Bible Readings for the Week of Jan. 8

We are now in the Epiphany season of the Church Year. Epiphany starts on January 6th, when the Church remembers the Wise Men who came to Jesus to worship Him. They were Gentiles, and the Day of Epiphany is a reminder that Jesus came to save all people who believe in Him, Jews and Gentiles. This year the Epiphany season will last seven Sundays, and will conclude with Transfiguration Sunday on February 26th.

The First Reading is recorded in Isaiah 42:1-9. Notice the powerful prophecy of Isaiah as he is shown the future reign of the Messiah. Notice the power of the Holy Spirit upon the future Messiah, and how He is filled with tenderness and compassion. Notice how the Messiah brings His compassionate blessings into our lives. In the Gospel of Luke Jesus quotes from this passage as referring to Himself as He begins His public ministry.
Holy Messiah, Jesus our Lord, we give You thanks and praise that You are the fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit. We give You thanks and praise that we are included in Your compassionate ministry, and that You will strengthen us, even in our weakness. In Your Name we pray. Amen.

The psalm for today is Psalm 29. Have you ever been in a violent thunderstorm where the wind is causing the trees to whirl and writhe, where the lightning is flashing all around and the thunder shakes the earth? If so, this psalm will sound familiar. The voice of the LORD is likened to a terrible thunderstorm; notice the power of the voice of the LORD, and how the people of God give glory to Him for His voice of power. In the New Testament we are reminded that the voice of the LORD has become a human in the person of Jesus: the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, as the Evangelist John writes. Notice how Jesus’ voice, His words, accomplish all that He proclaims, even to raising the dead. And notice how the psalm ends: with God sitting above the flood and giving His people peace, even in the midst of the storms around us. At the end of the Gospel of John Jesus appears to His disciples even in their fear, and gives them peace. Let us also be at peace in Him.
Oh Word of God incarnate, Jesus, open our ears and hearts to hear Your voice, and to respond to You in faith. In the midst of the storms of life, let us hear Your voice of peace and let us be at peace in You. We praise and thank You, our Prince of Peace. Amen.

The Second Reading, recorded in Romans 6:1-11, is a clear message of the importance of Baptism. Notice Who is in charge of Baptism, it isn’t the person being Baptized, it isn’t the pastor (the pastor presides, but is not in charge), it is the Lord Who is in charge of Baptism, and Who acts in Baptism to make it effective. Read through the passage, notice what God does in Baptism: joining us to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Notice the verb tenses: past tense, passive verbs; the effects of Baptism are something God does in us, we don’t make Baptism effective, God does.

Faithful Lord, thank You that in Baptism You have joined us to Jesus’ death and resurrection, that His death becomes our death to sin, and His resurrection becomes our resurrection to eternal life. Through Your action in Baptism, make us new every day, turning us from sin and to You, following You in faith, hope, and love. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

The Gospel for today, recorded in Matthew 3:13-17, is the account of Jesus’ unique Baptism. The context is that John the Baptist is calling people to repentance and to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. As people are coming to John to be baptized, Jesus comes with them. He is sinless, so does not need to be baptized for repentance of sin, yet in this Baptism He identifies with us in our sinfulness, taking our sinful nature upon Himself, and showing us what repentance is to be.

His Baptism is also unique in that it is His public designation as Messiah. All that happens in His Baptism are indicators of Him being the Messiah: the prophet John the Baptist, the anointing (with water in this case), the Voice of God from heaven, the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Messiah promised by God.

And His Baptism is the beginning of His public ministry.

In our Baptism the Lord claims us and marks us with the cross of Christ, bringing us into His family, and keeping us there in faith, and our Baptism is the beginning of our ministry as the people of God.

Messiah, Christ, Jesus, our Lord and Savior. We thank and praise You for sharing our humanity and for taking our sin upon Yourself. Thank You for leading us in lives of repentance, even though You are sinless. Praise to You for being the promised Messiah/Christ, come to be our Lord and Savior. And praise to You for Your ministry, leading to Your death and resurrection for our salvation. Send us out as Your people, calling others to You in repentance and the reception of new life in You. Amen.

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