Readings for Third Sunday of Advent, 12/16/12
Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18
- V. 15 - “The Lord has taken away the judgments against you.” Imagine being given a clean slate, and having all our mistakes wiped out! Think about presidential pardons given, and how controversial they are, either applauded or bemoaned, depending on circumstances. How much do we have to pay for our mistakes? Are their sins that God should not take away judgment for?
- V. 19 - “I will change their shame into praise.” Shame often seems a feeling/emotion that we have whether or not we also have guilt for a situation. For example, someone who has been abused may feel shame despite not being responsible for being abused.
- I can’t read these verses without thinking of anthem my home church sang on this text, “The First Song of Isaiah,” by Jack Noble White. It’s really gorgeous.
- Here is a passage where the understanding of ‘salvation’ in its most basic sense of safety, safe-keeping from harm, is quite evident. In God, we are safe, safe from ourselves, safe from others, safe from being lost and destroyed.
- I love the word 'surely' that shows up almost every week in one of the Advent texts. A promise guaranteed. Surely God is our salvation.
- V. 5 – “Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.” The Greek might translate also as “reasonableness”, “fairness”, “goodness”. Gentleness is not necessarily a trait we value, is it? Particularly not in both genders. It’s ok for a woman, but we don’t often praise men for gentleness. How can we let our gentleness be known? What does that have to do with our faith? The command from Paul flows into the second phrase, ‘The Lord is near.’ How do they relate?
- V. 7 – “And the peace of God which passes . . . “ – The ‘passes understanding’ is from the Greek ‘huperechô’, which means, “to be above” or “to hold over”, “to prevail.” God’s peace is above everything. That’s comforting.
- We’d probably write John the Baptist off as a crazy man today, and probably many did then too!
- V. 8 – “We have Abraham as our ancestor.” – we might smile at this excuse of John’s listeners, but the phrase is actually all too familiar. Calling on our past and our heritage as a justification for our current behavior is a common tactic of church people!
- When John is asked what to do since the portrait he paints of the alternative is so dismal, he responds, like Jesus normally did, with a prescription of what to do, not what to believe. We get very wrapped up in what to believe in the church, and awfully complacent about what we must do and how we must live.
- Some of these images of the threshing floor, the granary, etc., lose their meaning for us if we don’t understand these processes ourselves. A winnowing fork, for example, was used to toss wheat into the air, where the wind would separate the wheat grain from the light chaff.