Readings: Isaiah 10:5-19; Psalm 130; 2 Peter 2:17-22; Matthew 11:2-15
“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”
Matthew reminds us that violence has afflicted God’s kingdom and people, at least since John the Baptist. And, if you remember your Old Testament history, violence was present since just after God spoke and man was created. These words bring to mind the violence we have seen recently in the U.S. as protests became violent, attacks have taken place in France and Canada and news reports bring violence into our homes. Often, these acts are claimed to have been done in the name of justice in the rioting in America, but also in the name of religion. Is this what Jesus was about? While Jesus speaks of His presence bringing, at times, division — does He intend violence?
In our reading today, John and his disciples are wrestling with who Jesus is — are you he who is to come, the Messiah, or should we look for another? Jesus wants to be known by His deeds — “Tell John what you hear and see, the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.” These are the works of Jesus, Son of God. This is why Jesus came — not for violence or destruction, but to bring sight to the blind, to heal the lame, to raise up the dead and to preach Good News to the poor. This is who Jesus is — the Prince of Peace and Lord of Love, come down from heaven “because God so loved the world,” not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. If only those who have ears to hear would listen and hear — the Good News of Jesus Christ!
Prayer: Lord God, open every ear to hear Jesus’ message of healing and love. Amen.
Advent Action: Light a candle today as a reminder that we wait for the Prince of Peace.
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
7:1 In King Darius’ fourth year, on the fourth day of Kislev, the ninth month, the Lord’s message came to Zechariah. 2Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech and their companions to seek the Lord’s favor 3by asking both the priests of the temple of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies and the prophets, “Should we weep in the fifth month, fasting as we have done over the years?” 4The message of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies then came to me, 5“Speak to all the people and priests of the land as follows: ‘When you fasted and lamented in the fifth and seventh months through all these 70 years, did you truly fast for me—for me, indeed? 6And now when you eat and drink, are you not doing so for yourselves? 7Should you not have obeyed the words that the Lord cried out through the former prophets when Jerusalem was peacefully inhabited and her surrounding cities, the Negev, and the foothills were also populated?’”
8Again the Lord’s message came to Zechariah: 9“The Lord of Heaven’s Armies said, ‘Exercise true judgment and show brotherhood and compassion to each other. 10You must not oppress the widow, the orphan, the resident foreigner, or the poor, nor should anyone secretly plot evil against his fellow citizen.’
11“But they refused to pay attention, turning away stubbornly and stopping their ears so they could not hear. 12Indeed, they made their hearts as hard as diamond, so that they could not obey the law of Moses and the other words the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies poured out great wrath.
13“‘Just as I called out, but they would not obey, so they will call out, but I will not listen,’ the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says. 14‘Rather, I will sweep them away in a storm into all the nations they are not familiar with.’ Thus the land became desolate because of them, with no one crossing through or returning, for they had made the fruitful land a waste.”(NET Bible)
139:1 For the music director, a psalm of David.
O Lord, you examine me and know me.
2You know when I sit down and when I get up;
even from far away you understand my motives.
3You carefully observe me when I travel or when I lie down to rest;
you are aware of everything I do.
4Certainly my tongue does not frame a word
without you, O Lord, being thoroughly aware of it.
5You squeeze me in from behind and in front;
you place your hand on me.
6Your knowledge is beyond my comprehension;
it is so far beyond me, I am unable to fathom it.
7Where can I go to escape your Spirit?
Where can I flee to escape your presence?
8If I were to ascend to heaven, you would be there.
If I were to sprawl out in Sheol, there you would be.
9If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn
and settle down on the other side of the sea,
10even there your hand would guide me,
your right hand would grab hold of me.
11If I were to say, “Certainly the darkness will cover me,
and the light will turn to night all around me,”
12even the darkness is not too dark for you to see,
and the night is as bright as day;
darkness and light are the same to you.
13Certainly you made my mind and heart;
you wove me together in my mother’s womb.
14I will give you thanks because your deeds are awesome and amazing.
You knew me thoroughly;
15my bones were not hidden from you,
when I was made in secret
and sewed together in the depths of the earth.
16Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb.
All the days ordained for me
were recorded in your scroll
before one of them came into existence.
17How difficult it is for me to fathom your thoughts about me, O God!
How vast is their sum total.
18If I tried to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
Even if I finished counting them,
I would still have to contend with you.
19If only you would kill the wicked, O God!
Get away from me, you violent men!
20They rebel against you and act deceitfully;
your enemies lie.
21O Lord, do I not hate those who hate you
and despise those who oppose you?
22I absolutely hate them;
they have become my enemies.
23Examine me, O God, and probe my thoughts.
Test me, and know my concerns.
24See if there is any idolatrous way in me,
and lead me in the everlasting way.(NET Bible)
14:1 Then I looked, and here was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him were 144,000, who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2I also heard a sound coming out of heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. Now the sound I heard was like that made by harpists playing their harps, 3and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one was able to learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.
4These are the ones who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from humanity as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb, 5and no lie was found on their lips; they are blameless.
6Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, and he had an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language, and people. 7He declared in a loud voice: “Fear God and give him glory because the hour of his judgment has arrived, and worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water!”
8A second angel followed the first, declaring: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great city! She made all the nations drink of the wine of her immoral passion.”
9A third angel followed the first two, declaring in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and takes the mark on his forehead or his hand, 10that person will also drink of the wine of God’s anger that has been mixed undiluted in the cup of his wrath, and he will be tortured with fire and sulfur in front of the holy angels and in front of the Lamb. 11And the smoke from their torture will go up forever and ever, and those who worship the beast and his image will have no rest day or night, along with anyone who receives the mark of his name.” 12This requires the steadfast endurance of the saints—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to their faith in Jesus.
13Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this:
‘Blessed are the dead,
those who die in the Lord from this moment on!’”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “so they can rest from their hard work, because their deeds will follow them.”
14Then I looked, and a white cloud appeared, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man! He had a golden crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15Then another angel came out of the temple, shouting in a loud voice to the one seated on the cloud, “Use your sickle and start to reap, because the time to reap has come, since the earth’s harvest is ripe!” 16So the one seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.
17Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he, too, had a sharp sickle. 18Another angel, who was in charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to the angel who had the sharp sickle, “Use your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes off the vine of the earth, because its grapes are now ripe.” 19So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and gathered the grapes from the vineyard of the earth and tossed them into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20Then the winepress was stomped outside the city, and blood poured out of the winepress up to the height of horses’ bridles for a distance of almost 200 miles.(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.