Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Third Sunday of Advent, Year C
December 16, 2018
Lessons: Zephaniah 3:14-20, Isaiah 12:2-6, Philippians 4:4-7, Luke 3:7-18
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people are joyous stewards, taking delight in sharing God’s abundance with others.
Key Scripture: And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” Luke 3:10
NOTE: This year’s Stewardship in Advent theme, “A Lasting Legacy,” is based on words from the Advent Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness (Sundays and Seasons, Year C) and the Advent prayer of the day. The weekly themes are SHOW us, TEACH us, LEAD us, and STIR us.
The crowds came to John the Baptist desiring his baptism for the forgiveness of sins. John greets the perspective converts with a not so charismatic “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Talk about a warm welcome!
For John, however, there is no time to waste. The Messiah is coming, and people need to be ready; they need to be led to a new way of being and living in the world. When they ask him what they are to do, John gives them clear instructions, what amounts to a simple lesson in stewardship.
Share your food and clothes. Be fair with others. Be content with what you have. Sounds obvious, right? The truth is that people need to be led—by clear teaching, loving accountability, and faithful example. John’s message was clear, he called for accountability, and he offered a faithful, albeit highly countercultural, example of how to live. John‘s witness was a powerful wake up call, a cold baptismal shower in the face of power, culture, and the religious institutions of his day.
One thing John didn’t stress was joy, but even so there is joy in the content of his message. Fortunately, the rest of our lessons this week make known the power of joy in clear language. Duty and obligation will eventually shrivel up and die without a measure of joy and hope and love. Jesus never said being his follower involved only drudgery and unrelenting duty. Quite the contrary: The Christian life should be one where our stewardship springs from a profound sense of gratitude and joy. Sharing, caring, and loving are the wellsprings from whence that joy flows. This John understood clearly.
In your preaching and teaching this week, do stress John’s basic principles of stewardship and faithful living, but wrap them in words of joy and light. We hope our congregants would not greet guests with John’s “brood of vipers” salutation, but sometimes we are considerably less than welcoming. Perhaps including some discussion about what it means to be hospitable and welcoming could be a good approach (especially with Christmas Eve worship and the possibility of newcomers and members-seldom-seen).
Finally, this Third Week of Advent is the perfect time to preach and teach the “joy” of stewardship. As a leader, you may wish to share a personal story or reflection of why and how being a faithful steward brings you great joy, peace, and satisfaction. If you have or have had struggles with stewardship, by all means share those and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and transparent. Lead by example. Lead with joy. Keep it real. Lead those with whom you serve into a deeper understanding of what it means to be a joyful steward and faithful disciple following the Messiah. No “brood of vipers” needed here! Just lead the way and light the path. The one whose sandal none of us is worthy to untie is coming again into the world. Keep preparing a place for Jesus this Advent.
This is definitely a week to keep worship joyful and hopeful. Invite congregants to share what is bringing them joy and giving them hope during this season of Advent.
Consider using the Thanksgiving for Baptism instead of Confession and Forgiveness today. Enlist the children to help you asperge the congregations using seasonal evergreen branches.
Invite youth to an impromptu “sharing and caring” party. Invite them to bring something of which they have two perfectly good ones. Maybe it’s a jacket, a game system, or something else of value. Collect the items and donate them to a local non-profit. Have a craft activity ready to make something for a local nursing home or children’s hospital. Share some food—always a good thing—and then consider going caroling to congregational homebound members.
This week’s focus verse is from Philippians 4:6: Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Ask the children if they have ever been worried about something. Depending on their ages you may need to help them understand the concept of worry. Tell them that God has a wonderful solution to worry: PRAY! Praying and giving thanks to God helps us turn from our worries to find joy and hope in God’s love and care. You might show them how worry keeps us turned in on ourselves (Bend over with arms tightly crossed to form a ball.). Prayer, on the other hand, keeps us stretched out, looking up, and even better able to breath freely. Finish with a simple prayer of gratitude, and invite the children to add their own petitions.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
This is the season for joyful stewards! Make a list of your blessings and the many ways and opportunities you have to share them with others. You may just be surprised at how long your list becomes.
Stewardship at Home
Try to make this week of Advent extra joyful in your home. Keep a running gratitude list in a prominent place and add to it every day. Do one simple thing that brings you joy every day. Maybe it’s taking time to rest and read a book with a cup of hot cocoa. Perhaps it’s taking a winter walk with family or friends. It could be volunteering for a non-profit or ministry you value. Finally, aim to give away or share one thing that you do not absolutely need for every day of the week. Most of us can easily share or give away seven items from our abundance. Alternately, skip a coffee or lunch out each day and give the money you save over the course of the week to your congregation or favorite ministry.
Here’s a look back at our 2015 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/11/stewardship-in-advent-series-give-thanks/
And here’s the 2012 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/12/elemental-advent/
Photos: Susanne Nilsson, pixelsniper, and worobod, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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