THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT WITH SPIRITUAL COMMUNION:
December 13, 2020
O Lord Jesus Christ, you sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries may likewise make ready your way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient toward the wisdom of the just, that at your second coming to judge the world, we may be found a people acceptable in your sight; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.
A Reading from Isaiah 65:17-25
New Heavens and a New Earth
17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. 20 No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old,
and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy[a] the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity,[b] for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,
and their descendants with them. 24 Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.
1 When the Lord overturned the captivity of Zion, *
then were we like those who dream.
2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter *
and our tongue with shouts of joy.
3 Then they said among the nations, *
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
4 Indeed, the Lord has done great things for us already, *
whereof we rejoice.
5 Overturn our captivity, O Lord, *
as when streams refresh the deserts of the south.
6 Those who sow in tears *
shall reap with songs of joy.
7 He who goes on his way weeping and bears good seed *
shall doubtless come again with joy, and bring his sheaves with him.
A Reading from 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
Final Instructions and Benediction
12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle,[a] encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing,18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.
23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
25 Brothers, pray for us.
26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.
27 I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
GOSPEL: John 3:22-30
John the Baptist Exalts Christ
22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).
25 Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore, this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”
ISAIAH 65:17-25 This prophecy is partially fulfilled in this age, where those who have been united to Christ are a “new creation” (2Co 5:17); but it will be fulfilled completely in the age to come, when Christ comes again with a new heaven and a new earth (see Rev 21:1–4).
PSALM 126:1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion. The allusion is to the return from Babylonian exile in the sixth century b.c., when the captive people of Israel were permitted to return to their country (see books of Ezra, Nehemiah). Cyrus’s decision to allow the return was not the mere result of political policy, but of God’s intervention.
126:4 Restore our fortunes. Restoration from captivity meant more than a physical return to the land. God’s covenantal presence was still needed.
like streams in the Negeb. The south of Israel is dry, and in a rainstorm the wadi (seasonal streambeds) become dangerous floods.
1 THESSALONIANS 5:15:15 When is it proper to return evil for evil? From the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:44) to the end of the NT, the answer is, “Never.”
In Paul’s writings, words such as rejoice, always (v. 16), without ceasing or “constantly” (v. 17), and give thanks (v. 18) refer primarily to prayer. The spiritual Fathers of the Church teach that unceasing prayer is a proper goal, for spiritual growth comes through such discipline. For centuries, Christian people have used the “Jesus Prayer” as a way to pray unceasingly from the heart: “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
JOHN 3:22: It was his disciples who baptized. See John 4:2.
3:29 John the Baptist is called the friend (the “best man”), while Christ Himself is the bridegroom. The bride is the Church, the people of God. John confesses his role in the coming of the Messiah—that he is witness to the wedding of Christ and His people, and thus he rejoices in that celebration.
3:30 John expresses a humility that serves as an example for all believers. He renounces all earthly glory and reputation for the sake of Christ. By allowing Christ to increase in him, John himself finds true glory. This statement further indicates the end of the old covenant. As the law vanishes, the grace of Jesus Christ abounds. John's declaration is revealed in the liturgical calendar, wherein his birth is celebrated at a time when the sun begins to decrease in the sky (June 24), while Christ's birth is celebrated when the sun begins to increase (Dec. 25).