Readings: Isaiah 7:1-9; Psalm 147:13-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Luke 22:1-13
As you began to read the assigned passage for today, you might have checked to see you didn’t pick up last year’s Lenten devotional by mistake! The account of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the midst of Advent may catch anyone off-guard. And yet, the shadow of the cross falls across every moment in Jesus’ short life, from His birth in Bethlehem to the empty tomb.
What was once the “Upper Room” is now a “lower room” in the Syriac Orthodox Church of St. Mark in Jerusalem, according to one tradition. According to travel guides, other sites are claimed to be the Upper Room. However, when we visited the room during our trip in 2018, the Syriac monks assured us that the Church of St. Mark was built over the original upper room that was the location of the Lord’s Supper, also known as the Cenacle. It is a moving experience to stand in the room, or a room similar to the one, where Peter and John arranged for the Passover meal, gathered with the Lord and the others of The Twelve, with Judas before his betrayal, on the night of Maundy Thursday.
As every Sunday is to be an observance, a reminder of Easter, wouldn’t it be meaningful if every Thursday evening meal would bring to mind that meal in the Upper Room? And what if every Friday, from noon to three we would take a moment to consider the Lord’s crucifixion, suffering and death on the cross for us and for our salvation? Such remembrance would sanctify each week, keeping us and our lives centered on the saving acts of our Lord Jesus Christ, making our faith more than a once a week observance. By the same token, such an observance might guard against us betraying our Lord by our sin and disobedience, again and again, turning away from Him by the prospect of a few pieces of silver or a bit of recognition or renown.
Prayer: Thank You, O God, for Your gifts of grace, Word and Sacrament, through which we receive Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Advent Action: Read John’s account of the Maundy Thursday meal, chapters 13-17.
Advent is a time of preparation! As John the Forerunner called people to “prepare the way of the Lord,” this Advent many Christians will look for additional opportunities to prepare inwardly while also preparing outwardly. As we prepare our homes and churches for celebrating Christmas, most hope to have additional time to read Scripture, pray, worship and meditate, and we look for quiet time to prepare our hearts and lives for the many ways the Lord comes to us.
These devotions are for home and personal devotion, in addition to communal Advent worship. Our prayer is that they provide the reader with a brief, accessible devotional to deepen the Advent journey. They are written for those who may regularly spend in-depth time in Scripture and prayer but are also prepared in the hope that those who do not have a practice of daily devotions may find them a useful tool in developing a holy habit that may continue on long after Christmas.
This Advent daily devotional booklet, appropriately titled, Prepare the Way of the Lord, is based on the two-year daily lectionary provided in the Lutheran Book of Worship, Year I. This series of daily lessons is intended for Advent prior to odd-numbered years. The daily lectionary appoints three lessons for each day, and a seasonal psalm. For the purposes of this booklet, one reading has been chosen as the basis for each day’s reflection. The entire reading is usually provided, although there has been some verses left out due to space available. When the biblical text is longer, we have provided that entire text with a shorter devotion because the Word of God is more powerful than our humble reflections.
The Rev. Dr. Dan Selbo, bishop of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), has prepared a bit longer devotion for each of the Sundays in Advent, along with a devotion for Christmas Day. The Rev. Dr. David Wendel, NALC assistant to the bishop for ministry and ecumenism, has prepared the brief weekday and Christmas Eve devotions.
The prayer following each devotion may be seen as a “prayer starter,” encouraging your thoughts to go deeper into prayer, or you may find them sufficient as printed. After each prayer is an Advent Action, encouraging an appropriate and thoughtful simple response to the reading and reflection.
For your information, these devotions are available in a variety of formats at thenalc.org/advent.
READING THE WORD OF GOD GUIDE
1:1 On the first day of the sixth month of King Darius’ second year, the Lord’s message came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak:
2This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has said: “These people have said, ‘The time for rebuilding the Lord’s temple has not yet come.’” 3The Lord’s message came through the prophet Haggai as follows: 4“Is it right for you to live in richly paneled houses while my temple is in ruins? 5Here then, this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has said: ‘Think carefully about what you are doing. 6You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but are never filled. You drink, but are still thirsty. You put on clothes, but are not warm. Those who earn wages end up with holes in their money bags.’”
7Moreover, this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has said: “Pay close attention to these things also. 8Go up to the hill country and bring back timber to build the temple. Then I will be pleased and honored,” says the Lord. 9“You expected a large harvest, but instead there was little. And when you would bring it home, I would blow it right away. Why?” asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Because my temple remains in ruins, thanks to each of you favoring his own house! 10This is why the sky has held back its dew and the earth its produce. 11Moreover, I have called for a drought that will affect the fields, the hill country, the grain, new wine, fresh olive oil, and everything that grows from the ground; it also will harm people, animals, and everything they produce.”
12Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, along with the whole remnant of the people, obeyed the Lord their God. They responded favorably to the message of the prophet Haggai, who spoke just as the Lord their God had instructed him, and the people began to respect the Lord. 13Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, spoke the Lord’s announcement to the people: “I am with you,” decrees the Lord. 14So the Lord energized and encouraged Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and the whole remnant of the people. They came and worked on the temple of their God, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 15This took place on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month of King Darius’ second year.(NET Bible)
131:1 A song of ascents, by David.
O Lord, my heart is not proud,
nor do I have a haughty look.
I do not have great aspirations,
or concern myself with things that are beyond me.
2Indeed, I have calmed and quieted myself
like a weaned child with its mother;
I am content like a young child.
3O Israel, hope in the Lord
now and forevermore!(NET Bible)
7:9 After these things I looked, and here was an enormous crowd that no one could count, made up of persons from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb dressed in long white robes, and with palm branches in their hands. 10They were shouting out in a loud voice,
“Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
11And all the angels stood there in a circle around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they threw themselves down with their faces to the ground before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying,
“Amen! Praise and glory,
and wisdom and thanksgiving,
and honor and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
13Then one of the elders asked me, “These dressed in long white robes—who are they and where have they come from?” 14So I said to him, “My lord, you know the answer.” Then he said to me, “These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb! 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple, and the one seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will never go hungry or be thirsty again, and the sun will not beat down on them, nor any burning heat, 17because the Lamb in the middle of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”(NET Bible)
–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.