Home > Reading > Daily Reading – December 18, 2022

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Have you ever wondered what Jesus actually looked like? We’ve all seen beautiful paintings, mosaics and stained-glass windows depicting our Lord, but those are artistic interpretations of the Son of Man. The earliest known image of Jesus was meant to be a mockery of the crucified one. This first-century wall carving depicts Jesus on the cross with the head of a donkey. A man is looking up at the figure on the cross, and it is this man who is being made fun of for worshiping Jesus of Nazareth. The next oldest image of Jesus was found in a catacomb near Rome. In this third century paint on plaster image of Jesus, He is healing a paralytic who then gets up and walks away. But the first image to give us any kind of sense of Jesus’ face is a painting on plaster entitled “The Good Shepherd.” This one is also from the third century and has a young clean faced Jesus carrying a lamb on His shoulders. What image of Jesus does your mind’s eye create when you hear the words of Isaiah and Paul describing Christ as the one who wears righteousness as a belt or a breastplate? Yes, these are metaphorical descriptions of our Lord, but they carry an important truth for us who follow Jesus. When Paul says we are to put on the full armor of God, fastening the belt of truth around our waists, carrying a shield of faith, and putting on the helmet of salvation, he is encouraging us to trust Jesus, and wear Him like a garment, as he says in Romans 13:14, “Put on Christ.” Christ is the one who is our belt of truth and shield of faith. He is our helmet of salvation and our sword of the Spirit. We need Jesus to fight our battles with sin, death, and the devil! We need the Lord to engage for us in spiritual warfare, as we cannot do it alone. 
Spiritual warfare is a real thing! Perhaps you’ve noticed something shift in your life when you are intentionally and faithfully following Jesus. It might be an onslaught of trials, a series of attacks out of nowhere, a sense of darkness or conflict hovering over you, an awareness of confusion and lies circling around you, just to name a few examples. This may be the result of sin, our own, or someone else’s that is affecting us. Or it might be the attacks of the enemy who St. Peter called “your adversary” who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The first step in spiritual warfare is to recognize what is going on — we are in a battle with the principalities and powers of the world. When we are clinging to Christ it angers the enemy! But we have the Lord who is our strength, who, as Martin Luther wrote, “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing. You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he; Lord Sabaoth his name, from age to age the same; and he must win the battle” (A Mighty Fortress is Our God, v. 2, hymnary.org).
We know the end of the story, thankfully! That Jesus has won the battle and is victorious over sin and death and the devil. Yet there are times we find ourselves still struggling with sin and the wiles of the enemy. As we continue our faith journey this Advent season, let us be reminded that God has chosen the right Man for us, and He is our full armor against the enemy. Amen.

Prayer: Holy God, You sent your Son into this world to put an end to sin, death, and the devil in our lives. “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). May we always trust in Jesus who is our strength and shield, who has already won the battle. Amen.

Devotion written by The Rev. Dr. Amy C. Little

O Adonai/O Lord of Might

This daily prayer and Bible reading guide, Devoted to Prayer (based on Acts 2:42), was conceived and prepared by the Rev. Andrew S. Ames Fuller, director of communications for the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). After several challenging years in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been provided with a unique opportunity to revitalize the ancient practice of daily prayer and Scripture reading in our homes. While the Reading the Word of God three-year lectionary provided a much-needed and refreshing calendar for our congregations to engage in Scripture reading, this calendar includes a missing component of daily devotion: prayer. This guide is to provide the average layperson and pastor with the simple tools for sorting through the busyness of their lives and reclaiming an act of daily discipleship with their Lord. The daily readings follow the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year daily lectionary, which reflect the church calendar closely. The commemorations are adapted from Philip H. Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals and Commemorations, a proposed common calendar of the saints that builds from the Lutheran Book of Worship, but includes saints from many of those churches in ecumenical conversation with the NALC. The introductory portion is adapted from Christ Church (Plano)’s Pray Daily. Our hope is that this calendar and guide will provide new life for congregations learning and re-learning to pray in the midst of a difficult and changing world.

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