16 December 2018 – Third Sunday in Advent
With the day’s emphasis on praise. . . we listen in on a conversation between John and the crowds who come out to receive his baptism of repentance and forgiveness (v 3). . .
John’s promise of judgment stirs the crowd to ask what sort of deeds he has in mind (vv 10–14). Each exchange is striking in that John has to state the obvious, telling his hearers what they already know, or at least should. Care for the poor is the most basic Old Testament teaching, so John starts there. Abundance is meant for sharing, not hoarding for security (v 11). . .
John’s answer seems to state the obvious: “Don’t collect more than you are supposed to” (v 13) . . . Soldiers [should] “Be satisfied with your wages.” . . . John’s call for basic and expected works of justice and compassion can be translated into everyday works that prepare for the coming of the Lord today. . .
Finally, John answered the “questioning in their hearts” (vv 15–18). . . The two baptisms of water and fire do not stand in opposition. Both purify, but in different senses; one prepares the way for the other. The fire serves a sign of judgment as in the burning of chaff (v 17, cf. Malachi 3:2–4; 4:1) but also as a sign of the coming baptism of the Spirit (Acts 1:5, 2:1–4, 11:16). –– Paul E. Koptak
The eschatological oracle comes in three parts. . . First, a call to sing, shout and rejoice comes with its rationale: the LORD has removed Jerusalem’s punishment, but not that of its enemies. The LORD the king. . . stands with the people, not against them, so they need never be afraid of disaster again (vv 14– 15). A second address. . . [adds] what is new: “Do not fear . . . the LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory,” and who now joins in with their rejoicing and singing (vv 16–17). Finally, the LORD speaks. . . the message of renewal to exiles: the warrior-king will remove their shame, bring them honor and praise and gather them in. . . –– Paul E. Koptak
Paul writes from prison (1:12), exhorting the church at Philippi to stand firm in the face of suffering (1:28–29), even rejoicing as he does the same (2:17–18; 3:1). The theme of joy runs throughout the letter (1:4, 18, 25; 2:2, 28–29; 4:1, 10), grounded in the presence and peace of God. . . that “surpasses all understanding”. . . pointing to the work of God toward well-being, rather than for protection from enemies. . .
God will sustain the church through opposition while it waits for the final coming of Christ. . . . It does not remove the church from struggle, but rather provides the vision that helps the church endure it. –– Paul E. Koptak
Paul E. Koptak is professor of communication and biblical interpretation at North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.
Homily Service 40, no. 1 (2006): 31-40.