Bible Readings for Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018

In the First Reading, from Malachi 3:1-7b, we see that the Lord will come back to His people. First, He will send His messenger to call people to repentance, then He will come and purify and renew His people, again calling them to repentance lest they come under His judgment for not living in proper worship and for not caring for the most vulnerable and helpless among the people.
This prophecy was fulfilled when John the Baptist appeared to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus, calling people to repentance and to get ready for the coming of the One sent from God.
Malachi’s message is one we need to hear. We need to examine our lives and see where sin has again entered, and then we need to heed the call to repentance, to turn away from sin and turn to forgiveness and new life in Jesus.
O God, we rejoice that You make promises and then fulfill them at the right time. By Your Holy Spirit enable us to trust in Your promises, to be patient until the time of fulfillment, and move us to repentance and preparation for all the ways You come to us, especially through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Today’s psalm, 66:1-12, is a psalm which calls on all peoples everywhere to praise the Lord. But the unbelieving nations might ask “Why?” The Psalmist lists some of God’s saving acts, especially during the Exodus. As the people of the world hear of what God has done, they are led to praise God Who rescues.
As Christians, we, too, have a message of redemption and salvation to proclaim. Let us proclaim the Good News of forgiveness and life and Jesus, and, as the Holy Spirit brings people to faith, they, too, will give thanks and praise to God!
Redeeming and rescuing Lord, we give You thanks and praise for the ways You rescued Your people of old. And we give You thanks and praise for the ways You rescue us, especially through Your Son Jesus our Lord and Savior. Give us Your love for others so that we tell them of forgiveness and life in Jesus, and lead others to give You thanks and praise. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

The Second Reading is recorded in Philippians 1:2-11. The book of Philippians is a powerful book; the apostle Paul is imprisoned, awaiting trial, and he does not know how the trail will turn out: will he be set free, or executed? How would you respond if you were on trial for your faith in Jesus? What is remarkable about this book is that Paul is filled with joy, the root Greek word for “joy” occurs over 20 times in the book.
Listen to Paul’s words, to the words of a man filled with joy because of his trust in the Lord.
Paul loves the Philippian congregation, and prays that they will continue to grow in Christ. This is the prayer we pastors have for our congregations as well.
Loving Lord Jesus, we are overwhelmed by Your love for us. We are moved by Paul’s faith in You and his love for the people of Philippi. Increase our faith in You and our love for each other so that we are drawn more closely to You and to each other in Your love. Amen.

The Gospel, Luke 3:1-14 (15-20), is set within the context of the political and religious events of that day, just as God’s actions today are set within the context of political and religious events. We see in the Gospel that God is keeping the promises made through the prophets who spoke hundreds of years before; at the right time God will fulfill His promises. At the right time God send John the Baptist to prepare the way for the coming of His Son, Jesus. Notice John the Baptist’s strong words in calling people to repentance: turn from sin, don’t count on the past, where is your heart in relation to the Lord? How do you treat others?
John even stood up to the politically powerful of his day, and he was imprisoned. May we all have the boldness of John the Baptist, repenting of sin in our lives, and calling others, even the powerful, to repentance as well.
Lord Jesus, open our hearts and minds to the message of John the Baptist, heeding his call to repentance and to turn to You. And Lord, give us boldness like John the Baptist to stand firm in You and Your will for all people, even if it means that we face resistance and even persecution for You. In Your Name we pray. Amen.

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