Jesus is coming, shout for joy! Joy is a word we see and hear everywhere at Christmas. Joy to the world is the message of the season. Joy is the theme of this day. Two weeks ago, we lit the Prophecy candle and remembered those who first spoke the promise of hope of the coming Christ child.
[Light the purple candle that was on the first week]
Last week we lit the Bethlehem candle, a symbol of the preparations being made to receive and cradle the Christ child.
[Light the purple candle that was lit last week]
The third candle on the Advent wreath is called the Shepherds’ candle. It remembers the first in a long line of people who joyfully shared the good news of the Savior’s birth. The candle is a different color, reminding us that our period of waiting is half over.
[Light the pink candle]
Three candles, burning bright,
Chasing away the darkness from light.
Three candles, glowing bright,
The blessing of God, giving new sight.
From the Old Testament
Scripture: Isaiah 35
The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.
3 Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
4 say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
8 And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
wicked fools will not go about on it.
9 No lion will be there,
nor any ravenous beast;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
10 and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away
Holy God, create in us a fountain of joy, stir in us a spirit ready to dance, kindle in us the fire of gladness, set loose in us songs of praise. For you are the One who comes with healing and blessing. Amen.
From the Psalms
Psalm 146 praises the Lord as the Creator of the world and the Provider for his people. The psalm contains a wonderful “catalog” of the loving deeds of God, who gives food to the hungry and raises up those who are bowed down. The words remind us of the answer Jesus gave when John the Baptist asked him if he was the Messiah.
Scripture: Psalm 146:5-10
5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
8 the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
10 The Lord reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord.
Dear God, with joy we acknowledge your care and love for us. With joy we acknowledge that our help is in you, the Maker of heaven and earth. Through faith in him, grant us solid joy that lasts long beyond this Christmas season and that equips us to face the adversities of life. Amen.
From the New Testament
Scripture: Matthew 11:2-11
2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:
“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.”
11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Dear God, with joy and praise we acknowledge the signs that your kingdom has come in Jesus Christ. We rejoice in the forgiveness of sin. With joy we commit ourselves to the proclamation of the good news of great joy. In the Savior’s name we pray. Amen.