Forerunners and messengers advance the advent of our God. While John the baptizer’s voice in the wilderness may be the principal focus of the day, Malachi’s prophecy could as easily herald the coming Lord Jesus as forerunner of the Lord of hosts. Finally all the baptized are called to participate in the sharing of the gospel. In so doing we prepare the way for the coming of the Lord and assist all flesh in capturing a vision of the “salvation of God.”
Readings and Psalm
- Malachi 3:1-4
My messenger is a refiner and purifier
- Baruch 5:1-9 (alternate)
The return of scattered Israel
- Luke 1:68-79
In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us. (Lk. 1:78)
- Philippians 1:3-11
A harvest of righteousness on the day of Jesus Christ
- Luke 3:1-6
Prepare the way of the Lord
First Reading: Malachi 3:1-4The Lord announces a covenant with Israel. A messenger like Malachi (his name means “my messenger”) shall prepare the way for the coming of the Lord by purifying and refining God’s people, as silver and gold are refined.1See, 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. 2But 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; 3he 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. 4Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
First Reading (alternate): Baruch 5:1-9A poem of hope from the school of the prophet Jeremiah speaks of the return of scattered Israel from Babylon, but also looks beyond that to the end times when God’s kingdom will be established.1Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,
and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.
2Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God;
put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;
3for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven.
4For God will give you evermore the name,
“Righteous Peace, Godly Glory.”5Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height;
look toward the east,
and see your children gathered from west and east
at the word of the Holy One,
rejoicing that God has remembered them.
6For they went out from you on foot,
led away by their enemies;
but God will bring them back to you,
carried in glory, as on a royal throne.
7For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low
and the valleys filled up, to make level ground,
so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.
8The woods and every fragrant tree
have shaded Israel at God’s command.
9For God will lead Israel with joy,
in the light of his glory,
with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.
Psalm: Luke 1:68-79In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us. (Lk. 1:78)68Blessed are you, Lord, the | God of Israel,
you have come to your people and | set them free.
69You have raised up for us a | mighty Savior,
born of the house of your | servant David.
70Through your holy prophets, you promised of old to save us | from our enemies,
71from the hands of | all who hate us,
72to show mercy | to our forebears,
and to remember your | holy covenant.
73This was the oath you swore to our | father Abraham:
74to set us free from the hands of our | enemies,
free to worship you | without fear,
75holy and righteous before you, all the days | of our life. R
76And you, child, shall be called the prophet of | the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to pre- | pare the way,
77to give God’s people knowledge | of salvation
by the forgiveness | of their sins.
78In the tender compassion | of our God
the dawn from on high shall | break upon us,
79to shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shad- | ow of death,
and to guide our feet into the | way of peace.
Second Reading: Philippians 1:3-11The apostle Paul was the pastor of many new churches. He writes in this letter about his joy to be in partnership with the Christians of Philippi. Listen to how tender-hearted Paul, sometimes a stern preacher, is with his friends as he encourages them to grow in love and knowledge.3I thank my God every time I remember you, 4constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6I 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. 7It 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. 8For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Gospel: Luke 3:1-6John the Baptist is a herald of the saving Lord, whose way is prepared by “repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” As we hear the careful record of human leaders, we sense the spectrum of political and religious authority that will be challenged by this coming Lord.1In 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, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as 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.
5Every 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;
6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”