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Third Sunday in Advent - December 13, 2020 - Rejoice Always - Homily by Pr. Jim

The Rev. James A. Kabel, Intentional Interim Pastor





PRE-SERVICE MUSIC On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry LSB 344

O Lord, How Shall I Meet You LSB 334



In the Name of our Advent Lord, a warm welcome to all who have gathered for worship this morning. On this Third Sunday of Advent, we pray that all who have gathered for worship will be comforted and challenged by the Word of God for us today. What a joy to be gathered around The Table of the Lord with the whole company of heaven and each other as we joyfully look forward to his coming again.

THEME of THE DAY Rejoice; the Lord has done great things!

Simply reading today’s texts stirs up the spirit. Isaiah urges us to recount all that God has done and announce the good news to all who need to hear it. St. Paul exhorts us to rejoice and pray constantly, thus obeying God’s will in Christ. Then, with prophetic passion, John the Baptist proclaims that the Messiah has come.

These lessons in and by themselves should be enough to make us get our feet dancing and moving out into the world to share the good news. So what are we waiting for? “Dance, dance, wherever you may be.” Rejoice in the Lord always.


Almighty God, you have come and continue to come to all who are open to your will. Hear our prayer and come, bringing light and blessing into the hearts of all families; we ask this in the Name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

PRELUDE Advent Prayer—Anthony Giamanco

Tatsiana Asheichyk, Piano



In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The time of Christ’s coming is at hand; the day is drawing near.

A voice cries in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord!”

Lest that Day surprise us unprepared, let us confess our sins to God our Father, imploring him in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us his promised forgiveness.

+ A Brief Silence for Reflection & Self-examination +

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed. We fail to bear good fruit, and we are helpless to free ourselves. We beg your forgiveness for the sake of Jesus Christ, who will come again to judge the living and the dead.

He who is coming has come! His birth among us brings us light; his death for our transgressions brings us life. For his sake, your sins are forgiven in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Surely, he is coming soon!

    Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!


May the One who was, and who is, and who is to come, be with you in grace

and peace.

    And also with you.


We light three candles. And we pray for joy. We light three candles.

And we look to the day when all prisoners will be free, when all

who are sick will be healed, and when all the sad will be joyful.

We rejoice with the angels as they prepare to welcome you into the world.

You bring joy to the world, O Lord.

We celebrate the good news that you are coming to wipe away every

tear from our eyes.

You bring joy to the world, O Lord.

With joy-filled lips, we are happy to say that we believe in you.

Come, O Lord, to lighten our hearts and brighten our days. Amen.

Let us pray: We praise you, O God for this wreath of victory that marks our

days of preparation for Christ’s advent. As we light the candles of this wreath, strengthen our hearts as we await the Lord’s coming in glory. Enlighten us with

your grace, that we may serve our neighbors in need. Grant this through Christ

our Lord, whose coming is certain and whose day draws near. Amen.

SONG             Light the Candle

Light the candle of LOVE today, the Savior of love is here!

Welcome the love we live and die for, but only Christ can give.

Flicker and flame and glow with love, light up the world around you.

Flicker and flame and glow with love, light up the world around you.

Light the candle of PEACE today, the Giver of peace is here!

Welcome the peace we fight and cry for, but only Christ can give.

Flicker and flame and glow with peace, light up the world around you.

Flicker and flame and glow with peace, light up the world around you.

Light the candle of JOY today, the Giver of joy is here!

Welcome the joy we crave and pray for, but only Christ can give.

Flicker and flame and glow with joy, light up the world around you.

Flicker and flame and glow with joy, light up the world around you.


Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the words of your prophets, that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

FIRST LESSON Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

[Though the people had returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon, they continued to face hardship and oppression. In the language of the Year of Jubilee described in Leviticus 25, the prophet, moved by the Spirit of God, announces deliverance for those who are oppressed and comfort for those who mourn.]

The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. . . .

For I, the LORD love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. Their offspring shall be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the LORD has blessed.

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so

the LORD GOD will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

SECOND LESSON                1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

[Paul concludes his letter to the Thessalonians by encouraging them to live lives of continual joy, prayer, and thanksgiving. The closing blessing is grounded in the hope of Christ ‘s coming.]

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!

SPECIAL MUSIC Quelle est cette Odeur Agréable?—Anna Laura Page

(What Is That Lovely Fragrance?)

GOSPEL         John 1:6-8, 19-28

[John’s gospel describes Jesus as the “light of the world.” John the Baptist is presented as a witness to Jesus, one who directs attention away from himself to Christ, the true light.]

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. …

This is the testimony of John, when Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confess, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stand one you do not know, even as he comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

The Gospel of our Lord

Praise to you, O Christ.

GRACE CHOIR Wexford Carol—Catherine Bennett

HOMILY                   Rejoice, Always                       

Text: The Second Lesson Pr. Jim

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, John 1:6-9, 19-28


+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

The two-word title of today’s homily, Rejoice Always, is based on a short text with a large meaning. It comes at the beginning of a series of staccato-like phrases in today’s Second Lesson.

Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of the prophets, but test everything: hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

And the concluding words are a marvelous blessing well worth memorizing. Keep them in mind as a rainbow of grace over you and all you love. Use it in a Christmas card or letter: May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be held sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

Who really knows joy during these days? If you conducted a survey of people, I have the feeling that many people hardly believe in the possibility of a truly joy-filled life anymore … especially during these pandemic days. It’s a sad commentary on our times that too many have more or less accepted life as a prison which is only magnified by stay-at-home mandates. Feeling trapped by cabin fever, we are grateful for anything that creates the illusion of joy or happiness. But the problem is happiness is often elusive. It doesn’t last, nor is it satisfying over the long run.

Or is it too self-centered to search for joy in a world where we are daily made aware of the misery of others? Some cause-oriented people might even be offended that a group of Christians would focus on a two-word text that calls for elation. Who can find joy? Or should we even try?

To find real joy … to find joy in God … is not a diversion from the painful realities of life. You and I need the gift of joy in order to get back to our posts of responsibility with something to offer a joyless world. Truly experiencing God’s grace can’t result in anything other than joy.

For the joy that Jesus offers his followers is his own joy. It’s a joy that doesn’t separate happy days from sad ones … successful moments from those of failure … or experiences of honor from dishonor. It’s a joy which fills the hearts with hope in the midst of living … living life to the fullest in Christ.

This joy is a divine gift that doesn’t melt in times of illness … death … poverty … or persecution. It’s present even when the world scoffs at it. It’s a joy that moves us away from fear to love. Such joy proclaims that even death itself doesn’t have the final say in life … even though its evidence is all around us. The joy of our Lord lifts up all of life to the Father who made all things … and sustains all things. And as the season of Advent reminds us God is coming again at the end of time to bring all things to fulfillment in his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

All through our Lord’s ministry there’s the stirring of joy among people who were … as C. S. Lewis put it … surprised by joy. Those who were palsied or deranged entered into a joy that the teacher from Nazareth had such authority to heal. Over and over again, Jesus invited those whom he healed to rejoice that their sins were forgiven. When the 70 returned from their first outing as messengers of the Kingdom, Jesus shared in their excitement and joy, but then pointed to the joy that would outlast the moment … the joy that comes from knowing their names were written in the Book of Life.

And, in what strikes me as the most dramatic time of all … the night of his betrayal … Jesus promised joy to his disciples. Surrounded by men who would curse him … deny him … and desert him, Jesus said:

You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. These things I have

spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11)

After his resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost, the first generation of believers went off on their mission … rejoicing over the privilege of bearing persecution for the sake of our Lord. Sometimes they had occasion for joys that are a lot easier for us to understand. But singing hymns in prison and witnessing before hostile authorities demonstrates the power of rejoicing always … no matter what.

What it all means is that God is at work. He brings redemption to the world … to you and me … through the crucified and risen Christ. In the waters of Baptism, he commissions us to bear his Word into the world … the Word that frames our daily lives and work. That’s the reason for rejoicing always.

Joy, you see, is distinct from pleasure. Pleasure comes to us through the sense of smell … taste … touch … sight … and hearing. Senses are the boundaries of pleasure. Senses fade. Pleasures aren’t lasting.

Note today’s text. St. Paul doesn’t say, “Have pleasure always.” Neither does he say: “Be happy always.” For happiness, too, has its boundaries because we are mortal and imperfect.

True joylasting joyis a gift of the Spirit. Joy is faith’s partner. Believing the Gospel … the Good News of Christ crucified and risen for us … puts a gladness deep within us that cannot be taken away. St. Augustine described it as “being a hallelujah from head to toe.” Your soul and mine can’t be gloomy and glum when you and I see the goodness of God in Christ even through our tears … weariness … and grief.

Joy … you see … is a rare and wondrous thing. It is a thing that is best given rather than kept. It is God’s gift to you in Christ, in order that you might be a gift to others. So … rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice always! –For in him there is the kingdom, the power, the glory, and steadfast love and faithfulness forever and ever.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +


I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven

and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life + everlasting. Amen.


With longing and hopeful expectation, let us pray for The Church, the world, and all those in need.

Faithful God, you have entrusted your Church with the work of proclaiming good news. Strengthen the witness of bishops, pastors, deacons, church musicians, lay leaders, and all people who contribute to their prayers and talents to public worship. Embed your Word in their hearts. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

God of every living creature, you announce the year of favor for all of creation. Extend your kingdom and relief to endangered animals and plants. Strengthen those who rely on the rhythms of nature to make a living. Mend the wounds of environmental damage due to polluted waters, fires, floods, and long-lasting droughts, so that all creation can declare your praise. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

God of all peoples and nations, you plant us as oaks of righteousness and ask us to care for one another. Be present with the leaders of every nation as they govern. Give them a spirit of righteousness, that your goodness and mercy is revealed. Where people suffer discrimination, judgment, and injustice, kindle hearts eager to understand our common needs and seek for common good. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

God of exiles and wanderers, you repair what was once destroyed. We pray for people who have been displaced by fire, flood, earthquake, or storm, especially your servants who were displaced by the Almeda Fire and grieve the loss of their homes, memorabilia, and heirlooms especially: Pat & Penny, Lyle & Sandra, Richard & Doris, Norm & Marilyn, Pam, Sharon, and Linda (Vernia’s caregiver), together with those we name in our hearts. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

God of the powerful and helpless, you clothe us with strength when our spirits are weak and weary. Bestow your spirit upon those who care for others in our community and around the world, especially the doctors, nurses, and technicians who care for those suffering from COVID-19. We commend to your care all who are sick or struggling with health issues: Marguerite (MaryAnn’s mother), Tim (Bob’s brother), Rusty (under hospice care), and Shari. Raise the spirits of those who are home-bound in our parish, especially Sharon, Joyce, Richard & Doris, Bonnie, Vernia, and Elma that they may be assured of your presence through our prayers and acts of service and love. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

God of tender care, we give you thanks for the surgeon, nurses, and technicians who attended Kristel during her surgery. As you have blessed her thus far in healing, continue to be present through the days of recovery ahead that in all things your saving health may be made manifest, and your healing power made known. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Lord of The Church, your Spirit brings hope to those we serve as signs of your grace. Guide our Call Committee as they prepare to interview the candidates for pastoral leadership and ministry among us. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer. 

Eternal God, we give you thanks for all the saints who have prepared your way in the wilderness and taught us to continue their faithful work. Make their generous lives an example for all to live in the joy of your endless light. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer. 

Receive our prayers in the Name of Jesus Christ our Savior, until that day when you gather all creation around your throne where you will reign forever and ever. Amen.


Gracious God, we bring before you the precious fruits of your creation, and

with them our very lives. Teach us patience and hope as we care for all those

in need until the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.


The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give him thanks and praise.

In the night in which he was betrayed,

our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;

broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying:

Take and eat; this is my + body which is given

for you. Do this in remembrance of me.

Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,

And gave it for all to drink, saying:

This cup is the new covenant in my + blood

shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness

of sin. Do this in remembrance of me.


Our Father who art in heaven; and lead us not into temptation,

hallowed be Thy Name, but deliver us from evil.

Thy kingdom come, For Thine is the kingdom

Thy will be done and the power and the glory

on earth as it is in heaven. forever and ever. Amen.

Give us this day our daily bread;

and forgive us our trespasses

as we forgive those

who trespass against us;


O God, in this meal we have been given a foretaste of the feast that is to come.

Help us always to be alert to your gifts in our midst; through Jesus Christ our

Lord. Amen.


POST-SERVICE MUSIC Hark the Glad Sound LSB 349

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