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Bible Study Guide for the Third Sunday of Advent, December 11, 2022

December 6, 2022
  • Isaiah 35:1-10
  • James 5:7-10
  • Matthew 11:2-11
  • Psalm 146:4-9 or Canticle 15 Page 91, BCP

Advent is a season of waiting both for Christmas and for Christ’s second coming, but in awaiting Christmas we also remember Christ’s incarnation and that our God is just and will not forget us nor let our waiting be in vain. The readings this week are split about evenly on these themes. The reading from Isaiah, being a revelation, is exclusively interested in what is to come, when God brings His justice and makes all things whole. The Psalm echoes many of the same sentiments about the Lord bringing justice to the afflicted, strength to the weary, and protecting the orphan and the widow, but it is in the present tense and has a less apocalyptic tone.

The Magnificat is perhaps rather strangely open to using all tenses. It takes place in both the prelude to the life of Christ and a very specific time in the life of Mary. Yet Mary praises God not only for what He is doing for her, but what He has done and will do for every generation. Mary declares that the Lord’s past actions show Him to be just and dependable, and that He is keeping His covenants.

The Epistle once again is forwards looking, but is more of an encouragement that we also must look forward with patience and expectance. James extols the prophets for this virtuous waiting and moves us to be like them.

In the Gospel revelation is juxtaposed with the present. It begins with John asking if they are to wait yet again for the Messiah. Jesus then rather cryptically declares himself by proclaiming that The Lord is keeping His covenants and healing the various hurts of the world in the very immediate present. Then he slightly admonishes the crowd for not understanding John, and then uses him as a measurement to illustrate the greatness of the kingdom of God.

The play with the various tenses in the readings may help to magnify the meaning of the season of advent and the message of today’s Epistle for us. This is a season of waiting, of living in the tension of the already and the not-yet. Yet we can wait in hope for the Lord’s justice, he has brought it before, to Mary and through His Christ. We can hold out with as much steadfast expectancy as the prophets, just like the Epistle implores us too, because we know what God has already done and this ought to assure us of what He will do.

– Ben Watts


What are you waiting for this Advent? What are you waiting for God to do in your life now? What do you hope for God to do for the world?

Looking at the Magnificat, what do Mary and Elizabeth await? How does that resonate with you now?


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