Home > Devotions > Daily Reading – December 23, 2018

The Magnificat

 

46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48  for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49  for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50  And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51  He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52  he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53  he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54  He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55  as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

– Luke 1:46–55 ESV

On the day before Christmas Eve, how wonderful is it that the daily lectionary reminds us of the beautiful, inspiring, encouraging song of Mary! Mary’s visit to her cousin, Elizabeth, actually took place perhaps nine months before the birth of Jesus. Mary and Elizabeth had been visited by angels who announced that they would both give birth unexpectedly. But even after nine months has passed, and we stand at the threshold of the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Mary’s song still could not be more appropriate.

Martin Luther loved the Magnificat. He often reminds us that the title, “Magnificat” comes from the first words of the song, as Mary’s soul “magnifies” the greatness of the Lord. And indeed, Luther makes it clear that this is the true theme of Mary’s meditation. The point of the song is not what the lowly Mary has done, or how pure and worthy she is. Rather, the message is that Mary seeks to “magnify” the Lord God, and who He is, emphasizing what He is doing for her and through her. Luther writes, “the stress should not be on the ‘low estate’ but on the word ‘regarded.’ Mary’s low estate is not to be praised, but God’s regard…for when the power of man fails, the power of God begins, provided faith is present and expectant…even so was Christ powerless on the cross, and yet he was most mighty there and overcame sin, death, world, hell, devil and all ill.”[1]

When life is challenging, difficult or overwhelming, we too often become preoccupied with our situation or our own shortcomings. Elizabeth and Mary had many reasons for becoming obsessed with the reality of their own situations—Elizabeth conceiving at too advanced an age, and Mary becoming pregnant too young, and before marriage! And yet, the song of Mary reminds each of us that in spite of the reality of our lives, whether we are lowly, downcast or troubled, God lifts us up, He does great things for us, and He will bless us and fill us!

This Christmas, as you may be struggling in life, uncertain and fearful about your personal situation—remember that “when the power of man or woman fails, the power of God begins!” Christ Jesus, the Word made flesh, is our hope, our courage and our inspiration! Jesus is life—both new and abundant!

Prayer:  Lord God, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, help us to value and cherish the gift of each newly conceived child. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Pro-Life Action: Send a Christmas card and note to every family you know with a baby born since last Christmas!

 

[1] Roland Bainton, Martin Luther’s Christmas Book (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Press, 1948), 20-21.

Today’s devotion was written by Rev. Dr. David Wendel, NALC assistant to the bishop for ministry and ecumenism.

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.

Learn more about NALC Life Ministries

Judges 6:19–40 (ESV)

19 So Gideon went into his house and prepared a young goat and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the terebinth and presented them. 20 And the angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” And he did so. 21 Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes. And fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes. And the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. 22 Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” 23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” 24 Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it, The Lord Is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.

25 That night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it 26 and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.” 27 So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night.

Gideon Destroys the Altar of Baal

28 When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. 29 And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” 30 Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” 32 Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar.

33 Now all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East came together, and they crossed the Jordan and encamped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34 But the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him. 35 And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, and they too were called out to follow him. And he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they went up to meet them.

The Sign of the Fleece

36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, 37 behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” 38 And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” 40 And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.

Psalm 144 (ESV)

My Rock and My Fortress

144 Of David.

Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle;

he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and he in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.

O Lord, what is man that you regard him,
or the son of man that you think of him?

Man is like a breath;
his days are like a passing shadow.

Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down!
Touch the mountains so that they smoke!

Flash forth the lightning and scatter them;
send out your arrows and rout them!

Stretch out your hand from on high;
rescue me and deliver me from the many waters,
from the hand of foreigners,

whose mouths speak lies
and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

I will sing a new song to you, O God;
upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,

10  who gives victory to kings,
who rescues David his servant from the cruel sword.

11  Rescue me and deliver me
from the hand of foreigners,
whose mouths speak lies
and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

12  May our sons in their youth
be like plants full grown,
our daughters like corner pillars
cut for the structure of a palace;

13  may our granaries be full,
providing all kinds of produce;
may our sheep bring forth thousands
and ten thousands in our fields;

14  may our cattle be heavy with young,
suffering no mishap or failure in bearing;
may there be no cry of distress in our streets!

15  Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall!
Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!

Acts 13:1–12 (ESV)

Barnabas and Saul Sent Off

13 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Barnabas and Saul on Cyprus

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

[Luther writes]: “If I am to examine the spirit I must have the Word of God; this must be the rule, the touchstone, the lapis lydius, the light by means of which I can see what is black and what white.” … “ is is decisive; it does not matter what name he [the preacher] has, if he only teaches faithfully … has the Word of God as a plumb line.” … “What then, will you do? Will you condemn them? No, I do not want to condemn Benedictum and others, but I will take their books and go with them to Christ and his Word as the touchstone and compare the two.” … “If one says, the church or the bishops decided this, then answer: Come, let us go to the touchstone and let us measure with the right yard- stick and examine whether it agrees with the Pater Noster and with the Articles of Faith and whether he also preach forgiveness of sins. If it agrees with what Christ taught us, then let us accept it and do according to it.” (81)

Alternative:
[Luther writes:] “Paul takes them all together, himself, an angel from heaven, teachers upon earth, and masters of all kinds, and subjects them to the holy Scripture. Scripture must reign as queen (haec regina debet dominari), her all must obey and be subject to. Not teachers, judges, or arbiters over her, but they must be simple witnesses, pupils and  confessors of it, whether they may be the Pope or Luther or Augustine or Paul or an angel from heaven” … —“I let you cry in your hostility that Scripture contradicts itself, ascribing righteousness now to faith and then to works. It is impossible that Scripture contradict itself; it only seems so to foolish, coarse, and hardened hypocrites” … — “We abandon the talk of the Jews and stick to St. Paul’s understanding which, not without cause, emphasizes the little word ‘seed’ and thereby indicates that Holy Scripture in Gen. 12:3 and 22:18 speaks of a single seed not of many, and says plainly that Christ is such seed. Paul does so out of a genuine apostolic spirit and understanding. We Christians do not care if such interpretation does not please the Jews. Paul’s interpretation weighs more with us than all glosses of the rabbis” … — “One letter, even a single tittle of Scripture means more to us than heaven and earth. Therefore we cannot permit even the most minute change.” (82–83)

–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.

Learn More