Pastor's Message

Bethany Lutheran Church

Janeen Smith, Pastor ~ 26418 Mountain Highway E, Spanaway, WA ~ 253-847-8801

Dec 1, 2021

Bethany Friends,
I was thinking about angels…the Advent devotion today relates how an angel appeared to Zechariah in the temple terrifying him (even though the angel’s message would bring joy and gladness). How could he not be terrified at this sighting and hearing from God? I was thinking how the first thing an angel seems to say (in biblical accounts at least) is “don’t be afraid”. Really? And then we were talking about angels in our Luther study this morning, and how Luther is confident and matter of fact about God placing an angel near us to guard us and keep us safe.
Here is Luther’s Morning Blessing: “I give thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have protected me through the night from all harm and danger. I ask that you would also protect me today from sin and all evil, so that my life and actions may please you. Into your hands I commend myself: my body, my soul, and all that is mine. Let your holy angel be with me, so that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.”

I wonder if we have become so influenced by rationality and “reality” that we have a hard time acknowledging the reality of an angel of God accompanying us on our life journey? When have you known the protection of an angel God has sent you?

Readings and Reflections for 2nd Sunday of Advent, December 5

First Reading: Malachi 3:1-4

1See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

It is hard for me to read this without hearing the musical score from Handel’s Messiah! This post exilic writer sounds a similar theme to that we will hear from John’s preaching about the one coming – be purified for God is coming!

Responsive Reading: Luke 1:68-79
68Blessed are you, Lord, the God of Israel,
you have come to your people and set them free.
69You have raised up for us a mighty Savior,
born of the house of your servant David. 
70Through your holy prophets, you promised of old to save us from our enemies,
71from the hands of all who hate us,
72to show mercy to our forebears,
and to remember your holy covenant.
73This was the oath you swore to our father Abraham:
74to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship you without fear,
75holy and righteous before you, all the days of our life. 
76And you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way,
77to give God’s people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.
78In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
79to shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

This song of Zechariah declares God blessed and then goes on to list what God has done and what God will do. The child whom Zechariah sings about who will go before the Lord to prepare the way? Zechariah’s son, John (the Baptist), and by extension, all of Israel. And the mighty Savior, born of the house of David? The as yet unborn Jesus (cousin to John).

Second Reading: Philippians 1:3-11
3I thank my God every time I remember you, 4constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Who is that person with whom God is prompting you to share the Gospel? Who can you ask to help you pray for that person, so that God can lay the foundation of faith in them?

Gospel Reading: Luke 3:1-6
1In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”

“All flesh shall see the salvation of God”? What are the implications for humanity in this saying? Is the entire world included in this plan? What are the implications for you? Do you watch all year round for God’s coming? What are some of the ways God comes to you everyday?

Hymn for Today
Freedom Is Coming -

Jesus is coming,
Pastor Janeen