Lord Jesus Christ, give ear to our prayers, and lighten the darkness of our hearts by your gracious visitation; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Gregorian Sacramentary, 6th Century)
Gracious God, the Alpha and Omega, our beginning and our end, may your Spirit kindle in us patience and strength and endurance in the face of suffering, as well as love and mercy toward our neighbors that reflects your own. We pray in Jesus’ name, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Thoughts on the Readings
The Common Thread
Like children, we do not dress ourselves. God causes righteousness, as he clothes us with both righteousness and salvation. He has restored our fortunes and caused great joy, bringing us home from the far land of sin and death. No wonder we are to pray without ceasing, always giving thanks. He is coming again; the way has been prepared. And God will cause us to be blameless in every way at his return. He will surely do it, for he is faithful.
First Reading - Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
The term “poor” in verse one, means more than may be understood at first glance. Luther wrote: “Christ is the person sent by God and filled with the Holy Spirit to be the Preacher and Evangelist to the poor, that is, the afflicted” (Works, vol 17, p 330). The vocation of the Christ is toward all the afflictions of the afflicted—from lack of necessities, to happiness, to freedom. His ministry is not only to those who are physically poor, but of course, for those who are spiritually poor (Matt 5:3). Yet, the Church needs to face the reverse statement. The ministry of Christ and his Church is not only for those who are spiritually poor, but also for those who are physically poor.
Psalm - Psalm 126:1-6
It does have a dreamlike quality. God has restored us to what he intended for us in creation. We are no longer captive to sin and death. Who could have imagined such a thing? The captives in Babylon spent generations removed from their homeland. They may have hoped for a while, but eventually hope is forgotten. The human race has spent a much longer time in captivity to sin—so long that most forget the penalty. When all hope was forgotten and we had forgotten our desperate condition, the Lord did great things for us. He has restored our ancient fortunes.
Second Reading - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
When we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we sometimes wonder what it actually is so that we may do his will. Verses 16-18 tell us. As we await the great day of Christ’s coming, let us rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances. That is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. The Christian who lacks joy, prayer, and thanksgiving throws water on the Holy Spirit’s (often represented as fire) work of sanctification.
God’s will for us is sanctification. He begins this work in us through the prescription of verses 16-18 but we should also pay attention to the next four verses by fanning into flame the gifts within us, testing everything (Acts 17:11), and adhering to what is good. These are agencies God uses to sanctify the whole person—body, mind, and spirit. Through these things we remain focused in faith so that he preserves us blameless at his appearing. Where you fail, God will perform his will.
Gospel - John 1:6-8, 19-28
The people wanted to know about John. Note however, that John wanted the people to know about the Christ. John was just a man, sent by God to bear witness about another, the light of the world (John 8:12). He did so by crying out in the wilderness. This location is purposeful to his mission. John’s message was that the light from God, the Messiah, would lead people out of their sin. No longer will they wander aimlessly in a wilderness of sin. The Christ who John pointed to would lead them straight out of this wilderness.
Read the entire Sola Devotion that includes an additional Scripture graphic and a reading from the Second Article of The Small Catechism.
Sometimes the Old Testament speaks of the king as an anointed one, a person on whom God’s blessing rests. A priest would pour a flask of oil over the king’s head as a symbol that God had anointed him king (1 Sam 10:1). The high priest was also anointed (Exod 40:13) as one set apart to serve God. At other times, the Old Testament referred to the people of Israel as God’s chosen people, his anointed. The anointed are those who have been chosen to serve God in a unique manner.
Scripture also refers to another anointed servant of God, his Messiah (a transliterated Hebrew word that means anointed one, Acts 3:18–21). The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament, translates the Hebrew Maschiah (Messiah) as Christos, which is converted to Christ in English. The title Christ derives from the same Greek word that gives us these terms: chrism (anointing oil), christen, and even cream. The Christ is the one anointed to serve God for a singular purpose.
When we confess that we believe in Jesus Christ, we are declaring that Jesus is God’s Anointed, the one who has come into the world to free those who are captive to sin and bound for death.