St. Mary's Church

Third Sunday of Advent

Third Sunday of Advent

12 Dec 2020 • General news

Isaiah 61. 1-4, 8-11

The servant of the Lord said:

1The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;2to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;3to provide for those who mourn in Zion –
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.4They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.

8For I the LORD love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.9Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
that they are a people whom the LORD has blessed.10I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.11For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.

1 Thessalonians 5. 16-24

My brothers and sisters, 16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; 21hold fast to what is good; 22abstain from every form of evil.

23May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

John 1. 6-8, 19-28

6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

19This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ 20He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ 21And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ 22Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ 23He said,
‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
“Make straight the way of the Lord”’,
as the prophet Isaiah said.

24Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ 26John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ 28This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

Advent Wreath

The Third Sunday of Advent: Joy

Leader: Last Sunday the candle of peace was lit. We light it and the

candle of hope again as we remember that Christ will come

again and bring to the world everlasting peace.

The first two candles are lit.

The Third candle of Advent is the Candle of Joy.

It reminds of the joy that Mary felt when the angel

Gabriel told her that a special child would be born to

her - a child who would save and deliver his people

God wants us all to have joy. The angel who announced

to the shepherds that Jesus had been born told them

“Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news of a

great joy for all people - for to you is born this day, in

the City of David, a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

We light this candle to remember that Christ brings the

promise of new life - a life in which the blind receive sight,

the lame walk, and the prisoners are set free. We light it

to remember that He is the bringer of true and everlasting


The third candle is lit.

All: Loving God, we thank you for the joy you bring us

Help us prepare our hearts for this gift. Bless our

worship. Help us to hear and to do your word.

We ask it in the name of the one born in Bethlehem.


We sing: Let there be joy shared among us,

let there be joy in our eyes.

May now your joy sweep this nation;

cause us, O Lord, to arise.

Give us a fresh understanding,

sisterly love that is real.

Let there be joy shared among us,

let there be joy.

Bible exposition and reflection on Isaiah 61

1. Background

Today’s passage (Isaiah Ch 61) is a prophetic word from the prophet Isaiah to the ‘faithful remnants’ who just returned from Babylonian exile in 537BC.

Political issues:

On return, there were some political issues that people of Judah had to deal with. They had no king, no army, no independence. They were just a subdivision of a vast Persian empire. The city was in ruins, the temple was destroyed. There was neither the wealth nor the motivation to rebuild it all. ‘It was hard to distinguish the shouts of joy from the cry of anguish.’

Religious issues:

People struggled to define themselves and their faith under Persian hegemony. In olden times it was ‘your god against mine god’ situation. Now, the syncretism rules the day! Persians were saying: ‘it is no longer my god versus your god.’ The divine has many faces. There are many ways to come to true God.’ The Israelites struggled with this idea, because they were monotheists by their religious make up. They believed in one and true God - God of Israel. Now, they are allowed to worship their God and Babylonian god and Persian god and Assyrian god at the same time.

2. Passage Exposition

Today’s passage, Isaiah 61 is full of hope. God is promising that his people will be able to live righteous lives. But not relying on themselves, but with the help of the anointed one, the Messiah. God will make of his people that they can not make of themselves. The Messiah is the one who will make that righteousness possible: He is the means to achieve it.

The result of his mission is seen in V3b, they will be called ‘oaks of righteousness’. Not only they will be able to live righteous lives, they will become the blessing to other nations: V11 ‘…So the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

How is it all going to be achieved? Through the work of the Messiah…

V1 He is to preach the good news, and V3 to provide ‘beauty’ instead of ‘ashes’,

Gladness’ instead of ‘mourning’, ‘Praise’ instead of ‘despair’.

V7 Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance…’.

Who is the message for? For…

V1The poor’ – ‘physically and spiritually poor’ – Jewish people were robbed off of their material wealth and spiritual heritage.

V1Broken hearted’ - This is the way to describe how they felt at that moment.

V1 Captives’ and ‘the prisoners’ – people were captives for 47 years while in the exile. Isaiah 61 also offers the promise of freedom from sin.

3. Fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophesy (Luke 4:17-21)

500 years later, Jesus went to a synagogue on Saturday morning and there He read the scroll of the prophet Isaiah 61:1-3. When He finished reading, He announced that the Isaiah’s prophesy is fulfilled in him.

In Isaiah, God brought the nation back from the exile - people did not deserve it. He wants to make them righteous - they do not deserve it. He wants to bless other nations through Israel – none of them deserve it! In Jesus’ time people were no better. In our time – we still do not deserve it! But God does not give up on us, He loves and cares for us, because we are his children.

4. Advent

The idea of ‘waiting’ is central to the Isaiah’s passage.

a In Isaiah’s time people were waiting for the Messiah to come and restore their surroundings as well as themselves and also to deliver them from Persian oppression, as well as from their personal sin.

b. In Jesus’ time, people were waiting for the Messiah too. Jesus comes and says that the waiting time is over, The OT prophesy is fulfilled in Him.

c. 2000 years later, we are expectantly waiting and preparing ourselves for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, as well as for his second coming. The Isaiah’s prophesy was partly fulfilled in Jesus and will be fully fulfilled when He returns.


As we are waiting and preparing ourselves this Advent season, there are some lessons to learn from Isaiah 61: about how we should live as God’s redeemed people, the nature of our hope, God’s future judgement and about the priorities of our witness by word and deed.

As we are waiting… Let’s us pray…

In stillness let us pray to God, our heavenly Father.

Father God

You have told us to look forward to a time when your kingdom will come and your will be done; a time when there will be an end to evil and sin, suffering and sorrow, a time when Christ will come again in glory.

This time of Advent, Father,

  • its mood of expectation
  • its message of hope and joy
  • its call to prepare ourselves
  • its spirit of confidence and trust

And yet it’s so hard this Advent to be in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

And so we come to you as we are, and pray for your Holy Spirit to be with us each and every day.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Holy God

We bring to you Dmitry and his family, Olya, Olivia and Thomas. We pray you will be with them as Dmitry prepares to move in the New Year to be Vicar of St Mary, Horsell, in Guildford Diocese. We thank you for Dmitry, for all he has done for us here at St Mary’s. May your Holy Spirit be with him day by day. We thank you for Malcolm who has guided and supported Dmitry’s placement here at St Mary’s, be with him we pray.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Loving God

We thank you for our homes and our loved ones.

We are truly blessed to have so many children and young people in our church family and we continue to pray for them at this time of coronavirus.

We especially pray and give thanks for the many people involved in producing a safe vaccine for Covid-19 and pray for its success.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Gracious God

We pray for people suffering in body, mind or spirit, especially Tony Thistlewood and Bill Brown.

In the silence, we bring to you our private prayers:


Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

God of Life

We give thanks for the gift of life and for life eternal.

We pray for those we love who have died [forever in our hearts] and with you in your kingdom.

We give thanks for

We especially pray for those recently bereaved.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

In the power of the Holy Spirit

As we approach Christmas with its message of joy and goodwill amongst people, we earnestly pray for peace in the world, for an end to division and discord, an end to hatred and hostility, death and destruction.

We pray, that through this Advent season, we shall be renewed in hope and strengthened in faith, trusting more completely the future you hold for us.

May our faith be deepened in your eternal love and purpose, despite the impact of the pandemic on our lives.

And may we be ready to welcome the Lord Jesus this Christmas, in the assurance that as he came, so he shall come again.

Merciful Father,

Accept these prayers

for the sake of your Son,

our Saviour, Jesus Christ.


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