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notre dame montreal

Worship, prayers and bible study resources

Third Sunday of Advent

Liturgical Colour - Purple

Opening Verse

advent candle three

 
 
 
 

Advent 3

People of God:
Be glad!
Your God delights in you.
He will give you joy for sadness
and turn the dark to light.
Be strong in hope therefore;
for your God comes to save.
You are God’s children
Lord make us one in the love of Christ
today and for ever. Amen.

Collect Prayer
First Reading:
Second Reading:
Gospel Reading
Post Communion Sentence
Commentary:
Meditation:
Hymns
Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead:
Intercessions from our Sunday worship
Sermon

Introduction

John the Baptist is a most extraordinary individual. He is clearly not an ambitious man, he had no designs on one of the top jobs back in Jerusalem. Instead he spoke his mind freely without fear or desire for favour. He spoke the words he believed that God wanted the people to hear and the people flocked out to hear him, no doubt attracted by his honesty and integrity. It must have been refreshing for those who travelled out of the city into the desert. Yet he never chose comfortable words, rather he challenged the people in a way that they had not been challenged before. He called people back to their core beliefs and reminded them of the days when they lived in the desert. This Advent we are called also back to fundamentals, to prepare ourselves for the coming of our Lord. 

Opening Verses of Scripture 1 Thessalonians 5:16

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.


Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

O Lord Jesus Christ, who at your first coming sent your messenger to prepare your way before you: grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready your way by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at your second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in your sight; for you are alive and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.   Common Worship

God of mercy and power, whose Son rules over all, grant us so to live in obedience to your holy will, that at his appearing we may be raised to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen 

God for whom we wait and watch, you sent your servant John the Baptist to prepare your people for the coming of the Messiah. Inspire the ministers and stewards of your truth to turn our disobedient hearts to you; that, when Christ shall come again in glory to be our judge, we may stand with confidence before Him, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Common Worship Shorter Collect


First Bible Reading  Isaiah Chapter 61:1-4, 8-11

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. 

He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. 

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. 

"For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed." 

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the young plant come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

Second Reading 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.


Gospel Reading John 1:6-8, 19-28

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Christ." They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No." Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" "I baptize with water," John replied, "but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie." This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

 

Post Communion Sentence

We give you thanks O Lord for these heavenly gifts; kindle in us the fire of your Spirit that when your Christ comes again we may shine as lights before his face: who is alive and reigns now and for ever. Amen

Commentary

Salvation for all

In today’s gospel reading we have John the Baptist proclaiming that the time has come to ‘Make straight the way for the Lord!’ echoing the words of Isaiah. Jesus Himself seems to have been profoundly influenced by the words from Isaiah in His own ministry and life. Paul too in his epistle encourages the Thessalonians to
‘Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances’.

The message from today’s readings is clear: the salvation we await with joy will liberate both the individual and the community, and its special focus appears to be the poor and lowly, not necessarily the rich and powerful. Jesus comes so that as individuals and as community we may be free from the poverty which afflicts the spiritual lives of all of us and for some in our world, their temporal lives too, that we might be transformed and preserved whole and entire, spirit, soul, and body. The gospel writer John is giving us an insight into what will follow in his gospel in this passage telling the story of John the Baptist.

John the Baptist’s own status came from the fact that his father, Zechariah, was a devout rural priest. But John the Baptist is not behaving like a priest. Instead, he looks very much like a member of the numerous groups of alienated priests that emerged as early as the sixth century BC. These groups found themselves increasingly separated from the aristocratic priesthood in Jerusalem. By his dress and diet, John the Baptist distances himself from this luxury and his rural priestly heritage, and appears far more like a prophet, a person who declares the will of God for the here and now. Hence the question from the priests and Levites about John being Elijah. They also have a second question. If John is not a priest, Elijah or a prophet, why is he baptising people? John explains his baptism is a symbolic action, not a priestly function. An act and baptism symbolising repentance for the forgiveness of sins, a purification and cleansing, a return to God. Hence, when John the Baptist is asked if he is Elijah he replies, ‘I am not’. But he points to one who will follow, whose sandals he is not worthy to untie.

Powerful words, especially when we realise that throughout the fourth gospel there are many occasions when Jesus declares ‘I am’. The gospel begins with John the Baptist attesting ‘I am not’ and ends with Peter using those same words when questioned about whether or not he was one of Jesus’ disciples as Christ is arrested and taken to His death. In between we have a Jesus, who comes to us incarnate at Christmas, and who will come again in glory as we celebrate at Advent, who is the true ‘I am’. Jesus is, quite simply, the centre of all that has been, all that is, and all that is to come. The ‘I am’, the centre of transformation and new life.

Without Christ at the centre of our lives, helping us focus on God, life can seem a desolate wilderness, a dark and hopeless place where we are trapped by our own humanity, our own ‘I am not’-ness. As we open ourselves to Jesus, the true ‘I am’, He releases us into new life and restores those places in our lives that have been marred, or even devastated by the effects of the darkness of the world. As Advent passes into Christmas we look to the light of Christ, who will return in a great blaze of glory to complete that work of restoration, but who first came as a small pinprick of light in a stable in Bethlehem.

For some, all they ever see is the pinprick of light at Christmas and for the rest of the year the Christian faith means little to them. For others, the light in the stable at Christmas is the dawning of the realisation of Christ as the great ‘I am’ in their lives, lives which continue to be changed, transformed and restored by His incarnation. We too, as was John the Baptist, are called to point to that light, and reflect its transformation and glory in our lives. Sam Cappleman

Meditation


I said I love you and that's forever,
And this I promise from the heart.
I could not love you any better,
I love you just the way you are.
Billy Joel


Billy Joel might not having been trying to make a great theological point when he wrote these lines, but they do make an extremely good point. The song encourages us not to try to be something which we are not. It is true that if we learn to get along with ourselves then we will be much better placed to be able to get along with others.
The readings from Isaiah and from Paul to the Thessalonians encourage us to rejoice. This is appropriate at a time of year when we sing about joyfulness and truthfully most people desperately seek the fulfilment which results in the ability to live a joyful life.
So how do we arrive at a position whereby we can be joyful? The secret is surely to learn to be content within ourselves. I am not a great fan of so many of the television programmes these days which seek to reward the winner with great fame and recognition. Not because there is anything wrong with wanting to sing, just that so many people are led to believe that money, fame, success are avenues to happiness. When we look at the drug filled, lonely lives of pop stars it is transparently obvious that stardom, being regarded as an idol is no road to happiness.
Happy people are able to enjoy what they are, they are not always trying to be something or somebody else. One television programme has a catch phrase ‘tonight I am going to be.’ At which the performer goes off to make themselves look and sound like their pop look alike. At one level it is all a bit of fun, but at a more sinister level it is quite dreadful. Many people spend their lives trying to be somebody else, chasing an allusive dream, on the misapprehension that they would be happy if only they could…..
To be happy we must not want to be somebody else, not long for the moment when we can attain fame or fortune. We are best able to rejoice when we are content with being ourselves. We are to be encouraged to like ourselves more, not desire to be like another person but to have self-esteem.
Perhaps that is what John the Baptist was like. He was a rugged and wild character, poor and living a frugal life. He was completely free of pretence and more than content to point away from himself to another. He must have been very secure within himself and confident to be able to do this. John is modest, free from pretension and desires no great status or privilege.
Society is full of people who are having difficulty and we proclaim that they need to ‘find themselves.’ It is no wonder that so many relationships are on the rocks, how can we get on with others when we have so much trouble getting along with ourselves? With John there was no ambiguity, no longing to be different, just a willingness to serve God where he was.
Perhaps the most important journey which any of us make is that one inside ourselves. The ability to look deep within and ask questions knowing that there is no point lying to ourselves, that we have to see ourselves as we really are and learn to be pleased about it. It is not that we see our faults and think them to be good things, that we need no correction. Rather it is learning to accept ourselves, without pretension, no need to be artificial or put on a show. We all need to be less ashamed and more free to take a pride in our individuality, God would not have made us all so different if he wanted us to conform.
The good news is that this is how God sees us. God knows us better than we know ourselves and yet still he loves and accepts us. He doesn’t need us to look like Kylie or sing like Robin Williams, we have his approval just as we are.

 
I said I love you and that's forever,
And this I promise from the heart.
I could not love you any better,
I love you just the way you are.
 Billy Joel
 

There is a rabbinic saying, "Every service which a slave performs for his master shall a disciple do for his master, except the loosing of a sandal thong". Disciples often performed jobs or services for their teachers, but never the menial or dirty tasks, such as tying or untying sandals. John uses the service that the rabbinic saying states is too menial for any disciple to undertake and declares he is not worthy to perform even this task for the Messiah, the one who is to follow him. His humility and his desire to point to only to Christ challenge us in a world that constantly fosters self aggrandisement and often points only to self.

Hymns

  1. O come O come Emmanuel
  2. Jesus put this song into our hearts
  3. Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour
  4. On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian, if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die.

 


O good Jesus, radiant in your glory and tender in your compassion, cherish me, I pray, as one of your family; embrace me as your lover; rule me as your subject and welcome me as your friend, now and for ever. Amen Hildegard of Bingen, 1098-1179

O God of all hope, we thank you for your promises which find their fulfilment in your Son. We rejoice in His coming in the flesh and look for His coming in glory. By your word, sacraments and Holy Spirit make us ready to receive Christ as our Lord and Saviour, and with thankfulness praise Him, now and for ever.

Lord Jesus, redeemer and judge of all people, who came that we might have life eternal, you have taught us that you will come again in great glory to take account of your servants and reward their faithful service; help us to live as people who wait for their master, prepared, engaged in service, and ready for action; that we might not be ashamed before you at your coming so that we might enter into your eternal joy. Amen

Additional Material

Commentary

Matthew, Mark and Luke all record that the gospel, the good news, starts with John The Baptist. The readers would know that John was beheaded by Herod for his preaching. He called for a way to be prepared and this was no cheap road. The Christian community knew that the way of the Lord was the ‘via dolorosa’, a way of the cross. Many of the Christians who read this Gospel would also be executed for their message and mission.

John is the first to proclaim God's kingdom. He announces it not in the Temple but in the desert the place where the faith of so many before had been tested and a place where people like Moses had encountered God. The Jewish people had built a Temple but they were called back to the desert across which they had come into the promised land. 

The average person can only go a couple of day in the wilderness without water. In the prophets the desert is used as a metaphor for estrangement from God, it is frightening, lonely and dangerous, yet it is to here that John calls the people for renewal. Perhaps that is where God still wants to meet us, in the place where we are stripped of distractions and ready and anxious to listen. In the desert all our facades are removed.

John calls other people out into the desert and asks them to be baptised as a sign of a change of attitude. But the sign of baptism is not an independent formal and external ritual, it must be accompanied by them showing tangible proof of their change 'bear fruit worthy of repentance' Matt 3:8. 

The actions of our lives are important, so important that John can speak of acceptance or rejection based on our deeds. The axe is laid at the root of the tree that does not bear fruit. There is wheat or chaff, no middle path 3:12. John calls for repentance, for us to change what is crooked, to seek justice and to prepare for an encounter with the Lord. 

Advent is the time to prepare for the time of the Lord's nativity, it is time to prepare for our encounter with the Lord Jesus. Hence it is a time for all of us to determine what needs straightening, what needs levelling. John is saying that it is necessary to change the root of human behaviour, it is a substantial change and not something superficial. The whole panorama would be changed by Christ, the valleys would be lifted up and the mountains laid low. Charles Royden

 

Hymns
  1. We have come into his house

  2. Make Way, Make Way

  3. Song from Big Blue Planet: Come Lord Jesus Come

  4. When Jesus came to Jordan

  5. Christingle song

  6. Love came down at Christmas  

Hark the glad sound! the saviour comes.     Bristol                            
The advent of our King.       Franconia  
T ell out my soul.        Woodlands                  
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour.  Fragrance    
Christ is surely coming.    Dam Busters’ March      


1          Hark the glad sound! the Saviour comes,
The Saviour promised long;
Let every heart prepare a throne,
And every voice a song.

2          He comes the prisoners to release,
In Satan's bondage held;
The gates of brass before him burst,
The iron fetters yield.

3          He comes to clear the darkened mind,
To drive the night away,
And on the eyeballs of the blind
To pour celestial day.

4          He comes the broken heart to bind,
The bleeding soul to cure,
And with the treasures of his grace
To enrich the humble poor.

5          Our glad hosannas, prince of peace,
Thy welcome shall proclaim,
And heaven's eternal arches ring
With thy belovèd name.


 

1          The advent of our King
Our prayers must now employ,
And we must hymns of welcome sing
In strains of holy joy.

2          The everlasting Son
Incarnate deigns to be;
Himself a servant's form puts on,
To set his servants free.

3          Daughter of Sion, rise
To meet thy lowly King;
Nor let thy faithless heart despise
The peace he comes to bring.

4          As Judge, on clouds of light,
He soon will come again,
And his true members all unite
With him in heaven to reign.

5          All glory to the Son
Who comes to set us free,
With Father, Spirit, ever One,
Through all eternity.


 

1          Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings, give my spirit voice;
tender to me the promise of his word;
in God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.

2          Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his Name!
Make known his might, the deeds his arm has done;
his mercy sure, from age to age the same;
his holy Name, the Lord, the Mighty One.

3          Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his might!
Powers and dominions lay their glory by.
Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight,
the hungry fed, the humble lifted high.

4          Tell out, my soul, the glories of his word!
Firm is his promise, and his mercy sure.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord
to children's children and for evermore!


 

1          Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
all for love's sake becamest poor;
thrones for a manger didst surrender,
sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
all for love's sake becamest poor.

2          Thou who art God beyond all praising,
all for love's sake becamest man;
stooping so low, but sinners raising
heavenwards by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
all for love's sake becamest man.

3          Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
make us what thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love, beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.


 

1          Christ is surely coming bringing his reward,
Alpha and Omega, First and Last and Lord:
Root and stem of David, brilliant Morning Star:
meet your Judge and Saviour, nations near and far;
meet your Judge and Saviour, nations near and far!

2          See the holy city! There they enter in,
All by Christ made holy, washed from every sin:
thirsty ones, desiring all he loves to give,
come for living water, freely drink, and live;
come for living water, freely drink, and live!

3          Grace be with God's people! Praise his holy name!
Father, Son, and Spirit, evermore the same.
Hear the certain promise from the eternal home:
'Surely I come quickly!'-Come, Lord Jesus, come;
'Surely I come quickly!'-Come, Lord Jesus, come!