Second Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

Malachi 3:1-4

1 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Luke 1:68-79

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us 74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Philippians 1:3-11

3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Luke 3:1-6

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

Devotion

For this Second Sunday of Advent the themes of preparation, purification, and repentance shine through the Scripture readings. The prophet Malachi declares that a messenger will “prepare the way” for the Lord, and then asks two very important questions: Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? (vs. 2a). He adds that this messenger will be like a “refiner’s fire” and a “fullers’ soap” (vs. 2b). This reading challenges us to reflect on our own lives, our own church, our own community and ask: What will God’s refining look like? How is God purifying us as his people?

The second reading is from Luke and is a hymn or canticle often referred to as Zechariah’s song or the Benedictus. It is one of six such offerings of praise in the infancy narratives of Luke 1-2. Unlike the other five, which focus directly on the birth of Jesus, Zechariah’s canticle honors John the Baptist’s birth as a sign of what is done and what is to come. This prophetic song separates neatly into two parts. In verses 68-75, he praises the God of Israel for fulfilling God’s covenant to God’s people; in verses 76-79, Zechariah gives his son a broad job description: “you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways (vs 76),” “give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins (vs. 77).” This description echoes the words of Malachi whose spoke of a messenger that would prepare the way of the Lord. This songs inspires us to praise God for his amazing deeds and for his covenant faithfulness.

The third reading is from a the introduction to a letter by the apostle Paul to the Philippians. One author writes: Pastor Allen Hilton writes: On this Second Sunday of Advent, as Malachi shouts from the mountaintop his prophecy that God is a refining fire, Paul whispers from prison his prayer that God will help Philippian Christians to become pure and blameless. Paul speaks confidently that “the one who began a good work in you will bring it to completion (vs. 5).” Like the Philippian believers, we know that God is purifying, refining, bringing about this good work of sanctification as we are conformed more and more to the image of Christ. We know this process of growing in love will be ongoing until the day of Christ’s return.

The Gospel reading is again from the book of Luke and introduces the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist. Kathy Beach-Verhey writes: Advent is a season of preparation. At home people are cleaning, getting out their Christmas decorations, purchasing a tree, baking, hosting and attending parties, and simply getting ready for Christmas. But into our “busy-ness” each year enters John the Baptist. He interrupts our schedules and demands that preparations of a different kind be made… John challenges Advent people with a message of personal and corporate self-examination. Advent, John reminds us, is a time to prepare to welcome Jesus and not simply our invited Christmas houseguests.

During this season of Advent as we behold our Savior, may God ignite our hearts with fervent worship and prayer, refine us and mold us into his image even as we await, with joy and anticipation, the day of his return.

Questions for Further Reflection

1. Reflecting on the message of Paul and the prophets, how is God refining you, purifying you? How do you see God sanctifying you and completing the good work he began in you?

2. What “song of praise” are you singing in your life today? Where, like Zechariah, do you see God’s faithfulness, rescue, and restoration?

3. Can you identify some areas of your life that need an adjustment of priority? Is the busyness of your life squelching your walk with the Lord?

Prayer

Based on Philippians 3:6, 9-11

Sovereign God,
we know that you, who began a good work among us,
will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
During this Advent season, may our love overflow
more and more with knowledge and full insight
to help us to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ
we may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

First Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

JEREMIAH 33:14-16

14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

PSALM 25:1-10

1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust;
do not let me be put to shame;
do not let my enemies exult over me.
3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.

6 Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!

8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

1 THESSALONIANS 3:9-13

9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

LUKE 21:25-36

25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Devotion

The season of Advent is a time of both remembrance of things past and anticipation of things to come. In the readings for this First Sunday of Advent, the prophet Jeremiah foretells of a “righteous Branch” (vs. 15) who will execute justice and rescue the people of God. We can look back and see the fulfillment of this prophetic word in the first coming of our Lord Jesus. We live in the reality of that prophecy and experience the salvation and restoration that only Jesus can provide.

As the psalmist prays in Psalm 25, so also do we: “You are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long” (vs. 5). We are reminded of God’s faithfulness and steadfast love for us. In both of these Old Testament Scriptures we look back; we know that Jesus has entered our world and has begun his work of redemption and restoration. We can remember God’s faithfulness in sending his Son to rescue us.

In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, the emphasis is on the anticipation of things to come, that is, “the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:13). As in Psalm 25, here too, we find a prayer. The apostle prays that the Lord would make the Thessalonian believers “abound in love for one another and for all” (vs. 12). He also prays that the Lord would strengthen their hearts in holiness that they would be blameless at Christ’s return. The apostle’s prayer for these early believers is a prayer for us as well: a call to live watchful and lovingly in God’s present, even as we await his return.

In the Gospel of Luke, we hear Jesus’ own admonition to “be on guard” and to “be alert at all times” (vs. 34, 36) as we anticipate the day of his return. Jesus uses an illustration from nature, how the sprouting of leaves on the fig tree is a sign that summer is near (vs. 29-30). He then declares, “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near” (vs. 31).

To quote one author: “The good news of Advent is not simply that Christ is coming, but that his coming means we can hope, despite all that is falling apart in our lives, our communities, and the world around us. Just as the leaves on the fig tree offer hope in late winter that summer is coming again, so God’s word, in Jesus, promises us new life. Advent offers us expectation and hope for something new.” (Kathy Beach-Verhey)

May we live alert, on guard, and wide awake during this Advent season. May we pray that God’s kingdom would break forth as we remember and anticipate the Prince of Peace - the little baby and the risen Lord.

Questions for Further Reflection

1. What expectations do you have for this Advent/Christmas season? How can God’s word help reorient you in the midst of busyness and cultural distractions?

2. How does God characterize the way believers are to live in light of his second coming?

3. Where do you see God’s kingdom breaking forth in your own life? Our church? Our community?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, during this Advent season,
fill us with anticipation and direct our way to you.
May we, your people, increase and abound
in love for one another and for all,
just as we abound in love for you.
Strengthen our hearts in holiness
that we may be blameless before you
when you return. Amen.

Introduction

The Christian Year

In Deuteronomy 6 we are encouraged to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength. We are encouraged to share the story and commands of God to our children - to talk about them when we are at home, when we are on the road, when we go to bed, and when we are getting up. In short, we are to immerse ourselves in the story of God. The early Hebrews held festivals throughout the year, recounting and celebrating the way God had revealed himself to them as a nation. Similarly, celebrating the various festivals of the Christian year is a way to mark time and to emphasize the various aspects of the life of Christ and the story of redemption.

The Season of Advent

Advent is a season of remembrance and anticipation. During the four Sundays before Christmas, we remember the first coming of Christ - the baby, born of a virgin, who came to shine light into the darkness. We recount the Old Testament prophecies which foretold the coming of the Messiah, our Rescuer and Redeemer.

However, we also anticipate Christ’s second advent, his second coming when all things will be made new; when the wolf will lie down with the lamb; when there will be no more tears and no more sorrow. Until that day, we live in the tension of the already and the not yet. In addition, celebrating Advent allows us time and space, a season rather than one day to remember and recall all of the promises of our Lord: past, present, and future.

Behold the Savior

This year our theme is Behold the Savior, a call to remember and rejoice in the work of our Redeemer. In this devotional we will be following the Scripture readings for the Sundays in Advent. In addition, there will be a brief Devotion on the readings followed by Questions for Further Reflection and a Prayer. I would encourage you to engage with this devotional as an individual, family, or small group. Merry Christmas!

Paxson Jeancake
Director of Worship
Covenant Church | Palm Bay, FL