We are now preparing to enter, again, into the holy season of Advent. We will all benefit from additional time, if brief, spent reading God’s Word — meditating on it and responding to it. This easy to use Advent devotional booklet is intended to stimulate personal, daily time in the Scriptures that encourages faithfulness. We also hope that these brief readings and meditations will help those not used to daily Bible reading, to begin the practice, at least during Advent. Perhaps readers will continue on with Scripture reading from Christmas into the New Year!
In 2018, we introduced, together with our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC) sisters and brothers, a three-year daily Bible reading calendar. If there is one thing missing from our Lutheran tradition today it’s familiarity with the Holy Scriptures. We worked together as a consultation — NALC, LCMS, LCC — because we all recognize a lack of knowledge of the Bible in our churches.
You can find the daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, on the NALC website. There are readings listed for each day, in a three-year cycle. If you complete the three years, you will have read through the entire Bible. Along with the daily calendar are weekly readings from the book, Luther on Scripture, by Johann Michael Reu. Perhaps you will add those readings to your daily devotional time during Advent. It is meaningful and insightful to learn how Martin Luther understood Holy Scripture.
You will notice that the daily Bible reading guide leads readers continuously through each book of the Bible. This means that the Old Testament readings for Advent are all from Isaiah, while the New Testament readings, except Advent I and Christmas, are from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. Most of the devotions are based on the Corinthian readings, with a few coming from Isaiah highlighting the prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. You will also note in a few instances the assigned reading may be shortened. This is for no other reason than to make the reading and devotion fit the allotted space. I trust you will read the entire passage in your own Bible.
As with all personal devotional practices, approach these readings with grace. If you miss a day or two, catch up when you have time. Bible reading, meditation and prayer are gifts of God to be enjoyed in freedom, not guilt or compulsion! Yes, we wish to be faithful in our devotional disciplines, but when we stumble, we get up, and by God’s grace, we begin again. There is no prize or award for keeping your devotional routine pure and without blemish!
You may be reading these devotions in booklet form, provided by your congregation or printed on your own printer at home. They are also available on the NALC website or Facebook page. Our intention is to make your devotional time as convenient as possible, realizing it is all too easy for time in Scripture and devotion to be squeezed out of our busy days!
May our love for Holy Scripture and our knowledge of the Bible grow as we journey through Advent, together!
The First Sunday of Advent
Based on Matthew 21:1-11
On this first Sunday of Advent, it may seem out of place to have as our reading a traditional Palm/Passion Sunday passage of the account of the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. On Palm/Passion Sunday, this Processional Gospel (the procession into Jerusalem) is read at the beginning of the service. The Gospel reading during the service is most often the entire narrative of Christ’s passion, beginning with the Maundy Thursday meal, His prayer and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, His appearance before Caiaphas, Pilate and Herod, and finally, His death on the cross, as He concludes, “It is finished,” His body prepared, and the tomb sealed with His crucified body inside.
Palm Sunday begins with joy and welcome as those in Jerusalem wave palm fronds, shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 21:9). The focus shifts as the full force of the Jewish religious establishment and Roman empire are brought to bear upon Jesus, ending with His crucifixion. Palm/Passion Sunday ends with the sealing of the tomb and worshipers leave in somber silence, left to ponder and meditate upon the paradoxes of joy and sorrow, welcome and rejection, life and death.
Our reading from Matthew 21 is a fitting beginning to Advent, as the disciples are sent to prepare for the coming of the Savior. The season of Advent is a time of preparation, as we take time to prepare heart, home and life for Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee. We would like to observe this season full of joy and laughter, light and life! And yet, we experience the same wrestling with joy and sorrow, light and darkness, life and death, as day by day we are reminded that Jesus comes to us in the midst of struggle, grief, loss, loneliness, as well as happiness, fulfillment and peace. May we be prepared for His coming, regardless of our mental, emotional or life situation. May we, too, welcome Him, saying, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes!”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, come to me as light in the midst of darkness, as hope in the midst of struggle, as life in the midst of death. Amen.
Advent action: Take a few moments to read Matthew’s account of the Passion, chapters 26-27.
This year’s devotional was prepared by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, NALC assistant to the bishop for ministry and ecumenism. To learn more about Blessed is He Who Comes, visit thenalc.org/advent.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
2:1 Here is the message about Judah and Jerusalem that was revealed to Isaiah son of Amoz.
2In the future
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will endure
as the most important of mountains,
and will be the most prominent of hills.
All the nations will stream to it,
3many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the Lord’s mountain,
to the temple of the God of Jacob,
so he can teach us his requirements,
and we can follow his standards.”
For Zion will be the center for moral instruction;
the Lord’s message will issue from Jerusalem.
4He will judge disputes between nations;
he will settle cases for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nations will not take up the sword against other nations,
and they will no longer train for war.
5O descendants of Jacob,
come, let us walk in the Lord’s guiding light.(NET Bible)
122:1 A song of ascents, by David.
I was glad because they said to me,
“We will go to the Lord’s temple.”
2Our feet are standing
inside your gates, O Jerusalem.
3Jerusalem is a city designed
to accommodate an assembly.
4The tribes go up there,
the tribes of the Lord,
where it is required that Israel
give thanks to the name of the Lord.
5Indeed, the leaders sit there on thrones and make legal decisions,
on the thrones of the house of David.
6Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
May those who love her prosper!
7May there be peace inside your defenses,
and prosperity inside your fortresses!
8For the sake of my brothers and my neighbors
I will say, “May there be peace in you!”
9For the sake of the temple of the Lord our God
I will pray for you to prosper.(NET Bible)
13:11 And do this because we know the time, that it is already the hour for us to awake from sleep, for our salvation is now nearer than when we became believers. 12The night has advanced toward dawn; the day is near. So then we must lay aside the works of darkness, and put on the weapons of light. 13Let us live decently as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in discord and jealousy. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to arouse its desires.(NET Bible)
21:1 Now when they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2telling them, “Go to the village ahead of you. Right away you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, you are to say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:
5 “Tell the people of Zion,
‘Look, your king is coming to you,
unassuming and seated on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
6So the disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and those following kept shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10As he entered Jerusalem the whole city was thrown into an uproar, saying, “Who is this?” 11And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”(NET Bible)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
[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.