaniah emphasize the importance of joy as people of faith. How does the season of Advent help you find joy?

Studying God’s Word

Zephaniah 3:14-18a
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:10-18 [9C]
The Gospel reading for the Third Sunday of Advent focuses on the teachings of John the Baptist. While it is likely that John was active for several years preaching and baptizing in the desert areas of Judea, the Gospel writers preserve very little of his words and deeds. What was clear among the early Christians was that John played a pivotal role in preparing Jews for the arrival of the Messiah.
John’s preaching and baptizing must have had significant impact. In today’s Gospel reading, one fundamental question is asked repeatedly of John from various sources—the crowds, the tax collectors, and the soldiers—“What should we do?” Presumably, the questions stem from their shared desire to be prepared for the coming Messiah and messianic age. John offers different answers to the different groups, but each speaks to the importance of a high ethical code. To the crowds, he instructs them to share food and clothing with the less fortunate. To the tax collectors, he challenges the routine practice of tax fraud. To the soldiers, he warns against extortion and false accusation. Given John’s influence and apparent moral authority, not surprisingly, Luke informs us that some wondered if John himself “might be the Christ.” John’s response leaves no room for doubt as to whether he was the Messiah: while John baptizes with water, the coming Messiah will baptize with “the Holy Spirit and fire.” Furthermore, the Messiah is coming to judge and to separate “the wheat” from “the chaff.” John’s message about preparation for the coming messianic age contained not only exhortations, it also included warnings.   Continue reading

Everyday Stewardship

Pope Francis has begun this Jubilee Year of Mercy because, as he has stated, mercy is “the beating heart of the Gospel.” He states that the purpose of the year is to “reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!” This is a profound statement because he is saying that mercy is for all humanity, not just those who are Christ’s disciples, and we are not a people waiting for a coming kingdom, for the kingdom of God is already in our midst.
When John the Baptist was speaking to his followers he spoke about showing mercy to others by giving away your second coat and not collecting more from others than what they owe you. But how much greater that mercy needs to be now that we live in a world redeemed by the power of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection! Certainly, the principles of stewardship can assist us in truly being fruitful in this jubilee year.
As good everyday stewards, we should not only see the second coat as something we should give away, but indeed the first coat is not truly ours either. For it would not exist except for the generosity of our God. Since we are only stewards of all we have instead of owners, our ability to be generous greatly increases. We then begin to see that we have many tools at our disposal to offer mercy to those in need. This year we have the chance to really put into practice that which we claim to be true. As mature disciples we are to answer God’s call regardless of the cost. During this jubilee year may we now more than ever offer ourselves freely to do his will.
Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS