Mary Ellen Helms, Loveland, OH

Warm-up Question

What is something relatively small in the scheme of things that you are anxiously anticipating?  What is something big that you are anticipating?

Living Here and Now

“Don’t go wishing your life away.” I can remember how hard my eyes rolled when my mom said this to me for the umpteenth time. She was driving me home from driver’s ed and I was laying out my life plan with clarity and ease. I was sure that once I had my driver’s license the problems of 15.75 year-old me would go away completely! Isn’t that how it works? Driver’s license = freedom and freedom = doing whatever I wanted! 

I’ve come to find out there was some wisdom in what my mom was saying. She was concerned about how often I was focusing on what was coming up while ignoring my current reality.  I was so focused on what was coming, I forgot that I could be living the life I wanted right then and there!

Our community recently screened the film, “Look to the Sky” by Brett Culp.  This documentary told the stories of many young people who were not waiting until they had the resources, time, or drive to change the world – they were doing it right then and there. These were young people with great challenges who met the world with eyes of hope and joy – not ones who wanted to rush through the current state and get to adulthood. I loved the story of Violet, a young girl who had a rare form of cancer. She bubbled over with enthusiasm and shared that joy with others in big and small ways. Instead of focusing on what was surely a life filled with a lot of ups and downs, she took her superpower of love and spread hope and joy for others to see.

Discussion Questions

  • What is the best thing about being your age? What is the worst thing about being your age?
  • Why is waiting so difficult? When is looking forward to something helpful? When does it hurt?
  • How can you use some of the current things in your life that some could perceive as negative to positively affect someone or something else?

Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 35:1-10

James 5:7-10

Matthew 11:2-11

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

In this section of the Gospel, Jesus had sent his disciples to spread his message of God’s kingdom throughout Galilee.  The message made its way all the way to John the Baptist who was in prison.  He had been sent by God as a messenger to prepare the way for Jesus. Because of this, it is not surprising that he is focused on what is to come.  He asks, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (11:3). Jesus’ coming is marked by an “already but not yet’’ dichotomy. During the season of Advent we focus on both living in the now and expecting what is coming, especially the Second Coming of Jesus.

Much was broken when Jesus walked on earth, prompting some to ask whether God had forgotten the people. Jesus’ life and ministry began answering that question – the blind saw, the lame walked, the deaf heard.  Jesus’ life on earth was the answer to the important question that John and many of God’s chosen people were asking at that time – are you the Messiah?  In this scripture, Jesus points us to the signs in the present that God’s kingdom is breaking in! We see that John is the messenger (not the messiah) and that Jesus is the real deal – living in the now and bringing God’s kingdom to a broken world.

This can be a tricky thing for us to understand because clearly the world is not free of the pain and brokenness into which Jesus entered.  Instead of focusing on how perfect life will be when Jesus comes again, we are called to focus on the present. We are to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, not centering our lives on the end times or what heaven will be like, but instead on how we can see and be pieces of God’s kingdom on earth in the here and now.

Discussion Questions

  • Where do you see signs of brokenness in the world today?  Where do you see signs of God’s kingdom breaking in now?
  • Why do you think most of the season of Advent focuses not so much on looking forward to Christmas but on looking forward to the Second Coming of Jesus?
  • How can we take part in the ministry of Jesus even though we are separated by over 2000 years?

Activity Suggestions

  • Look up the documentary “Look to the Sky” at and watch a few of the stories. Discuss which of the people in the story gives you hope for the future. How can you be nudged to look to the sky in your own life?
  • Jesus spoke of some of the signs of the kingdom of God that were evident through his ministry with the disciples (the blind see, the lame walk, people are cleansed). Do a service project benefiting one of the groups Jesus names in verses 4-5. Continue to do kingdom work today:  remember, the time is now!

Closing Prayer

Gracious God, we give you thanks that we have the gift of your presence right now. Help us to focus not too much on what is to come but on feeling your love and doing your will in the present.