The theme for this week's (Advent 3) Scripture readings is joy. This the reason behind the pink candle on the Advent wreath. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah announces joy for all the broken-earted. He says, "I am full of joy in the Lord, my God." In the second reading, Paul recommends: "Always be joyful." In this week's Gospel (John 1:6-8, 19-28) the Baptist's task is "to bear witness to the light," the light of Christ that enlightens our hearts with an inner serenity of being in God's presence. The Baptist is just a voice that witnesses the coming of the light (Christ) into the world. The Gospel invites us to let our lives be embraced by the Messiah's light. A light that creates in us a pervasive sense of well-being, a sense of peace and joy. Even in the midst of the dark times in our lives, even where there is great loss, the light of Christ produces joy in our hearts. Joy is a basic element of the inner transformation of Christ's light. "The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17). God made us for joy, but without the light of Christ we settle for pleasure. Advent is a time to remember the message of the Angels at the birth of the Christ Child - "I bring you good news of great joy."
John the Baptist pointed to the true help coming in Jesus. "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit," John said. When God helps, he doesn't just explain the problem and tell us where to get further help if we need it. Nor does he command and then expect us to live up to the commandments under our own ability. He gives commands to show us how much we need, and then he himself helps us completely, withholding nothing, giving us all that we need and more. That is what happens in Baptism. Christ doesn't simply mark us out for a gift and wait to see how we'll respond. Nor does he withhold the gift for some future date. He gives everything in Baptism, declaring us his own and sending his Spirit into us to "call, gather, enlighten, sanctify and keep us" as his own, as the Small Catechism's explanation of the Third Article says. That is the comfort of the gospel. People go part way in dealing with others. They take the initiative, then wait for a response. But Christ goes all the way, not only taking the initiative but creating the response in us by giving us faith as a gift of the Holy Spirit. He both promises to be our Lord and gives us the faith to believe it, coming to us again and again in his Spirit, keeping us in the faith to which he restores us. The good news in the Gospel for this Sunday is heard when we recognize who acts. Ordinarily we assume that we have the action, at least some of it - that God goes part way and that we meet him and complete the task, working faith in ourselves, but "all flesh is grass," as Isaiah says. "The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever" (vv.6-8). God is the one who takes the action, and he takes it all. As he sent his word of comfort to Israel, he speaks his word to us. And as he speaks to us, he also goes to work in the sacraments to give us every gift.
Jesus tells us in the twenty-eighth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel…All authority has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matt 28:18-20).
Christ’s Great Commission +Baptize all people +Teach the baptized
Baptize: Christians are made, not born, Tertullian taught. Through the act of baptism God makes us Christians and adopts us into his eternal family. Christ’s Spirit, is baptized into us so that we might participate into his mission of reconciliation to make all things new.
Teach: The baptized learn how to be disciples by practicing the seven habits Jesus taught. These seven habits feed the faith of the baptized, which is referred to as faith formation. The first three habits are foundational: Remembering our baptismal adoption into God’s family; Listening to God’s law and Gospel voice in Scripture; Praying for God’s help with all our daily needs. The last four teachings of Preparing, Returning, Inviting, and Caring each build upon the foundation of the first three habits.