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Bible Study Guide for Sunday, December 17, Year B

December 11, 2023

● Isaiah 61:1–4, 8–11
● Psalm 126
● 1 Thessalonians 5:16–24
● John 1:6–8, 19–28


Whether from the perspective of anticipating a new political regime or the end of the global pandemic, the Hebrew Bible readings for this Sunday could not be more appropriate for us today. The verses from what is called "Third Isaiah" refer to the time after the return of the Jewish nation from exile in Babylon to their home in Judah. TheProphet is assuring them that the Temple will be rebuilt and their nationhood restored by God. The opening verses of Isaiah 61 are familiar to us for another reason. Luke 4:14-20 tells of Jesus' dramatic reading in a Nazareth Synagogue that adapted these verses of promised renewal to the Jewish community there. Reading these verses today, we can hope for similar deliverance from a most difficult 2020. Psalm 126 continues the joyous theme with "songs of joy," such as those we hope to sing from our balconies androoftops some time in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic fades from dominance. May our tongues also shout with joy!

With the New Testament readings, we are first placed at the threshold of Jesus' ministry with an introduction to John the Baptist, then reminded of some of Jesus' core teachings by the concluding verses of I Thessalonians. The excerpt from John's Gospelbegins with a small part of his epic prologue summarizing the essence of his Gospel.Verses 6–8 name John the Baptist as a witness pointing to the Light (of Christ) for all his hearers. Then we hear the testimony of John which uses words from Isaiah assuring us that Jesus will make the world straight (i.e., right) again and lead us to the joy expressed in the Old Testament readings. This is our Advent theme of waiting for Jesus and the straightening of our rather warped world.

Finally, Paul concludes the first letter to the Thessalonians, the earliest letter from the early Christian community, by providing guidance we should listen to as we move toward a joyous 2021: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances." I would have included verse 15 in this lesson: "See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all." Not bad advice, 'ya think?  Chuck Medler



• It may not be possible for us today to appreciate fully the joy felt by the Israelitesreturning from exile who are the focus of Third Isaiah. But have you ever returned fromsome type of exile? How did that feel to you?

• We are taught that we are the means by which God does the straightening of this world. How are you, personally, most driven to be a part of that work?


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