Advent 3C




301: December 16, 2018


145: December 13, 2015


Luke 3:7-18

Initial Thoughts

  • Part Two of John the Baptist, “He’s Back, and He’s Mad”

  • Part Three is coming after Christmas - on Baptism of the Lord Sunday on January 10.

Bible Study

  • Interesting opening to a sermon.

    • Wakes people up with unapologetic anger.

    • These are people that are coming to be baptized by him, and he warns them not come with simply a desire to be baptized. This isn’t some “get clean quick” scheme.

    • Water isn’t enough, but a total change of heart is what is needed.

    • “Say not within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father - That is, trust not in your being members of the visible Church, or in any external privileges whatsoever: for God now requires a change of heart; and that without delay.”

    • Being Jewish isn’t enough either.

      • Radical claim for a people who defined God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

      • Generational ties were of utmost importance.

      • Remember though, Jesus’ genealogy doesn’t go back to Abraham (like Matthew’s). It goes all the way back to Adam.

  • Three Groups come to John to ask, “What then, shall we do?” These groups represent steps away from those likely to be convinced of John’s preaching, or those that would be considered “least close” to the Kingdom of God.

    • Crowds - People in the wilderness. Not connected to society - or at least temporarily escaping it.

    • Tax Collectors - Collaborators with the Romans, profiting from the struggle of their own community and neighbors.

      • Does not tell them to stop collecting taxes, only tells them to stop cheating people. Granted, this is the way in which they were paid, but JBap is urging people to make money in a more honest way.

    • Soldiers - The Romans themselves. The greatest enemy. Possibly even the ones who would eventually carry out “the wrath that is coming” (the destruction of the Temple).

      • Don’t extort.

    • “Don’t Hoard. Don’t Cheat. Don’t Extort”

      • All of these things deal with possessions

      • All deal with justice

      • All deal with the right way to treat others.

  • He’s not Christ

    • Important to differentiate between John and Jesus.

    • He will baptize with “Spirit and Fire” can also be seen as “Wind and Fire” “Wind and fire were symbol for the Holy Spirit, the powerful presence of God, but also of judgment. Farmers poured wheat from one container to another on a windy day, or tossed the wheat into the air with a fork or shovel so that the chaff would be blown away, leaving the grain clean. The chaff burned with explosive combustion. To this day, farmers know that a fire in a dry wheat field cannot be contained or controlled… When repentance and forgiveness are available, judgment is good news. The primary aim is to save the wheat, not to burn the chaff” (Fred Craddock, Interpretation, p 49)

Thoughts and Questions

  • Why stop at v. 18? Cuts off John getting in trouble with authorities and getting arrested. John’s truth was not accepted by all.

    • “It would be inappropriate to stop reading with v. 18. Verses 19-20 after all, indicate that John the Baptist and Jesus have one more experience in common. Both are rejected for their proclamation. The One whose coming Advent anticipates is also the One the world continues to reject.” (Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching, Year C p. 28)

    • While John’s message - though harsh - was received by many, it still got him into trouble.

    • On the surface, good news to the poor is bad news for the powerful.

  • John the Baptist as Morpheus, as proposed by Roy Terry in The Hardest Question

    • Not The One, but the one who prepares the way for The One.

    • Reveals that the world is not as it seems.

    • The only way to find freedom is to let go of the ways of this world - to change, repent, take the blue pill and unplug.

    • The Matrix is a system that keeps people under an illusion of freedom so that they may remains slaves. It is only through allowing everything to change that people may experience true freedom - which comes at great cost and struggle.

    • For Neo to be set free, he must unplug (and be baptized)

  • What is the fruit of repentance?

  • All are a part of this kingdom. Which category do you fit?

    • Brood of Vipers

    • Tax Collectors

    • Romans

    • No matter what your ‘position’ in life, there is a chance to live in line with God’s will.

Philippians 4:4-7

Initial Thoughts

  • Rejoice. Be Glad. Show gentleness. Do not be anxious. Pray.

    • “Difficult words to hear, especially in light of recent conversations about “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of _________.” Given that by the time we air this podcast, there might be a different city to place in that blank.” - This was from Dec. 15, 2015

Bible Study

  • Context of Letter:

    • Author of the letter is in jail

    • Readers of the letter going through persecution.

    • “Jerked out of their context, the exhortations connote an unrealistic attitude toward life, a Pollyanna religion that ignores the harsh tragedies and calls for a stoic like serenity… But they emerge from and are directed to what some would call the dark side of human experience.” (Charles Cousar,Texts for Preaching, Year C, p. 24)

  • “Gentleness” or forbearance

    • Do not fall into anger, vengeance, quarreling, hatred, bitterness, parking lot conversations

    • Forbearance - self-control, tolerance, restraint

    • Be bold in forbearance- not certitude, not righteousness, but in tolerance

    • Remember that God is near to give strength (and perhaps to judge)

  • Non-anxious prayerfulness

    • Remembering, affirming, believing: God is near

    • Being “right” will not protect us, the peace of God will guard your heart and mind to focus on self-giving love.

    • Not a disregard of anxiety but an invitation to bring you anxieties to God

  • Rejoice

    • Not ignoring the problems and divisions: Paul is headed to his death, the church in Philippi is waning

    • Problems are real, but will not have the final word

    • Struggles are not an excuse to stop trusting in God, to stop caring for one another, to backslide into division and attacks

    • Are we willing to take time for prayer, for reflection, to listen to God speaking through us?

  • Questions to ask of the text:

    • How is the Lord near? Spatial, temporal? Is the Lord coming soon, or is he already present - or both?

    • How can we possibly not worry? Is prayer the antidote to worry?

      • A stress-free life is hardly a life worth living. Yet that is easy to say in a relatively comfortable place.

    • For what am I supposed to be glad?

      • Was Paul glad that he was in jail?

    • What does it mean to have our hearts and minds safe?

      • Notice that the prayers do not guarantee physical safety.

Thoughts and Questions

  • In the midst of disagreement, where does your mind go? Most of the time we fall to despair, anger, outrage, frustration and retort. (There is scientific evidence for this:  Oatmeal Comic, Backfire Effect). Instead of falling victim to “the backfire” effect”, practice forbearance, listen and focus on v.8: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Isaiah 12:(1)2-6

Initial Thoughts

  • READ v. 1!

  • Gaudete Sunday- the Sunday of Joy!!

  • The Isaiah passage no one thinks about during Advent...which is weird

    • Isaiah 2 - swords into plowshares

    • Isaiah 7- Emmanuel

    • Isaiah 9 - people who have walked in darkness see a great light

    • Isaiah 11- Root of Jesse

    • Isaiah 40 - voice in the wilderness

    • Isaiah 61 - good news to the oppressed, bind up the broken, etc.

  • Nice balance to John- perhaps good to preached together

Bible Study

  • Context- a brief joyful interlude amidst judgment (Isaiah 13-23)

  • v. 1 - Comfort

    • anticipates Isaiah 40 - Comfort, O Comfort Ye My People

    • Acceptance of Judgement turns into Reconciliation and Comfort

  • Hymn of praise

    • The original “Advent carol”- ok- definitely not, but a hymn of hope and joy- isn’t that what Advent is all about?

    • Not about what has happened but in anticipation of what will happen

    • Hymn of celebration for the announced return in Isaiah 11

    • Most likely written during the exile and placed here in Isaiah 12 later

    • v. 2 echoes Moses’ song of  praise in Exodus 15:2 upon crossing the Red (or Reed) sea

    • What is it like to preach of such hope amidst great spiritual or national tragedy (Violence in the US- esp. the mass shooting in San Bernardino on Dec. 2 and the upcoming anniversary of Sandy Hook)

  • The source of Joy is God

    • different from the springs of destruction in Genesis 6-9

  • Individual Joy is transformed into communal joy

    • The subject changes from the author, “I will give thanks”, “I will trust” to the communal exclamation: “Give thanks”, “Proclaim” “Make Known” “Sing Praises” “Shout aloud”

    • This hymn is not a denial of hardship of the present reality, but a declaration of hope that refuses to give in:

My life flows on in endless song;

Above earth's lamentation,

I hear the sweet, tho' far-off hymn

That hails a new creation;

Thro' all the tumult and the strife

I hear the music ringing;

It finds an echo in my soul—

How can I keep from singing?

Thoughts and Question

  • What is it like to preach of such hope amidst great spiritual or national tragedy (Violence in the US- esp. the mass shooting in San Bernardino on Dec. 2 and the upcoming anniversary of Sandy Hook)

    • Brueggemann (Isaiah 1-39, Westminster Bible Companion) calls Isaiah 12, “an act of buoyant and determined hope that refuses to give in to debilitating present circumstance”. In a world besieged by terror attacks, rejection of refugees, fear of others and outsiders and escalating violence - what will be our advent “act of buoyant and determined hope that refuses to give in to debilitating present circumstance”?

Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.