Readings: Isaiah 2:1-4; Psalm 50; 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20; Luke 20:19-26
A retired pastor once told me that as he was now toward the end of his ministry, he had taken to recycling sermons because, “Hey,” he asked, “how many times can you preach a different sermon on the same Sunday lessons?” I find the Word of God comes to us fresh day after day, year after year. And we hear it differently as our life situation changes.
While the words of St. Paul to the church in Thessalonica, above, are full of meaning, we can’t help but hear verses 17–20 without considering our current situation in life. Paul was torn away from his fellow believers, albeit for a short time, “in person, not in heart,” causing him to more eagerly yearn to see them “face to face” — but “Satan hindered (them).” Does this not sound like our current reality, as Satan, through this COVID-19 pandemic, has torn us away from each other? We remain connected “in heart,” but we have been forced to be socially distanced from one another in unnatural ways, contrary to how God has created us to be in relationship with one another, even as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are a community of persons. God did not create us to live solitary lives, apart from others, but interrelated and interconnected, as the Body of Christ — different parts, yet all intimately joined in a holy communion.
And yet, we were torn away from one another. Grandparents from their grandchildren, adult children from their parents in nursing homes, congregations dispersed and scattered, connected only by cell phone or internet. With Paul, this distance has caused us to even more eagerly desire to see each other face to face. Paul writes, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” Let us love and cherish one another — as our glory and joy, as we await the coming of our Lord Jesus this Christmas!
Prayer: Stir up your power, O Lord, and come! Deliver us from pandemic, separation and Satan. Amen!
Advent Action: Call or speak to one person each day during Advent, as God brings them to mind.
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 all the people gathered together in the plaza which was in front of the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had commanded Israel. 2So Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly which included men and women and all those able to understand what they heard. (This happened on the first day of the seventh month.) 3So he read it before the plaza in front of the Water Gate from dawn till noon before the men and women and those children who could understand. All the people were eager to hear the book of the law.
4Ezra the scribe stood on a towering wooden platform constructed for this purpose. Standing near him on his right were Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Masseiah. On his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam. 5Ezra opened the book in plain view of all the people, for he was elevated above all the people. When he opened the book, all the people stood up. 6Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people replied “Amen! Amen!” as they lifted their hands. Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
7Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah—all of whom were Levites—were teaching the people the law, as the people remained standing. 8They read from the book of God’s law, explaining it and imparting insight. Thus the people gained understanding from what was read.
9Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priestly scribe, and the Levites who were imparting understanding to the people said to all of them, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping when they heard the words of the law. 10He said to them, “Go and eat delicacies and drink sweet drinks and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared. For this day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
11Then the Levites quieted all the people saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy. Do not grieve.” 12So all the people departed to eat and drink and to share their food with others and to enjoy tremendous joy, for they had gained insight in the matters that had been made known to them.(NET Bible)
123:1 A song of ascents.
I look up toward you,
the one enthroned in heaven.
2Look, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a female servant look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes will look to the Lord, our God, until he shows us favor.
3Show us favor, O Lord, show us favor!
For we have had our fill of humiliation, and then some.
4We have had our fill
of the taunts of the self-assured,
of the contempt of the proud.(NET Bible)
2:18 “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write the following:
“This is the solemn pronouncement of the Son of God, the one who has eyes like a fiery flame and whose feet are like polished bronze: 19‘I know your deeds: your love, faith, service, and steadfast endurance. In fact, your more recent deeds are greater than your earlier ones. 20But I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and by her teaching deceives my servants to commit sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21I have given her time to repent, but she is not willing to repent of her sexual immorality. 22Look! I am throwing her onto a bed of violent illness, and those who commit adultery with her into terrible suffering, unless they repent of her deeds. 23Furthermore, I will strike her followers with a deadly disease, and then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts. I will repay each one of you what your deeds deserve. 24But to the rest of you in Thyatira, all who do not hold to this teaching (who have not learned the so-called “deep secrets of Satan”), to you I say: I do not put any additional burden on you. 25However, hold on to what you have until I come. 26And to the one who conquers and who continues in my deeds until the end, I will give him authority over the nations—
27he will rule them with an iron rod,
and like clay jars he will break them to pieces,
28just as I have received the right to rule from my Father—and I will give him the morning star. 29The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’(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.