Psalm 126 – I think that the old Gospel Hymn “Bringing in the Sheaves” is partly based on this Psalm. On the one hand the Psalmist speaks of God having restored the people and nation of Israel so that the people rejoiced. On the other hand, the Psalmist asks God to restore their fortunes so that those who cry will become joyful. “They shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying (bringing in) their sheaves.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 – How are we to live lives as Christians in a world that seems to be dominated by so much evil and suffering? Paul is succinct: “rejoice always, pray unceasingly, give thanks in all circumstances, do not quench the Spirit, listen to the prophets, test everything, keep what is good, and abstain from evil.” Seems a bit hard, but I think the key to all of this is not quenching the Spirit. Let the Spirit guide you in all that you do and the Spirit will show you these things. Paul also asks God to “sanctify us entirely” so we may be blameless when Jesus returns. Finally, it is not about our faithfulness but is all about God’s faithfulness. “God will do this.”
John 1:6-8, 19-28 – Wait one doggone moment! Where’s Jesus? Why are we reading about this John guy again? Isn’t this Christmas? If you are asking these questions you stand with millions of Christians who go to churches that follow the Church calendar and the Common Lectionary, as we do. It is all about Advent, waiting, and preparation. This John guy (the Baptizer or the Baptist) was the one who came to prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry. John’s ministry, in the Christian view, was all about Jesus although there we many of John’s followers who thought otherwise (some of whom pop up in Acts). As we continue to prepare for the coming of Christmas and the next coming of Jesus, how are you preparing? John tells the Pharisees that there is one standing in their midst who will change everything. This Advent time, do you see the One standing in your presence who will change everything? Do you see Jesus in the lowly, left-out, least, and last of people? How will you respond?