Readings: Isaiah 10:20-27; Psalm 80; Jude 17-25; Luke 3:1-9
What a wonderful passage for this season of Advent! Although the Epistle of Jude is only 25 verses long, it is not one included in the Sunday lectionaries of the western Church. We can be thankful this reading is included in the daily rotation, as it is worth hearing, as we live in this in-between time awaiting Jesus’ second coming. Why is it worth hearing?
First, Jude recalls the words of the apostles, specifically Peter, in his second epistle, 3:3, where he writes, “First of all you must understand this, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions” (rsv). The apostles cautioned disciples who would come after them to be aware of those who would doubt and twist the truth, questioning God’s Word, manipulating it to fit their own ungodly passions. This we are seeing in our own day, as false teachers, bishops and pastors deny the truth of Holy Scripture and mold it, as Martin Luther warned, like a wax nose. These people, writes Jude, cause division because they are worldly, without the Holy Spirit.
Second, to counteract and guard against such false teachers, “(build) yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keeping yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”
Third, Jude calls upon us to have mercy on those who doubt, save others by snatching them out of the fire, showing mercy, but with caution, that their sin won’t rub off on us!
Finally, Jude proclaims to us that it is only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who can keep us from stumbling and present us blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy. We are reminded of Luther’s Small Catechism, the explanation to the Third Article of the Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel…and keeps me in the one true faith.” Remember, it is only God who can protect us and save us, as we wait for the mercy of Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life!
Prayer: Lord, keep me steadfast in Your Word every day of my life. Amen.
Advent Action: Offer a prayer of intercession for those who have lost their way.
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
8:1 Then the message of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies came to me as follows: 2“The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, ‘I am very much concerned for Zion; indeed, I am so concerned for her that my rage will fall on those who hurt her.’ 3The Lord says, ‘I have returned to Zion and will live within Jerusalem. Now Jerusalem will be called “truthful city,” “mountain of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,” “holy mountain.”’ 4Moreover, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, ‘Old men and women will once more live in the plazas of Jerusalem, each one leaning on a cane because of advanced age. 5And the streets of the city will be full of boys and girls playing. 6And,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘though such a thing may seem to be difficult in the opinion of the small community of those days, will it also appear difficult to me?’ asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
7“The Lord of Heaven’s Armies asserts, ‘I am about to save my people from the lands of the east and the west. 8And I will bring them to settle within Jerusalem. They will be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and righteousness.’
9“The Lord of Heaven’s Armies also says, ‘Gather strength, you who are listening to these words today from the mouths of the prophets who were there at the founding of the house of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, so that the temple might be built. 10Before that time there was no compensation for man or animal, nor was there any relief from adversity for those who came and went, because I had pitted everybody—each one—against everyone else. 11But I will be different now to this remnant of my people from the way I was in those days,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, 12‘for there will be a peaceful time of sowing, the vine will produce its fruit, and the ground its yield, and the skies will rain down dew. Then I will allow the remnant of my people to possess all these things. 13And it will come about that just as you, both Judah and Israel, were a curse to the nations, so I will save you and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid! Instead, be strong.’
14“For the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, ‘As I had planned to hurt you when your fathers made me angry,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘and I was not sorry, 15so, to the contrary, I have planned in these days to do good to Jerusalem and Judah—do not fear! 16These are the things you must do: Speak the truth, each of you, to one another. Practice true and righteous judgment in your courts. 17Do not plan evil in your hearts against one another. Do not favor a false oath—these are all things that I hate,’ says the Lord.”
18The message of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies came to me as follows: 19“The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, ‘The fast of the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months will become joyful and happy, pleasant feasts for the house of Judah; so love truth and peace.’ 20The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, ‘It will someday come to pass that people—residents of many cities—will come. 21The inhabitants of one will go to another and say, “Let’s go up at once to ask the favor of the Lord, to seek the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Indeed, I’ll go with you.”’ 22Many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord of Heaven’s Armies and to ask his favor. 23The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, ‘In those days 10 people from all languages and nations will grasp hold of—indeed, grab—the robe of one Jew and say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’”(NET Bible)
140:1 For the music director, a psalm of David.
O Lord, rescue me from wicked men.
Protect me from violent men,
2who plan ways to harm me.
All day long they stir up conflict.
3Their tongues wound like a serpent;
a viper’s venom is behind their lips. (Selah)
4O Lord, shelter me from the power of the wicked.
Protect me from violent men,
who plan to knock me over.
5Proud men hide a snare for me;
evil men spread a net by the path.
They set traps for me. (Selah)
6I say to the Lord, “You are my God.”
O Lord, pay attention to my plea for mercy.
7O Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer,
you shield my head in the day of battle.
8O Lord, do not let the wicked have their way.
Do not allow their plan to succeed when they attack. (Selah)
9As for the heads of those who surround me—
may the harm done by their lips overwhelm them.
10May he rain down fiery coals upon them.
May he throw them into the fire.
From bottomless pits they will not escape.
11A slanderer will not endure on the earth;
calamity will hunt down a violent man and strike him down.
12I know that the Lord defends the cause of the oppressed
and vindicates the poor.
13Certainly the godly will give thanks to your name;
the morally upright will live in your presence.(NET Bible)
15:1 Then I saw another great and astounding sign in heaven: seven angels who have seven final plagues (they are final because in them God’s anger is completed).
2Then I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and his image and the number of his name. They were standing by the sea of glass, holding harps given to them by God. 3They sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb:
“Great and astounding are your deeds,
Lord God, the All-Powerful!
Just and true are your ways,
King over the nations!
4Who will not fear you, O Lord,
and glorify your name, because you alone are holy?
All nations will come and worship before you
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
5After these things I looked, and the temple (the tent of the testimony) was opened in heaven, 6and the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple, dressed in clean bright linen, wearing wide golden belts around their chests. 7Then one of the four living creatures gave the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, 8and the temple was filled with smoke from God’s glory and from his power. Thus no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues from the seven angels were completed.(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.