Readings: Isaiah 8:1-15; Psalm 149; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18; Luke 22:31-38
A word that has come into common usage these days is “entitlements.” Usually, it refers to programs administered by governments. Closely related to this is the word “entitled,” which sometimes reflects a negative attitude, as if one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. It seems in the early Church there were those who believed themselves to be “entitled,” expecting others to provide for them, while they, themselves, refused to work or to contribute to the common good. We read in Acts 2:44-46 that in the first days of the Church, after Pentecost, “all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.”
Interestingly, by the time the Church had been founded in Thessalonica, the believers were not all together with “glad and generous hearts!” Paul needs to speak to those who are idle busybodies, not working, not sharing the responsibilities, but believing themselves “entitled” to be taken care of by the community. “If any one is not willing to work,” says Paul, “let them not eat!”
As I write this brief devotion, I can’t imagine you are idle and need encouragement to “get busy!” A few weeks before Christmas, most of us have anything but “idle hands.” But Paul’s exhortation stands — we live in community with one another in the Body of Christ. We are each important to the well-being of the whole. Every local congregation needs willing workers, ready to respond to God’s gift of grace by working quietly, not growing weary in doing good.
Prayer: Lord God, make me a willing worker, always ready to do good. Amen.
Advent Action: Do something good for someone — anyone, today!
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 In the eighth month of Darius’ second year, the Lord’s message came to the prophet Zechariah, son of Berechiah son of Iddo:
2“The Lord was very angry with your ancestors. 3Therefore say to the people: The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, ‘Turn to me,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘and I will turn to you,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 4Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the former prophets called out, saying, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has said, “Turn now from your evil wickedness.”’ But they would by no means obey me,” says the Lord. 5“As for your ancestors, where are they? And did the prophets live forever? 6But have my words and statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, not outlived your fathers? Then they paid attention and confessed, ‘The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has indeed done what he said he would do to us, because of our sinful ways.’”
7On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month Shebat, in Darius’ second year, the Lord’s message came to the prophet Zechariah, son of Berechiah son of Iddo:
8I was attentive that night and saw a man seated on a red horse that stood among some myrtle trees in the ravine. Behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses.
9Then I asked one nearby, “What are these, sir?” The angelic messenger who replied to me said, “I will show you what these are.” 10Then the man standing among the myrtle trees spoke up and said, “These are the ones whom the Lord has sent to walk about on the earth.” 11The riders then agreed with the angel of the Lord, who was standing among the myrtle trees, “We have been walking about on the earth, and now everything is at rest and quiet.” 12The angel of the Lord then asked, “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, how long before you have compassion on Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah that you have been so angry with for these 70 years?” 13The Lord then addressed good, comforting words to the angelic messenger who was speaking to me. 14Turning to me, the messenger then said, “Cry out that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, ‘I am very much moved for Jerusalem and for Zion. 15But I am greatly displeased with the nations that take my grace for granted. I was a little displeased with them, but they have only made things worse for themselves.
16“‘Therefore,’ this is what the Lord has said, ‘I have become compassionate toward Jerusalem and will rebuild my temple in it,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. ‘Once more a surveyor’s measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem.’ 17Speak up again with the message of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies: ‘My cities will once more overflow with prosperity, and once more the Lord will comfort Zion and validate his choice of Jerusalem.’”
18(2:1) Once again I looked and this time I saw four horns. 19So I asked the angelic messenger who spoke with me, “What are these?” He replied, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.” 20Next the Lord showed me four blacksmiths. 21I asked, “What are these going to do?” He answered, “These horns are the ones that have scattered Judah so that there is no one to be seen. But the blacksmiths have come to terrify Judah’s enemies and cut off the horns of the nations that have thrust themselves against the land of Judah in order to scatter its people.”(NET Bible)
133:1 A song of ascents; by David.
Look! How good and how pleasant it is
when brothers truly live in unity.
2It is like fine oil poured on the head,
which flows down the beard—
and then flows down his garments.
3It is like the dew of Hermon,
which flows down upon the hills of Zion.
Indeed, that is where the Lord has decreed
a blessing will be available—eternal life.(NET Bible)
9:1 Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the abyss. 2He opened the shaft of the abyss and smoke rose out of it like smoke from a giant furnace. The sun and the air were darkened with smoke from the shaft. 3Then out of the smoke came locusts onto the earth, and they were given power like that of the scorpions of the earth. 4They were told not to damage the grass of the earth, or any green plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their forehead. 5The locusts were not given permission to kill them, but only to torture them for five months, and their torture was like that of a scorpion when it stings a person. 6In those days people will seek death, but will not be able to find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them.
7Now the locusts looked like horses equipped for battle. On their heads were something like crowns similar to gold, and their faces looked like men’s faces. 8They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. 9They had breastplates like iron breastplates, and the sound of their wings was like the noise of many horse-drawn chariots charging into battle. 10They have tails and stingers like scorpions, and their ability to injure people for five months is in their tails. 11They have as king over them the angel of the abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon.
12The first woe has passed, but two woes are still coming after these things!
13Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a single voice coming from the horns on the golden altar that is before God, 14saying to the sixth angel, the one holding the trumpet, “Set free the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates!” 15Then the four angels who had been prepared for this hour, day, month, and year were set free to kill a third of humanity. 16The number of soldiers on horseback was 200,000,000; I heard their number. 17Now this is what the horses and their riders looked like in my vision: The riders had breastplates that were fiery red, dark blue, and sulfurous yellow in color. The heads of the horses looked like lions’ heads, and fire, smoke, and sulfur came out of their mouths. 18A third of humanity was killed by these three plagues, that is, by the fire, the smoke, and the sulfur that came out of their mouths. 19For the power of the horses resides in their mouths and in their tails because their tails are like snakes, having heads that inflict injuries. 20The rest of humanity, who had not been killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands so that they did not stop worshiping demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk about. 21Furthermore, they did not repent of their murders, of their magic spells, of their sexual immorality, or of their stealing.(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.