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Weekly Bible Notes, 15th December 2002

(Third Sunday of Advent)

Year B. Colour: Purple

advent wreath
Advent Wreath Lighting Service    
First Reading: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Second Reading: John 1:6-8,19-28
Commentary: Look who's talking
Meditation: Humility
Prayers: for Sunday and the week ahead

Opening Verse of ScriptureŠí▒ob 33:14

For God does speak - now one way, now another - though people may not perceive it. 

Collect Prayer for the DayŠí×efore we read we pray

God for whom we wait and watch, you sent your servant John the Baptist to prepare your people for the coming of the Messiah. Inspire the ministers and stewards of your truth to turn our disobedient hearts to you; that, when Christ shall come again in glory to be our judge, we may stand with confidence before Him, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen

First Bible Reading  Isaiah Chapter 61:1-4, 8-11

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. 

He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. 

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. 

"For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed." 

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the young plant come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. (This is the word of the Lord?b>Thanks be to God)

Second Bible Reading  Mark Chapter 1:1-8
(Glory to Christ our Saviour)

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 

Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Christ." 

They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?" 

He said, "I am not." 

"Are you the Prophet?" 

He answered, "No." 

Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" 

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" 

Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, "Why then do you baptise if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" 

"I baptise with water," John replied, "but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie." This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptising. (This is the Gospel of Christ?b>Praise to Christ our Lord)

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 for ever. Amen

Commentary: Look Who's Talking

For the Jews there a belief that, at the climax of history, Elijah and Moses would reappear (Mal 3 v 1- 5 & Deut 18 v 15 - 18) which is why John is asked if he is Elijah. Later in several gospels Jesus explains that John does indeed equate to Elijah but the gospel writer's main concern in today's reading is to put John the Baptist in context and to show that his chief role is to bear testimony to Jesus. Later in his gospel we see that Jesus' chief role is to reveal, and bear testimony, to God as the ultimate central focus. The gospel writer John even uses the same language of Jesus as he does of John the Baptist: being sent and bearing witness. This characterises the spirituality of the fourth gospel in which everything, including the earthly Jesus, is enveloped in central symbols which speak of light and life, water and bread, symbols sourced ultimately in God alone. 

When John the Baptist is asked if he is Elijah he replies, 'I am not'. Powerful words, especially when we realise that throughout the forth gospel there are many occasions when Jesus declares 'I am'. The theme of Jesus being the 'I am', 'I am' in Greek in Greek, and others emphasising 'I am not', 'I am not', in Greek, runs throughout John's gospel. The gospel begins with John the Baptist attesting 'I am not' and ends with Peter using those same words when questioned about whether or not he was one of Jesus' disciples as Christ is arrested and taken to His death. In between we have a Jesus, who comes to us incarnate at Christmas, and who will come again in glory as we celebrate at Advent, who is the true 'I am'. There would be, and will be, others who claim to be the Messiah, but only Jesus can state 'I am', 'I am' in Greek. He is, quite simply, the centre of all that has been, all that is, and all that is to come. 

Without Christ at the centre of our lives, helping us focus on God, life can seem a desolate wilderness, a dark and hopeless place where we are trapped by our own humanity, our own 'I am not'-ness. As we open ourselves to Jesus, the true 'I am', He releases us into new life and restores those places in our lives that have been marred, or even devastated by the effects of the darkness of the world. As Advent passes into Christmas we look to the light of Christ, who will return in a great blaze of glory to complete that work of restoration, but who first came as a small pinprick of light in a stable in Bethlehem. For some, all they ever see is the pinprick of light at Christmas and for the rest of the year the Christian faith means little to them. For others, the light in the stable at Christmas is the dawning of the realisation of Christ as the great 'I am' in their lives, lives which continue to be changed, transformed and restored by His incarnation. We are called to point to that light, and reflect its transformation and glory in our lives. Sam Cappleman

Meditation: Humility

There is a rabbinic saying, "Every service which a slave performs for his master shall a disciple do for his master, except the loosing of a sandal thong". Disciples often performed jobs or services for their teachers, but never the menial or dirty tasks, such as tying or untying sandals. John uses the service that the rabbinic saying states is too menial for any disciple to undertake and declares he is not worthy to perform even this task for the Messiah, the one who is to follow him. His humility and his desire to point to only to Christ challenge us in a world that constantly fosters self aggrandisement and often points only to self.

Hymns (Mission Praise)

  1. O come O come Emmanuel, 493; 
  2. Jesus put this song into our hearts, 376; 
  3. Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour, 700; 
  4. On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry, 538

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead.

O God of all hope, we thank you for your promises which find their fulfilment in your Son. We rejoice in His coming in the flesh and look for His coming in glory. By your word, sacraments and Holy Spirit make us ready to receive Christ as our Lord and Saviour, and with thankfulness praise Him, now and for ever. Amen Praying figure

Lord Jesus, redeemer and judge of all people, who came that we might have life eternal, you have taught us that you will come again in great glory to take account of your servants and reward their faithful service; help us to live as people who wait for their master, prepared, engaged in service, and ready for action; that we might not be ashamed before you at your coming so that we might enter into your eternal joy. Amen

Grant, O God, that as we rejoice in the hope of the coming of our Saviour, we too may seek to prepare the way of His coming by demonstrating His love as we care for others. Amen

Christ the Son of Righteousness shine upon you and scatter the darkness from before your path; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always. Amen


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