O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Blessed are you, Sovereign God of all,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
In your tender compassion
the dawn from on high is breaking upon us
to dispel the lingering shadows of night.
As we look for your coming among us this day,
open our eyes to behold your presence
and strengthen our hands to do your will,
that the world may rejoice and give you praise.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.
The disciples asked Jesus, ‘Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ He replied, ‘Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.
In today’s reading Jesus makes it plain how the relationship between himself and John the Baptist should be viewed.
At the end of the book of the prophet Malachi we read these words: I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. This is the basis of the question that opens our passage from Matthew today. The disciples have been brought up knowing this teaching … Elijah must appear before the coming of the Messiah.
Immediately prior to today’s reading we read of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountainside. That moment of transfiguration confirmed Jesus’ identity as the long-awaited Messiah, confirmed by the words of the voice from the cloud which said: This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased: listen to him! But, if Jesus is the Messiah, why had Elijah not appeared first?
Jesus then affirms the truth of the prophecy by declaring that Elijah had already come amongst them. John the Baptist was the forerunner foretold in the prophecies of the Old Testament. John the Baptist was not recognized for he who truly was, and he was destined to be rejected and put to death, the same fate which awaited Jesus himself.
Today’s reading is important because it connects the ancient prophecies with current reality. So many people view the biblical accounts of Jesus’ life on earth as a wonderful story, the greatest story ever told. But, to view the gospel narrative in that way is to belittle its importance to the whole of humanity.
Earlier in Matthew’s gospel Jesus says: Do you think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. Today we are reminded of those words. Today we are invited to recognize and celebrate that the Messiah has walked amongst us, and that through the fulfilment of the law and the prophets, Jesus has redeemed the world.
As we continue our journey through Advent, let us pray that we might remain focused on all that Jesus has done for humanity. Let us remain steadfast in prayer, diligent in our reading of scripture, and let us go out into the world in order that others might come to know the reality of Jesus’ presence in their lives.
Watchful at all times, let us pray for strength to stand with confidence before our Maker and Redeemer.
That God may bring in his kingdom with justice and mercy, let us pray to the Lord.
That God may establish among the nations his sceptre of righteousness, let us pray to the Lord.
That we may seek Christ in the scriptures and recognize him in the breaking of the bread, let us pray to the Lord.
That God may bind up the broken hearted, restore the sick and raise up all who have fallen, let us pray to the Lord.
That the light of God’s coming may dawn on all who live in darkness and the shadow of death, let us pray to the Lord.
That, with all the saints in light, we may shine forth as lights for the world, let us pray to the Lord.
Let us commend the world, which Christ will judge, to the mercy and protection of God.
as your kingdom dawns,
turn us from the darkness of sin to the
light of holiness,
that we may be ready to meet you
in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Uniting our prayers with the whole company of heaven,
let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon us,
scatter the darkness from before our path,
and make us ready to meet him when he comes in glory;
and may the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among us and remain with us always.