Home > Advent Devotional 2018

The North American Lutheran Church will have a new Advent devotional available for 2018, beginning Sunday, December 2nd. Each daily devotion from NALC Life Ministries includes a few verses from the lectionary for the day, a reflection, a brief prayer, and an Advent Action. Join us in journeying through this time of Advent together.

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Week 1

Why an Advent for Life? “The LORD is our righteousness.” 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.”
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Recently, I was engaged in conversation with another pro-life individual. We were discussing the current cultural climate that demonstrates a lack of respect for life across demographics. He remarked that some seem to truly confuse a sincere concern for a young teenager facing an unplanned pregnancy as a life-affirming choice in favor of that young girl’s future,* while sacrificing the life of the unborn child. Phrases such as “we must find a balance” and “we should look at all the options” are often heard from (sometimes) well-meaning people in that part of the movement that favors access to legal abortion.
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It is the season of Advent in the church calendar. Advent means “coming,” and we are preparing hearts and home for the coming of the Christ child, God’s long-awaited messiah. Jesus’ mother, Mary, lived the very first Advent as she was pregnant with the promised messiah. What an honor it was to be chosen to carry and bear this precious, holy child, on whom the hope of the world depended!
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Many people believe that God should give them a sign or a miracle before they will believe in Him. They claim to be the supporters of science: advocates of the principle that if something can’t be detected by the senses it must not exist. But, as a pastor, I find this attitude is often a cover — the “scientific person” has a bigger problem — he has a sin that he doesn’t want to give up!
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His name was Zechariah, and he was speechless. Literally. He hadn’t spoken since getting the message that his wife was going to have a baby — a special boy with a name and mission given by God. The message came not from Zechariah’s dear Elizabeth, but from a higher authority. Now, old as Zechariah was — old as Elizabeth was — he had to be absolutely 100% sure. So, he asked, “How will I know this is really going to happen?”
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We Christians are sometimes accused of being “so heavenly minded we are no earthly good.” Which of course denies all the ministries and agencies which Christians have supported, even back when the Roman emperors were persecuting us.
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Mission? Many themes come to mind during the season of Advent: expectation, waiting, watching, hope and joy, to name a few. Mission, however, is not often lifted as the anticipatory preamble to the coming of the Lord and Savior of the World. Nonetheless, here it is in the daily lectionary trumpeted by words, such as: called, gathered and sent.
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Week 2

Perhaps most generations of Christians have thought they were living in the worst of times in history because of widespread unbelief and immorality. We may think this is such a time. The prevailing worldview denies not only absolute moral truths, but absolute truth in general. Each person defines what is true. The breakdown of the nuclear family, the foundational structure for every culture, has caused havoc that will continue for years.
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“Already, but not yet.” Those words are often used at this time of year to describe the state in which we live. Christ has ALREADY won the victory for us, BUT NOT YET can we fully enjoy what that means. Not on this side of heaven. We still endure the effects of sin until God calls us home or until Christ returns — hence the connection to Advent as we eagerly await Christ’s return.
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Today’s devotional is particularly addressed to those who are considering terminating a pregnancy, and doing so for their own convenience — in order to keep the birth of a child from making their lives more difficult or complicated. My message to them is, “Please don’t do it. Please remember, it is not only about you. It is also about the life of another person, whom you are playing a part in bringing into the world.”
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I have been active in the pro-life movement for over twenty years, and during that time I have asked many of my pro-life friends where they attended church. But, in those two decades, I have never heard one of the them answer that they did not attend one. Now some claim that there are pro-life atheists, but I personally have never met one.
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God’s amazing grace shines in Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth! This congregation had dealt with some false teachers and sinful behavior, and Paul both exhorted and encouraged them in his second letter. In today’s passage, Paul underscores the grace of giving, and further, the privilege of giving. Paul reminds us that, first, we give ourselves “to the Lord” (v. 5) so that we can then, in God’s grace, give to others. Indeed, the Corinthians knew this privilege of giving firsthand when they generously responded during a time of trial in the congregation.
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I write this after participating in a worship service in a packed church on a Thursday afternoon. Yes, it was a funeral, but not a funeral of a celebrity (well, not in the usual sense) or of somebody rich and famous.
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The kerfuffle that took place at the naming of Elizabeth and Zechariah’s newborn son is intriguing. Scripture recounts that as their son was to be circumcised, family and friends were questioning Elizabeth’s announcement that the child will be called John. Convinced that she must be unaware of family lineage and history — no one in the family sported that moniker — the enclave turns to the mute patriarch for clarification. Zechariah called for a tablet upon which he writes the breathtaking words, “His name is John,” to the amazement of all gathered.
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Week 3

Contrary to the beliefs of North American culture, our lives are not our own. The deception that we are free to do whatever we want with our lives is utter bondage — bondage to sin, death and the devil.
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One of the most common comments pastors make when defending their decision not to address life issues from the pulpit is that “those are political issues.”  Politicians have legislated on abortion and physician-assisted suicide, so it has no place being discussed in the church, right?  But haven’t politicians legislated on divorce, polygamy, drunkenness, lying and any number of other issues?  Have pastors ever spoken about these things from the pulpit?  Do they discuss these things with friends?  Is it just because we’re “on the same side” as most politicians regarding polygamy, drunkenness, etc., that it’s OK to talk about in church?
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How often have things not gone according to plan for you? You want the events and direction of your life to go a certain way, but instead they turn out to go a different way. Not the way you had planned, and not the way you would have desired or preferred.
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The question our Lord asks in verse 31 of this passage is haunting in our day and age. “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like” (ESV)? Meditate on that for a few minutes. Consider what Jesus was saying then and what He is saying to us now.
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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.
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In 2005, I hated Christmas. Of course, as a pastor I couldn’t really give outlet to my true feelings. What congregation wants to hear that their pastor hates Christmas? But I did. My wife and I had been waiting for two years to be selected as parents to a precious girl or boy through open adoption, the process where birth parents select the couple they want to serve as the baby’s parents. Advent, a season of waiting, seemed as if it would never end.
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