Reflection on the Gospel of Luke 3:7-18: Third Sunday in Advent, December 12, 2021

The Gospel of Luke 3:7-18

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Let us Pray: Lord God, may we, your people, who look forward to the birthday of Christ experience the joy of salvation and celebrate that feast with love and thanksgiving. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

This Sunday’s Advent wreath candle lighting varies because it is Gaudette (=”rejoice!”) Sunday. As a break from the heaviness of Advent’s penitential preparations, this Sunday offers a reprise from our dark longings to offer joy’s glimmer of light. The Latin word Gaudette is grammatically imperative, reminding us that even in the midst of darkness, we are called to rejoice. This is also why we light a pink candle—the color of joy in the penitential season of blue/purple.

As we read the lessons for this Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent we can see why it is the Sunday of joy. The day takes its common name from the Latin word Gaudete (“Rejoice

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.)

From the Old Testament lesson:  Zephaniah 3:17-18

The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival.

Then from Canticle 9   Page 86, BCP

The First Song of Isaiah    

Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, * for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.

And then we wonder why the Gospel with the story of John the Baptist? Believe it or not, John the Baptist is the patron saint of spiritual joy. After all, he leapt for joy in his mother’s womb at the presence of Jesus and Mary (Luke 1:44).  And it says that he rejoices to hear the bridegrooms voice (John 3:29-30). John had the joy of announcing with all his strength the Good News that He was already among the people. John enjoyed the joy of preparing the way. John The Baptist was joyful because he was humble. In fact, he shows us the true nature of this virtue. Humility is not beating up on yourself, denying that you have any gifts, talents, or importance. John knew he had an important role which he played aggressively, with authority and confidence.  The humble man does not sheepishly look down on himself. Actually, he does not look at himself at all.  He looks away from himself to the Lord. John the Baptist’s message to the Israelites seems stern, but Luke reminds us that he is “preaching the Gospel” (the “Good News”). The “Good News” of God and God’s reign calls us to a commitment that is not only joyful, but also demands a new vision of how we live in that reign. In today’s Gospel reading, the crowds ask John the Baptist for specifics. What evidence of repentance is required? John replies by naming concrete actions: crowds should share their food and cloaks; tax collectors should be just; soldiers should act fairly. The concern for justice is a hallmark of Luke’s Gospel. And it is a reminder of what we should be doing, a concern for those who are in need. John’s teaching suggests that each person has a role to play in God’s salvation. It is the great mystery of our salvation that God permits and even asks for human cooperation in his divine plans. But Luke reminds us that this Gospel isn’t just for show, but you better be ready to make some change in your behavior. Remember the true Messiah is yet to return and will offer again the Holy Spirit.

Remember the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Let us Pray:

Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We who have so much to do and seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day, We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us. We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence. We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!’ Amen.

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