Readings: Isaiah 9:8-17; Psalm 53; 2 Peter 2:1-10a, Mark 1:1-8
These next few days in Advent, we will hear from the Gospels the Good News of the coming of Jesus and the forerunner, John the Baptizer preparing the way. Today we hear the first verses of the Gospel of Mark and immediately one of the major themes of this Gospel is proclaimed, as the evangelist tells us, this is the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who is “the Son of God.” We are reminded throughout this book that Jesus, while Son of man—a human, is also and more importantly, Son of God. The Gospel book begins with that announcement and it is proclaimed again, at the end of Jesus’ life, when a Roman centurion standing at the foot of the cross confesses, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).
It’s no wonder that God provided a new prophet, John, to be a messenger sent to call people to “prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,” baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Mark tells us that “all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” In a time when their country was occupied by pagan Romans and religious leaders who were self-serving, blind to God’s presence and deaf to His Word, the people realized they were living in a time of great sin and that all were in need of repentance, forgiveness and renewal. They yearned for a renewal of God’s presence among them, so they went to be baptized — hearing in John’s call to prepare the way of the Lord a much needed message that they hoped and prayed would open the door to the coming Messiah, the Anointed One of God. They were baptized by John for their own forgiveness and renewal, but they believed this would be a participation in the preparation necessary for the coming of the Christ — who would baptize, not with water only, but with water and the Holy Spirit.
During this season of Advent, we remember and return to the promise of our Baptism, knowing that daily we are born anew to that living hope which is ours in Christ Jesus, the Son of God — our Savior!
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, let me live in that hope daily, because I am baptized. Amen.
Advent Action: Say a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of your Baptism!
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
5:1 Then I turned to look, and there was a flying scroll! 2Someone asked me, “What do you see?” I replied, “I see a flying scroll 30 feet long and 15 feet wide.” 3The speaker went on to say, “This is a curse traveling across the whole earth. For example, according to the curse whoever steals will be removed from the community; or on the other hand (according to the curse) whoever swears falsely will suffer the same fate.” 4“I will send it out,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and it will enter the house of the thief and of the person who swears falsely in my name. It will land in the middle of his house and destroy both timber and stones.”
5After this the angelic messenger who had been speaking to me went out and said, “Look, see what is leaving.” 6I asked, “What is it?” And he replied, “It is a basket for measuring grain that is moving away from here.” Moreover, he said, “This is their ‘eye’ throughout all the earth.” 7Then a round lead cover was raised up, revealing a woman sitting inside the basket. 8He then said, “This woman represents wickedness,” and he pushed her down into the basket and placed the lead cover on top. 9Then I looked again and saw two women going forth with the wind in their wings (they had wings like those of a stork), and they lifted up the basket between the earth and the sky. 10I asked the messenger who was speaking to me, “Where are they taking the basket?” 11He replied, “To build a temple for her in the land of Babylonia. When it is finished, she will be placed there in her own residence.”(NET Bible)
137:1 By the rivers of Babylon
we sit down and weep
when we remember Zion.
2On the poplars in her midst
we hang our harps,
3for there our captors ask us to compose songs;
those who mock us demand that we be happy, saying:
“Sing for us a song about Zion!”
4How can we sing a song to the Lord
in a foreign land?
5If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
may my right hand be crippled.
6May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
and do not give Jerusalem priority
over whatever gives me the most joy.
7Remember, O Lord, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
They said, “Tear it down, tear it down,
right to its very foundation!”
8O daughter Babylon, soon to be devastated,
how blessed will be the one who repays you
for what you dished out to us.
9How blessed will be the one who grabs your babies
and smashes them on a rock.(NET Bible)
13:1 Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, and on its horns were ten diadem crowns, and on its heads a blasphemous name. 2Now the beast that I saw was like a leopard, but its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. The dragon gave the beast his power, his throne, and great authority to rule. 3One of the beast’s heads appeared to have been killed, but the lethal wound had been healed. And the whole world followed the beast in amazement; 4they worshiped the dragon because he had given ruling authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast too, saying: “Who is like the beast?” and “Who is able to make war against him?” 5The beast was given a mouth speaking proud words and blasphemies, and he was permitted to exercise ruling authority for forty-two months. 6So the beast opened his mouth to blaspheme against God—to blaspheme both his name and his dwelling place, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7The beast was permitted to go to war against the saints and conquer them. He was given ruling authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation, 8and all those who live on the earth will worship the beast, everyone whose name has not been written since the foundation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was killed. 9If anyone has an ear, he had better listen!
10If anyone is meant for captivity,
into captivity he will go.
If anyone is to be killed by the sword,
then by the sword he must be killed.
This requires steadfast endurance and faith from the saints.(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.