Friday of the Week of Advent III
Based on 2 Corinthians 8:16-9:5
It is a blessing to have in our daily readings, so close to Christmas, reflections about generosity and giving. No one speaks so clearly and powerfully as Paul about the responsibility of followers of Jesus to make generous giving a part of our lives. Indeed, Paul is bold as he lifts up the example of the Macedonians and bold as he encourages and expects the Corinthians to be ready with their offering. Paul is sending brothers to receive the offering which will be used for the relief of the saints in Jerusalem and has told the brothers of the zeal and readiness of the Christians to give. So, Paul writes, “don’t let me be humiliated!” “I have boasted of your generosity.” Paul continues, “So that (the gift) may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.”
The seasons of Advent and Christmas are certainly times in our lives when we naturally consider those less fortunate, those who have fallen on hard circumstances, those who may not have means or resources as we do. Congregations readily take up special offerings, make care packages and food baskets and provide Christmas gifts for children who may not expect much on Christmas morning. And yet, while there is perhaps a greater outpouring as we draw near to Christmas, let us give thanks for our congregations’ kindness and generosity throughout the year. Christians are not stingy or greedy. We see every one of our congregations involved in special offerings week by week for the sake of those in need, locally and around the world. For your generosity, we give thanks!
Prayer: Gracious and giving God, keep us mindful of those less fortunate and create in us giving hearts throughout the year. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Advent action: Commit yourself to making a special Christmas offering every month of the year.
This year’s devotional was prepared by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, NALC assistant to the bishop for ministry and ecumenism. To learn more about Blessed is He Who Comes, visit thenalc.org/advent.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
17:1 This is an oracle about Damascus:
“Look, Damascus is no longer a city,
it is a heap of ruins!
2The cities of Aroer are abandoned.
They will be used for herds,
which will lie down there in peace.
3Fortified cities will disappear from Ephraim,
and Damascus will lose its kingdom.
The survivors in Syria
will end up like the splendor of the Israelites,”
says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
4 “At that time
Jacob’s splendor will be greatly diminished,
and he will become skin and bones.
5It will be as when one gathers the grain harvest,
and his hand gleans the ear of grain.
It will be like one gathering the ears of grain
in the Valley of Rephaim.
6There will be some left behind,
like when an olive tree is beaten –
two or three ripe olives remain toward the very top,
four or five on its fruitful branches,”
says the Lord God of Israel.
7At that time men will trust in their Creator;
they will depend on the Holy One of Israel.
8They will no longer trust in the altars their hands made,
or depend on the Asherah poles and incense altars their fingers made.
9At that time their fortified cities will be
like the abandoned summits of the Amorites,
which they abandoned because of the Israelites;
there will be desolation.
10For you ignore the God who rescues you;
you pay no attention to your strong protector.
So this is what happens:
You cultivate beautiful plants
and plant exotic vines.
11The day you begin cultivating, you do what you can to make it grow;
the morning you begin planting, you do what you can to make it sprout.
Yet the harvest will disappear in the day of disease
and incurable pain.
12Beware, you many nations massing together,
those who make a commotion as loud as the roaring of the sea’s waves.
Beware, you people making such an uproar,
those who make an uproar as loud as the roaring of powerful waves.
13Though these people make an uproar as loud as the roaring of powerful waves,
when he shouts at them, they will flee to a distant land,
driven before the wind like dead weeds on the hills,
or like dead thistles before a strong gale.
14In the evening there is sudden terror;
by morning they vanish.
This is the fate of those who try to plunder us,
the destiny of those who try to loot us!(NET Bible)
141:1 A psalm of David.
O Lord, I cry out to you. Come quickly to me!
Pay attention to me when I cry out to you!
2May you accept my prayer like incense,
my uplifted hands like the evening offering!
3O Lord, place a guard on my mouth!
Protect the opening of my lips!
4Do not let me have evil desires,
or participate in sinful activities
with men who behave wickedly.
I will not eat their delicacies.
5May the godly strike me in love and correct me!
May my head not refuse choice oil!
Indeed, my prayer is a witness against their evil deeds.
6They will be thrown down the side of a cliff by their judges.
They will listen to my words, for they are pleasant.
7As when one plows and breaks up the soil,
so our bones are scattered at the mouth of Sheol.
8Surely I am looking to you, O Sovereign Lord.
In you I take shelter.
Do not expose me to danger!
9Protect me from the snare they have laid for me,
and the traps the evildoers have set.
10Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
while I escape.(NET Bible)
2 Cor. 8:16–9:5
8:16 But thanks be to God who put in the heart of Titus the same devotion I have for you, 17because he not only accepted our request, but since he was very eager, he is coming to you of his own accord. 18And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his work in spreading the gospel. 19In addition, this brother has also been chosen by the churches as our traveling companion as we administer this generous gift to the glory of the Lord himself and to show our readiness to help. 20We did this as a precaution so that no one should blame us in regard to this generous gift we are administering. 21For we are concerned about what is right not only before the Lord but also before men. 22And we are sending with them our brother whom we have tested many times and found eager in many matters, but who now is much more eager than ever because of the great confidence he has in you. 23If there is any question about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; if there is any question about our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ. 24Therefore show them openly before the churches the proof of your love and of our pride in you.
9:1 For it is not necessary for me to write you about this service to the saints, 2because I know your eagerness to help. I keep boasting to the Macedonians about this eagerness of yours, that Achaia has been ready to give since last year, and your zeal to participate has stirred up most of them. 3But I am sending these brothers so that our boasting about you may not be empty in this case, so that you may be ready just as I kept telling them. 4For if any of the Macedonians should come with me and find that you are not ready to give, we would be humiliated (not to mention you) by this confidence we had in you. 5Therefore I thought it necessary to urge these brothers to go to you in advance and to arrange ahead of time the generous contribution you had promised, so this may be ready as a generous gift and not as something you feel forced to do. (NET Bible)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
[Luther writes]: “The Holy Spirit is the most simple writer and speaker in heaven and earth; therefore His words have only one sense, the most simple one, which we call the literal sense.” … “In order that these word jugglers may be seen in their true light, I ask them, who told them that the fathers are clearer and not more obscure than the Scripture? How would it be if I said that they understand the Fathers as little as I understand the Scriptures? I could just as well stop my ears to the sayings of the Fathers as they do to the Scriptures. But in that way we shall never arrive at the truth. If the Spirit has spoken in the fathers, so much the more has He spoken in His own Scriptures. And if one does not understand the Spirit in His own Scriptures, who will trust him to understand the Spirit in the writings of another? That is truly a carrying of the sword in the scabbard, when we do not take the naked sword by itself but only as it is encased in the words and glosses of men. This dulls its edge and makes it obscurer than it was before, though Emser calls it smiting with the blade. The bare sword makes him tremble from head to foot. Be it known, then, that Scripture without any gloss is the sun and the sole light from which all teachers receive their light, and not the contrary. This is proved by the fact that, when the fathers teach anything, they do not trust their teaching but, fearing it to be too obscure and uncertain, they go to the Scriptures and take a clear passage out of it to shed light on their teaching, just as we place a light in a lantern, and as we read in Ps. 18: ‘Thou wilt light my lamp, O Lord.’” (77–78)
–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.