Readings: Isaiah 8:16-9:1; Psalm 40; 2 Peter 1:1-11; Luke 22:39-53
Many Lutherans are not aware that we have a calendar of lesser festivals and commemorations which bring to mind saints and godly men and women who, throughout history, have struggled to live lives of commitment and faith. The Augsburg Confession, 1530, the chief confessional document of Lutheranism, states in Article XXI, “It is also taught among us that saints should be kept in remembrance so that our faith may be strengthened when we see what grace they received and how they were sustained by faith. Moreover, their good works are to be an example for us, each of us in his own calling.” Today we commemorate two such persons, remembered as “renewers of the Church.” John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila were contemporaries in Spain who both sought necessary reform and renewal of the Church, desiring a return to prayer, meditation and humble spirituality. John died during the night of December 13-14, 1591 and Teresa died October 4, 1582.
Our reading for today brings to mind that we have received a “faith of equal standing” with Peter and the saints, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Peter writes, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”
The apostle goes on to highlight this life and godliness, saying, “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” These are the marks of the disciple and follower of Jesus — as we live in joyful anticipation of the coming again of our Lord and Savior.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, give us faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, affection and love! Amen.
Advent Action: Send a note of thanks to a “saint” in your life who has strengthened you by the example of their faith, love and service!
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
3:1 Next I saw Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, with Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2The Lord said to Satan, “May the Lord rebuke you, Satan! May the Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Isn’t this man like a burning stick snatched from the fire?” 3Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood there before the angel. 4The angel spoke up to those standing all around, “Remove his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “I have freely forgiven your iniquity and will dress you in fine clothing.” 5Then I spoke up, “Let a clean turban be put on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood nearby. 6Then the angel of the Lord exhorted Joshua solemnly: 7“The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, ‘If you follow my ways and keep my requirements, you will be able to preside over my temple and attend to my courtyards, and I will allow you to come and go among these others who are standing by you. 8Listen now, Joshua the high priest, both you and your colleagues who are sitting before you, all of you are a symbol that I am about to introduce my servant, the Branch. 9As for the stone I have set before Joshua—on the one stone there are seven eyes. I am about to engrave an inscription on it,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘to the effect that I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. 10In that day,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘everyone will invite his friend to fellowship under his vine and under his fig tree.’”(NET Bible)
135:1 Praise the Lord.
Praise the name of the Lord.
Offer praise, you servants of the Lord,
2who serve in the Lord’s temple,
in the courts of the temple of our God.
3Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good.
Sing praises to his name, for it is pleasant.
4Indeed, the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself,
Israel to be his special possession.
5Yes, I know the Lord is great,
and our Lord is superior to all gods.
6He does whatever he pleases
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all the ocean depths.
7He causes the clouds to arise from the end of the earth,
makes lightning bolts accompany the rain,
and brings the wind out of his storehouses.
8He struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
including both men and animals.
9He performed awesome deeds and acts of judgment
in your midst, O Egypt,
against Pharaoh and all his servants.
10He defeated many nations,
and killed mighty kings—
11Sihon, king of the Amorites,
and Og, king of Bashan,
and all the kingdoms of Canaan.
12He gave their land as an inheritance,
as an inheritance to Israel his people.
13O Lord, your name endures,
your reputation, O Lord, lasts.
14For the Lord vindicates his people
and has compassion on his servants.
15The nations’ idols are made of silver and gold;
they are man-made.
16They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but cannot see,
17and ears, but cannot hear.
Indeed, they cannot breathe.
18Those who make them will end up like them,
as will everyone who trusts in them.
19O family of Israel, praise the Lord.
O family of Aaron, praise the Lord.
20O family of Levi, praise the Lord.
You loyal followers of the Lord, praise the Lord.
21The Lord deserves praise in Zion—
he who dwells in Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord.(NET Bible)
11:1 Then a measuring rod like a staff was given to me, and I was told, “Get up and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and the ones who worship there. 2But do not measure the outer courtyard of the temple; leave it out because it has been given to the Gentiles, and they will trample on the holy city for forty-two months. 3And I will grant my two witnesses authority to prophesy for 1,260 days, dressed in sackcloth.” 4(These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.) 5If anyone wants to harm them, fire comes out of their mouths and completely consumes their enemies. If anyone wants to harm them, they must be killed this way. 6These two have the power to close up the sky so that it does not rain during the time they are prophesying. They have power to turn the waters to blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague whenever they want. 7When they have completed their testimony, the beast that comes up from the abyss will make war on them and conquer them and kill them. 8Their corpses will lie in the street of the great city that is symbolically called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was also crucified. 9For three and a half days those from every people, tribe, nation, and language will look at their corpses because they will not permit them to be placed in a tomb. 10And those who live on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate, even sending gifts to each other because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth. 11But after three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and tremendous fear seized those who were watching them. 12Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them: “Come up here!” So the two prophets went up to heaven in a cloud while their enemies stared at them. 13Just then a major earthquake took place and a tenth of the city collapsed; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
14The second woe has come and gone; the third is coming quickly.
15Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying:
“The kingdom of the world
has become the kingdom of our Lord
and of his Christ,
and he will reign for ever and ever.”
16Then the twenty-four elders who are seated on their thrones before God threw themselves down with their faces to the ground and worshiped God 17with these words:
“We give you thanks, Lord God, the All-Powerful,
the one who is and who was,
because you have taken your great power
and begun to reign.
18The nations were enraged,
but your wrath has come,
and the time has come for the dead to be judged,
and the time has come to give to your servants,
the prophets, their reward,
as well as to the saints
and to those who revere your name, both small and great,
and the time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth.”
19Then the temple of God in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was visible within his temple. And there were flashes of lightning, roaring, crashes of thunder, an earthquake, and a great hailstorm.(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.