Sunday Advent 3, 12/17/2018 Isaiah 61.1-4, 8-11; 1 Thessalonians 5.16-24; Canticle 15, the Magnificat; John 1.6-8, 19-28
Isaiah: this is a proclamation of a Jubilee—a 50-year cycle of restoration, renewal, and redemption in the economic reality– for the ancient people of God. This Jubilee is in the context of the faithful exiles allowed to leave Babylon and return to Jerusalem and their ancestral lands. It will be a complete restoration, renewal, and redemption for the people of God. This is the passage read by the young Jesus in the Temple in Luke 4.16-21
1 Thessalonians: This passage is from the ending of Paul’s first letter to Thessalonica. It is an instruction to embrace the Christian life and faith in all circumstances. In spite of trying circumstances and difficult times, which was certainly the case for the early Christian Church in Thessalonica, Paul admonishes the people that this is God’s will and they should embrace it. Still, as the 19-22 verses charge, we are to “test everything,” holding fast to what is good and letting go of what separates us from God (evil).
John: This is the story of John the Baptist as told in the Gospel of John (not John the Baptist). It is made clear that John-tB is a prophet coming before the Messiah of God. While John tB is not the “light,” he “bears witness to the light.” Speaking for himself in the 23 verse, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’” (from Isaiah 40.3). Preparing as a principle theme of Advent is not without ample precedence.
The Magnificat, Luke 1.46-55: This is actually not the Gospel reading appointed for the 3rd Sunday of Advent (John 1.6-8, 19-28, an extension of the story of John the Baptist from last week’s reading). Instead, we will be using the Magnificat—the Song of Mary—which is the canticle historically associated with this third Sunday of Advent also known as Gaudete (“rejoice”) Sunday. The Song of Mary is sung by Mary as she is visiting Elizabeth (her “kinswoman”), who is pregnant with John. Her visit with Elizabeth is preceded by a visit from the angel Gabriel, who explains to Mary the miraculous things that will happen to her and to Elizabeth. Mary, humble before the messenger of God, declares to Gabriel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” When Mary calls out to Elizabeth, her (Elizabeth’s) baby “leaped in her womb.” Elizabeth cries out that her baby has responded to Mary’s voice and declares, “Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Mary is amazed by all this and proclaims both her amazement at all that is unfolding as well as a declaration of her faith. From the early days of the Christian Church, this Song of Mary, the Magnificat, has been recognized as one of the great expressions of humility, trust, and faith. It also contains some warnings concerning faithlessness. During this 3rd week of Advent, we should listen to the words of Mary and seek to follow her in faith.