Readings: Isaiah 7:10-25; Psalm 148; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5; Luke 22:14-30
Raised in a traditionally German home and congregation in Columbus, Indiana, we sang all the great Luther hymns, as well as those strong hymns by German composers and poets, with one or two of the beloved Swedish tunes such as “Children of the Heavenly Father.” What we didn’t sing, and so were not familiar with, were the wonderful Norwegian hymns such as “Who is this Host Arrayed in White” (LBW 314) and “In Heaven Above” (LBW 330). I was introduced, thankfully, to these beautiful hymns by an octogenarian Norwegian bachelor in my congregation in Hobbs, New Mexico, which then grew into my love and appreciation for our Norwegian Lutheran traditions, especially the great missionary fervor that continues today.
When you read the texts (or sing the words) of these two great hymns, you experience truly a glorious glimpse of heavenly communion where the Lord God has “transformed their strife to heav’nly life, And freed them from their fears. For now they have the best at last; They keep their sweet eternal feast.”
Our lives have not yet been transformed to “heav’nly life,” but we are invited each week to share in the sweet eternal feast, as we gather with our Lord and His followers for the Lord’s Supper. How tragic that as soon as the meal was ended, Judas went to betray Jesus and the disciples began to dispute who among them was the greatest. This is the reality of life in the all-too-human Body of Christ on earth. We await the coming of the Lord Jesus, we pray for His advent here, anew, to heal our divisions, turn sin and betrayal into faith, and welcome us all to His sweet eternal feast, which is the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.
Today, we commemorate Lars Olsen Skrefsrud, born in Lysgaard, Norway in 1840. Troubled in early life, he began to read religious books in prison, studied to become a pastor and then traveled to be a missionary among the Santals in India. He learned their language and translated the Gospels and Luther’s Small Catechism into Santali. He taught them agriculture, carpentry and other useful crafts. He died December 11, 1910.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, feed us with your very presence as we gather at your feast. Amen.
Advent Action: Find and read the words to “Behold a Host” on hymnary.org.
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
2:1 On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the Lord’s message came through the prophet Haggai again: 2“Ask the following questions to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and the remnant of the people: 3‘Who among you survivors saw the former splendor of this temple? How does it look to you now? Isn’t it nothing by comparison?’ 4Even so, take heart, Zerubbabel,” decrees the Lord. “Take heart, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. And take heart all you citizens of the land,” decrees the Lord, “and begin to work. For I am with you,” decrees the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 5“Do not fear, because I made a promise to your ancestors when they left Egypt, and my Spirit even now testifies to you.” 6Moreover, this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has said: “In just a little while I will once again shake the sky and the earth, the sea and the dry ground. 7I will also shake up all the nations, and they will offer their treasures; then I will fill this temple with glory.” So the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has said. 8“The silver and gold will be mine,” decrees the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 9“The future splendor of this temple will be greater than that of former times,” the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared. “And in this place I will give peace,” decrees the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
10On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month of Darius’ second year, the Lord’s message came to the prophet Haggai: 11“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has said, ‘Ask the priests about the law. 12If someone carries holy meat in a fold of his garment and that fold touches bread, a boiled dish, wine, olive oil, or any other food, will that item become holy?’” The priests answered, “It will not.” 13Then Haggai asked, “If a person who is ritually unclean because of touching a dead body comes in contact with one of these items, will it become unclean?” The priests answered, “It will be unclean.”
14Then Haggai responded, “‘The people of this nation are unclean in my sight,’ decrees the Lord. ‘And so is all their effort; everything they offer is also unclean. 15Now therefore reflect carefully on the recent past, before one stone was laid on another in the Lord’s temple. 16From that time when one came expecting a heap of 20 measures, there were only 10; when one came to the wine vat to draw out 50 measures from it, there were only 20. 17I struck all the products of your labor with blight, disease, and hail, and yet you brought nothing to me,’ says the Lord. 18‘Think carefully about the past: from today, the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, to the day work on the temple of the Lord was resumed, think about it. 19The seed is still in the storehouse, isn’t it? And the vine, fig tree, pomegranate, and olive tree have not produced. Nevertheless, from today on I will bless you.’”
20Then the Lord spoke to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: 21“Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah: ‘I am ready to shake the sky and the earth. 22I will overthrow royal thrones and shatter the might of earthly kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and those who ride them, and horses and their riders will fall as people kill one another. 23On that day,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, my servant,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”(NET Bible)
132:1 A song of ascents.
O Lord, for David’s sake remember
all his strenuous effort
2and how he made a vow to the Lord,
and swore an oath to the Powerful One of Jacob.
3He said, “I will not enter my own home,
or get into my bed.
4I will not allow my eyes to sleep
or my eyelids to slumber,
5until I find a place for the Lord,
a fine dwelling place for the Powerful One of Jacob.”
6Look, we heard about it in Ephrathah;
we found it in the territory of Jaar.
7Let us go to his dwelling place.
Let us worship before his footstool.
8Ascend, O Lord, to your resting place,
you and the ark of your strength.
9May your priests be clothed with integrity.
May your loyal followers shout for joy.
10For the sake of David, your servant,
do not reject your chosen king.
11The Lord made a reliable promise to David;
he will not go back on his word.
He said, “I will place one of your descendants on your throne.
12If your sons keep my covenant
and the rules I teach them,
their sons will also sit on your throne forever.”
13Certainly the Lord has chosen Zion;
he decided to make it his home.
14He said, “This will be my resting place forever;
I will live here, for I have chosen it.
15I will abundantly supply what she needs;
I will give her poor all the food they need.
16I will protect her priests,
and her godly people will shout exuberantly.
17There I will make David strong;
I have determined that my chosen king’s dynasty will continue.
18I will humiliate his enemies,
and his crown will shine.”(NET Bible)
8:1 Now when the Lamb opened the seventh seal there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 3Another angel holding a golden censer came and was stationed at the altar. A large amount of incense was given to him to offer up, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar that is before the throne. 4The smoke coming from the incense, along with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. 5Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it on the earth, and there were crashes of thunder, roaring, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.
6Now the seven angels holding the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.
7The first angel blew his trumpet, and there was hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was thrown at the earth so that a third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
8Then the second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain of burning fire was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea became blood, 9and a third of the creatures living in the sea died, and a third of the ships were completely destroyed.
10Then the third angel blew his trumpet, and a huge star burning like a torch fell from the sky; it landed on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 11(Now the name of the star is Wormwood.) So a third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from these waters because they were poisoned.
12Then the fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. And there was no light for a third of the day and for a third of the night likewise. 13Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying directly overhead, proclaiming with a loud voice, “Woe! Woe! Woe to those who live on the earth because of the remaining sounds of the trumpets of the three angels who are about to blow them!”(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.