Why an Advent for Life?
“The LORD is our righteousness.”
– Jeremiah 33:16 ESV
Today, God’s eternal Word, the church calendar and contemporary culture intersect at a most opportune time.
Today marks the first Sunday in Advent, that season of reflection, repentance and renewed hope that prepares us for the coming of Christ. It’s also just under eight weeks until the 2019 March for Life, marking the 46th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States of America. Tens of thousands will gather in Washington DC, marching, singing, and praying as they proceed to the steps of the US Supreme Court. Their witness brings love to life and life to the attention of what some have called a “culture of death.”
National organizers of the march are very candid about its purpose: to reverse Roe v. Wade. That said, something else drew me to my first March for Life and the NALC’s first annual Life Conference. My Advent that year was flooded with grief after three deaths in just under 90 days. First, my younger brother died, then my only child a day later, and then my husband of almost 50 years. Going on the march helped me to lament while surrounded by prayer, song and encouraging NALC sisters and brothers. I was borne through those two days by a host of witnesses for life in the face of death. In ways I still can’t fully articulate but know without a doubt, my life was changed for good
You might be asking: “Why an Advent for Life? What does a “culture of death” have to do with getting ready for Christmas?”
For starters, Jesus came that we might have life, full and abundant (John 10:10b). It’s no small thing that the holy, eternal Word of God took on flesh and entered human history as a baby. Do we who love the holy birth story also treasure the babes among us – beginning with the preborn?
Advent also points us to Christ’s return for His Church. What will we say when we must give an account for our stewardship of human life? How does the Body of Christ treasure human life at all ages and stages of development, from conception to death?
Four weeks of Advent, then four more weeks until the North American Lutheran Church’s 3rd annual Life Conference and the 46th March for Life, January 17-18, 2019. Once again, NALC Life Team members and church leaders will gather around Word and Sacrament before marching in witness for life. For each one who gathers for the march, countless more will witness at home, in local congregations, or wherever they happen to be that day.
As a season of excitement and reflection, repentance and hope, Advent is a prime time for Christ’s Church to focus on how we might treasure more fully the gift of life. May this Advent for Life devotional series bring new perspective and depth to the old, old story of Jesus’ coming, both for the first time as the Babe of Bethlehem and at the end of time, when He comes again.
Prayer: Lord, we ask that you shower your blessings on the participants of the NALC Life Conference and the March for Life. May this year’s conference reinvigorate our church body in its commitment to the protection of human life and allow our members to devote themselves more fully to the defense of those most vulnerable. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Action Step: Find out more about the NALC’s 3rd annual Life Conference and the 46th March for Life by visiting thenalc.org/lifeministries.
Today’s devotion as written by Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, STS. Rev. Dr. Braasch is a member of the NALC Life Ministries Team and is pastor at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Jackson Center, OH
This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.
As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.
Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.
Jeremiah 33:14–16 (ESV)
The Lord’s Eternal Covenant with David
14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
Psalm 25 (ESV)
Teach Me Your Paths
25 Of David.
1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
3 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
6 Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11 For your name’s sake, O Lord,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who is the man who fears the Lord?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13 His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14 The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.
18 Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
19 Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20 Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
1 Thessalonians 3:9–13 (ESV)
9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?
11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
Luke 21:25–36 (ESV)
The Coming of the Son of Man
25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
[Luther writes]: “It is a notorious error to believe that by a statement such as this, ‘It is not permitted to explain Scripture by one’s own spirit’ (proprio spiritu) we are called upon to put the holy Scripture aside and to direct our attention to the commentaries of men and believe them. is explanation, I maintain, is doubtlessly invented by Satan himself that by that means he might lead us far away from Scripture and into a desperate understanding of Scripture. On the contrary, this statement wants to say that Scripture is to be understood alone through that spirit by whom it is written, which spirit you can nd more present and alive nowhere than in this holy Scripture written by him. Therefore, our endeavor must be not to put aside Scripture and to direct our attention to the human writings of the Fathers, but to spend all the more and all the more persistent labor alone on the holy Scripture, all the more since there is great danger that one might understand it with his own spirit, in order that the employment of such persistent labor might overcome that danger and finally assure us of the spirit of the Scripture which can be found nowhere else but in Scripture, for ‘here he did put up his tabernacle and in the heavens (that is, the apostles), his dwelling place.’ … Or tell me if you can, who is the judge who finally decides when two statements of the Fathers contradict themselves? Here the judgment of the Scripture decides, and this cannot be done if we do not give Scripture the first place so that Scripture itself is the most certain, the most accessible, the most readily understood which interprets itself and approves, judges, and illumines all (words) of all … as Psalm 118 (119:130) says.” (76–77)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.