Readings for Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018

We are now well into the season of Advent, the time of preparation for the coming of Jesus. We have explored the truth that He will come at the End of Time, and now the readings shift to Jesus’ coming 2,000 years ago.

The First Reading is recorded in Zephaniah 3:14-20. This is a powerful prophecy of hope. The prophet Zephaniah encourages the people of his day to have hope that the Lord will soon act to redeem and restore them. This prophecy had immediate fulfillment, but more importantly the prophecy had its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus, as we will see in today’s Gospel.
And for us, we have hope that the prophecy will have its final fulfillment when Jesus returns on the clouds with power and great glory!
Lord Jesus, we rejoice that in You the prophecies of old have their fulfillment. We are encouraged as we see that the Lord will fulfill all that He promised. We look forward to Your return at the End of Time when You will make all things new. Keep us always hopeful in You. Amen.

Today’s psalm, 85:1-13, also continues the theme of hope. The psalm opens with remembrance of what the Lord has done in the past for His people. Then the psalmist turns to the Lord in a lament, calling on the Lord to turn from His anger toward His people and to restore them. In hope and confidence the psalm ends with praise, rejoicing in the ways the Lord will care for His people.
Oh Lord, when life turns against us and we are overwhelmed with the cares and fears of life, remind us of Your faithfulness and keep us firm in faith, knowing that You will renew and restore. We thank You for Your steadfast love and mercy toward us, Your people. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

The Second Reading is recorded in Philippians 4:4-7. This is a great passage as we approach the celebration of the birth of Jesus! This passage is filled with rejoicing in God’s grace! What makes this passage even more powerful is that Paul wrote the book of Philippians from prison; he did not know if he would be released or executed, yet, he is filled with joy in Jesus! Let us share his joy in the Lord no matter the circumstances of our lives.
Jesus, we read again of the apostle Paul’s great faith and confidence in You, knowing that no matter what happened to him, he was safe in Your hands. Give us the same confidence and faith, and let us always rejoice in You! Amen.

The Gospel is recorded in Luke, chapter 7:18-35. This passage seems unusual regarding John the Baptist – he seems to be questioning whether Jesus is the Messiah or not. This seems so unusual given the powerful proclamation of John the Baptist regarding Jesus earlier in his ministry. Keep in mind what is happening in John’s life: he is imprisoned, and is likely going to be executed. He is not free to see and hear all that Jesus is doing, so he sent two of his disciples to see if Jesus is doing all that is expected of the Messiah. Of course Jesus is, and He reassures John the Baptist that Jesus is in fact the Messiah; look at Jesus’ words and actions and it is clear He is the Messiah. Jesus then tells the people around Him how important John the Baptist is, John has fulfilled his ministry to prepare the way for Jesus; those who heard and heeded John’s message rejoiced!
Jesus then warns those around Him who refused to turn to God to wake up and see what is going on, they must hear and heed His message. If they do not, their hypocrisy is revealed.
Let us hear and heed the message of Jesus, and follow Him each day of our lives.
Lord Jesus, open our eyes and ears to see and hear You, and open our hearts to be receptive to You each day. Keep us faithful to You, trusting in Your love for us. Amen.

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