First Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10
The King of Peace Is Coming
1 A small tree will begin to grow from the stump of Jesse. That branch will grow from Jesse’s roots.
2 The Lord’s Spirit will always be with that new king to give him wisdom, understanding, guidance, and power. The Spirit will help him know and respect the Lord.
3 He will find joy in obeying the Lord. This king will not judge people by the way things look. He will not judge by listening to rumors.
4‑5 He will judge the poor fairly and honestly. He will be fair when he decides what to do for the poor of the land. If he decides people should be beaten, he will give the command, and they will be beaten. If he decides people must die, he will give the command, and those evil people will be killed. Goodness and fairness will be like a belt he wears around his waist.
6 Then wolves will live at peace with lambs, and leopards will lie down in peace with young goats. Calves, lions, and bulls will all live together in peace. A little child will lead them.
7 Bears and cattle will eat together in peace, and all their young will lie down together and will not hurt each other. Lions will eat hay like cattle.
8 Even snakes will not hurt people. Babies will be able to play near a cobra’s hole and put their hands into the nest of a poisonous snake.
9 People will stop hurting each other. People on my holy mountain will not want to destroy things because they will know the Lord. The world will be full of knowledge about him, like the sea is full of water.
10 At that time there will be someone special from Jesse’s family. He will be like a flag that all the nations gather around. The nations will come to him and ask him what they should do. And the place where he is will be filled with glory.
Psalm: Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
1 God, help the king be like you and make fair decisions. Help the king’s son know what justice is.
2 Help the king judge your people fairly. Help him make wise decisions for your poor people.
7 Let goodness grow everywhere while he is king. Let peace continue as long as there is a moon.
8 Let his kingdom grow from sea to sea, from the Euphrates River to the faraway places on earth.
12 Our king helps the poor who cry out to him— those in need who have no one to help them. 13 He feels sorry for all who are weak and poor. He protects their lives.
17 May the king be famous forever. May people remember his name as long as the sun shines. May all nations be blessed through him, and may they all bless him.
Second Reading: Romans 15:4-9
4 Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us. Those things were written so that we could have hope. That hope comes from the patience and encouragement that the Scriptures give us.
5 All patience and encouragement come from God. And I pray that God will help you all agree with each other, as Christ Jesus wants.
6 Then you will all be joined together. And all together you will give glory to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Christ accepted you, so you should God.
8 I tell you that Christ became a servant of the Jews to show that God has done what he promised their great ancestors.
9 Christ also did this so that the non-Jewish people could praise God for the mercy he gives to them. The Scriptures say, “So I will give thanks to you among the people of other nations; I will sing praise to your name.”
Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12
John Prepares the Way for Jesus
1 When it was the right time, John the Baptizer began telling people a message from God. This was out in the desert area of Judea.
2 John said, “Change your hearts and lives, because God’s kingdom is coming soon.”
3 John is the one Isaiah the prophet was talking about when he said, “There is someone shouting in the desert: ‘Prepare the way for the Lord. Make the road straight for him.’”
4 John’s clothes were made from camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. For food, he ate locusts* and wild honey.
5 People came to John from Jerusalem and the rest of Judea and from all the areas along the Jordan River.
6 They confessed the bad things they had done, and John baptized them in the Jordan.
7 Many Pharisees and Sadducees came to where John was baptizing people. When John saw them, he said, “You are all snakes! Who warned you to run from God’s judgment that is coming?
8 Change your hearts! And show by the way you live that you have changed.
9 I know what you are thinking. You want to say, ‘but Abraham is our father!’ That means nothing. I tell you, God could make children for Abraham from these rocks.
10 The ax is now ready to cut down the trees. Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 “I baptize you with water to show that you have changed your hearts and lives. But there is someone coming later who is able to do more than I can. I am not good enough to be the slave who takes off his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
12 He will come ready to clean the grain. He will separate the good grain from the straw, and he will put the good part into his barn. Then he will burn the useless part with a fire that cannot be stopped.”