10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”
17 Then he adds:
– Hebrews 10:10–18 NIV
Only five more days left until Christmas Day. Do you still have presents to buy, packages to wrap, baking, decorating, hurrying and scurrying to do these last days before we celebrate our Savior’s birth? I was talking to a seasoned kiosk vendor at one of the larger malls a while ago and he told me that he was encouraging the newer vendors in the long hallways not to despair if sales were slow the first few weeks of December. He smiled and told them they will make loads of money come the last week before Christmas when desperation sets in. I’m pretty sure he was referring to most of us as the time remaining for Christmas shopping quickly evaporates. That’s when holiday shoppers need to find that special/unique present for someone. They’ve already shopped the internet and the large department stores and checked off their lists for the usual gifts, but since they haven’t found that special/unique gift, they turn in desperation to the kiosks lined up in mall hallways across the nation. So here we are, desperation shoppers seeking unique gifts at tiny, portable specialty shops.
In the times before Jesus Christ was born, there were desperation shoppers too. They shopped for forgiveness and salvation from their transgressions. The priests of old did the best they could to fill their “need” by offering sacrifices for the people’s sins of commission and omission.
“Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices” (Hebrews 10:11 NIV).
Under the Law of Moses, the priests were called to officiate at many offerings, including the Passover sacrifice, and also at guilt offerings, burnt offerings and peace offerings throughout the liturgical year. In addition, they would engage in many different rituals, such as the priestly blessing, the red heifer, the redemption of the firstborn, and various purification rituals. The priests’ responsibilities never ended, but these rituals could “never take away sins” (Hebrews 10:11 NIV) and so there were desperation shoppers searching in other places for forgiveness and salvation.
Are you a desperation shopper? Do you shop for forgiveness and salvation from our sins? We know that Jesus Christ was born to be our priest and through “one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14 NIV). Are you confident in His promise that your “sins and lawless acts (he) will remember no more” (Hebrews 10:17 NIV)? Are you excited that He promises “where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary” (Hebrews 10:18 NIV)? Do you praise Him and thank Him for these gifts? Do you read Scripture, attend Sunday church services, listen to Christ-centered sermons, share in the sacrament of Holy Communion and pray always? Do you believe? Does your belief carry you through each day and fulfill your needs?
Remember, Christmas is coming — fill your hearts with God’s love for you.
I think many of us will still look for that special/unique gift to make up for a past hurt this Christmas season. Many of us will also look for a special/unique gift in hopes of mending a fractured relationship or as a means of showing someone how much we love them. I plan on visiting kiosks. Who knows what I’ll find? But whatever I find will never be greater than fully realizing that Jesus Christ was born to save us. He is our best special gift ever. And so, this Advent, let your fellow shoppers know that Jesus is their best special gift ever by sharing your excitement and wonder with them. As we count down the days to Jesus’ birthday, my hope is that you trust in His covenant, which is His guarantee and His pledge. We know that we’ve received His special/unique gift because He was born for us — for you and me and everyone who accepts Him. We don’t ever need to be desperation shoppers again.
This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds. (Hebrews 10:16 NIV)
Prayer: Lord, keep me focused on You this Advent, not on the other “idols” that I am tempted to buy. Help me to realize that You are that special/unique gift that I am looking for. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Pro-Life Action: Learn what your local crisis pregnancy resource center is doing to promote a culture of life. Our rural center is a Christian ministry that provides a network of care to the abortion vulnerable and offers free and confidential pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, accurate information, referrals and sexual integrity classes, as well as parenting and post abortion mentoring. What’s happening in your center? Pray for your staff and clients. Are you called to volunteer? Contribute?
Today’s devotion was written by Rosemary Johnson, a member of the NALC Executive Council and a volunteer at CareNet. Rosemary lives in Wisconsin.
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.
Judges 5:1–15 (ESV)
The Song of Deborah and Barak
5 Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day:
2 “That the leaders took the lead in Israel,
that the people offered themselves willingly,
bless the Lord!
3 “Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes;
to the Lord I will sing;
I will make melody to the Lord, the God of Israel.
4 “Lord, when you went out from Seir,
when you marched from the region of Edom,
the earth trembled
and the heavens dropped,
yes, the clouds dropped water.
5 The mountains quaked before the Lord,
even Sinai before the Lord, the God of Israel.
6 “In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath,
in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned,
and travelers kept to the byways.
7 The villagers ceased in Israel;
they ceased to be until I arose;
I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.
8 When new gods were chosen,
then war was in the gates.
Was shield or spear to be seen
among forty thousand in Israel?
9 My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel
who offered themselves willingly among the people.
Bless the Lord.
10 “Tell of it, you who ride on white donkeys,
you who sit on rich carpets
and you who walk by the way.
11 To the sound of musicians at the watering places,
there they repeat the righteous triumphs of the Lord,
the righteous triumphs of his villagers in Israel.
“Then down to the gates marched the people of the Lord.
12 “Awake, awake, Deborah!
Awake, awake, break out in a song!
Arise, Barak, lead away your captives,
O son of Abinoam.
13 Then down marched the remnant of the noble;
the people of the Lord marched down for me against the mighty.
14 From Ephraim their root they marched down into the valley,
following you, Benjamin, with your kinsmen;
from Machir marched down the commanders,
and from Zebulun those who bear the lieutenant’s staff;
15 the princes of Issachar came with Deborah,
and Issachar faithful to Barak;
into the valley they rushed at his heels.
Among the clans of Reuben
there were great searchings of heart.
Psalm 141 (ESV)
Give Ear to My Voice
141 A Psalm of David.
1 O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me!
Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!
3 Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
keep watch over the door of my lips!
4 Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity,
and let me not eat of their delicacies!
5 Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let my head not refuse it.
Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.
6 When their judges are thrown over the cliff,
then they shall hear my words, for they are pleasant.
7 As when one plows and breaks up the earth,
so shall our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol.
8 But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord;
in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!
9 Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me
and from the snares of evildoers!
Acts 11:19–30 (ESV)
The Church in Antioch
19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
[Luther writes]: “The Holy Spirit is the most simple writer and speaker in heaven and earth; therefore His words have only one sense, the most simple one, which we call the literal sense.” … “In order that these word jugglers may be seen in their true light, I ask them, who told them that the fathers are clearer and not more obscure than the Scripture? How would it be if I said that they understand the Fathers as little as I understand the Scriptures? I could just as well stop my ears to the sayings of the Fathers as they do to the Scriptures. But in that way we shall never arrive at the truth. If the Spirit has spoken in the fathers, so much the more has He spoken in His own Scriptures. And if one does not understand the Spirit in His own Scriptures, who will trust him to understand the Spirit in the writings of another? That is truly a carrying of the sword in the scabbard, when we do not take the naked sword by itself but only as it is encased in the words and glosses of men. This dulls its edge and makes it obscurer than it was before, though Emser calls it smiting with the blade. The bare sword makes him tremble from head to foot. Be it known, then, that Scripture without any gloss is the sun and the sole light from which all teachers receive their light, and not the contrary. This is proved by the fact that, when the fathers teach anything, they do not trust their teaching but, fearing it to be too obscure and uncertain, they go to the Scriptures and take a clear passage out of it to shed light on their teaching, just as we place a light in a lantern, and as we read in Ps. 18: ‘Thou wilt light my lamp, O Lord.’” (77–78)
–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.