12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
14 He makes peace in your borders;
he fills you with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
– Psalm 147:1, 12–18 ESV
When my husband, little daughter and I lived in Montana, we could tell when spring was drawing near.
Oh, there still was snow up to the window sills. The furnace would still be running almost constantly. Vehicles would still need to be plugged in, lest they fail to start after sitting outside in subzero temperatures. Night after night, we tucked in and fell asleep…until that night when we were awakened by a most welcomed, rhythmic duet of wind and water.
Drip, drip, drip, sang out the high notes, all while wind whistled in the background. That music was like a reveille, a signal to jump out of bed, head for the kitchen window and peer at the outdoor thermometer. Overnight, the temperature had jumped, sometimes from subzero to the balmy mid-50’s Fahrenheit. A winter’s worth of snowdrifts had been all but eaten away by the weather phenomenon known as the Chinook.
Just when we thought we could endure winter no longer, spring had suddenly arrived.
Wintering, awaiting spring, and the welcomed Chinook, are apt metaphors for our spiritual life. The winter of the soul can seem to go on, and on, and on. In Psalm 147, particularly verses 12-18, the psalmist proclaimed the Lord’s presence and provision in all the seasons of life: in times of growth, peace and prosperity, as well as in times when the winter-bound, weary, grieving spirit endures a seemingly endless dark night of the soul.
In our bodies and our souls, we wait out winter and wonder, “How long, Lord?” When the chill settles on the soul and becomes unbearable, take comfort in the psalmist’s words about our God’s promise:
… when the cold is unbearable,
He sends his word to bring the thaw
And warm wind to melt the snow. (Ps. 147:18)
In the winter of your soul as well as the winter of your days, may you nestle into the refuge of God’s Word. Listen for the fresh wind of God’s Holy Spirit, and sing with the rhythm, the reveille of God’s Holy Chinook. Rejoice, sing praises, and be ready. A new spring will come, and the Lord’s grace and mercy will break forth in a new way. Be ready!
Prayer: Lord of all times and seasons, look with kindness and mercy upon all who find life unbearable. Through Your Word and the tender ministrations of the Holy Spirit, give courage to the faint-hearted, endurance to the weary, and hope to those who despair. Use us to be the breath of Your warm wind, your Chinook, to walk with our neighbors through the winter of their souls. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Pro-Life Action: Life’s burdens can leave one feeling trapped in an endless winter of the soul. Many congregations participate in service ministries, providing food and other daily necessities, shelter, clothing, friendly visits, transportation and more. How is the refreshing, life-giving Word of God shared along with those life-sustaining, tangible gifts? May all be done in the life-giving name of Christ!
Today’s devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, STS. Rev. Braasch is a member of the NALC Life Ministries Team and pastor of 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.
Judges 9:1–21 (ESV)
9 Now Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s relatives and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother’s family, 2 “Say in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?’ Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.”
3 And his mother’s relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.” 4 And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. 5 And he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself. 6 And all the leaders of Shechem came together, and all Beth-millo, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem.
7 When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim and cried aloud and said to them, “Listen to me, you leaders of Shechem, that God may listen to you. 8 The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ 9 But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?’ 10 And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 11 But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’ 12 And the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 13 But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?’ 14 Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 15 And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’
16 “Now therefore, if you acted in good faith and integrity when you made Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house and have done to him as his deeds deserved— 17 for my father fought for you and risked his life and delivered you from the hand of Midian, 18 and you have risen up against my father’s house this day and have killed his sons, seventy men on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his female servant, king over the leaders of Shechem, because he is your relative— 19 if you then have acted in good faith and integrity with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you. 20 But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leaders of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the leaders of Shechem and from Beth-millo and devour Abimelech.” 21 And Jotham ran away and fled and went to Beer and lived there, because of Abimelech his brother.
Psalm 148 (ESV)
Praise the Name of the Lord
148 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!
3 Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
5 Let them praise the name of the Lord!
For he commanded and they were created.
6 And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.
7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
8 fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!
9 Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Beasts and all livestock,
creeping things and flying birds!
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and maidens together,
old men and children!
13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.
Acts 14:8–18 (ESV)
Paul and Barnabas at Lystra
8 Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, 10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. 11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” 18 Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.
[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)
[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.