Readings: Isaiah 11:10-16; Psalm 67; Revelation 20:1-10; John 5:30-47
The Lord had just been speaking about death and resurrection and the fact that those who would hear the voice of the Son of man would be resurrected, come out of their tombs and have life, while those who would not, those who had done evil, would face resurrection to judgment (John 5:24-29). Immediately after, in our reading above, Jesus speaks about believing in Him, having life in Him, and bearing witness to Him, as did John the Baptizer. The Lord is presenting the difference between believing in Him and doubting; between bearing witness to Him and not bearing witness.
Interesting, then, that today is the commemoration of St. Thomas, Apostle — often remembered as “Doubting Thomas.” After Jesus’ resurrection, it was Thomas who would only believe if he could see the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and feet and place his fingers in the wound in the Lord’s side. This experience of Thomas, needing physical proof, is in stark contrast to all who would come after the apostles, not able to touch Jesus as did Thomas, but having to “believe my words.” John, the forerunner, bore witness to the truth and was a “burning and shining lamp.” As we hear the words of the Lord and believe, we, too, are called to “let (our) light so shine before others, so that they may see our good works and glorify (our) Father” (Matthew 5:16). These dark days of Advent, on this, the day of the winter solstice, let us believe Jesus and His words, and let us be burning and shining lamps.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, let Your light shine in and through me, to bring hope to others. Amen.
Advent Action: Speak a word of hope and light to someone today.
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
10:1 Ask the Lord for rain in the season of the late spring rains—the Lord who causes thunderstorms—and he will give everyone showers of rain and green growth in the field. 2For the household gods have spoken wickedness, the soothsayers have seen a lie, and the dreamers have disclosed emptiness and give comfort in vain. Therefore the people set out like sheep and become scattered because they have no shepherd. 3“I am enraged at the shepherds and will punish the lead goats.
“For the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has brought blessing to his flock, the house of Judah, and will transform them into his majestic warhorse. 4From him will come the cornerstone, the wall peg, the battle bow, and every ruler. 5And they will be like warriors trampling the mud of the streets in battle. They will fight, for the Lord will be with them, and will defeat the enemy cavalry.
6“I (says the Lord) will strengthen the kingdom of Judah and deliver the people of Joseph and will bring them back because of my compassion for them. They will be as though I had never rejected them, for I am the Lord their God, and therefore I will hear them. 7The Ephraimites will be like warriors and will rejoice as if they had drunk wine. Their children will see it and rejoice; they will celebrate in the things of the Lord. 8I will signal for them and gather them, for I have already redeemed them; then they will become as numerous as they were before. 9Though I scatter them among the nations, they will remember in far-off places—they and their children will survive and return. 10I will bring them back from Egypt and gather them from Assyria. I will bring them to the lands of Gilead and Lebanon, and there will not be enough room for them. 11The Lord will cross the sea of storms and will calm its turbulence. The depths of the Nile will dry up, the pride of Assyria will be humbled, and the domination of Egypt will be no more. 12Thus I will strengthen them by my power, and they will walk about in my name,” says the Lord.(NET Bible)
142:1 A well-written song by David, when he was in the cave; a prayer.
To the Lord I cry out;
to the Lord I plead for mercy.
2I pour out my lament before him;
I tell him about my troubles.
3Even when my strength leaves me,
you watch my footsteps.
In the path where I walk
they have hidden a trap for me.
4Look to the right and see.
No one cares about me.
I have nowhere to run;
no one is concerned about my life.
5I cry out to you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my shelter,
my security in the land of the living.”
6Listen to my cry for help,
for I am in serious trouble.
Rescue me from those who chase me,
for they are stronger than I am.
7Free me from prison
that I may give thanks to your name.
Because of me the godly will assemble,
for you will vindicate me.(NET Bible)
17:1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke to me. “Come,” he said, “I will show you the condemnation and punishment of the great prostitute who sits on many waters, 2with whom the kings of the earth committed sexual immorality and the earth’s inhabitants got drunk with the wine of her immorality.” 3So he carried me away in the Spirit to a wilderness, and there I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. 4Now the woman was dressed in purple and scarlet clothing, and adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She held in her hand a golden cup filled with detestable things and unclean things from her sexual immorality. 5On her forehead was written a name, a mystery: “Babylon the Great, the Mother of prostitutes and of the detestable things of the earth.” 6I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of those who testified to Jesus. I was greatly astounded when I saw her. 7But the angel said to me, “Why are you astounded? I will interpret for you the mystery of the woman and of the beast with the seven heads and ten horns that carries her. 8The beast you saw was, and is not, but is about to come up from the abyss and then go to destruction. The inhabitants of the earth—all those whose names have not been written in the book of life since the foundation of the world—will be astounded when they see that the beast was, and is not, but is to come. 9(This requires a mind that has wisdom.) The seven heads are seven mountains the woman sits on. They are also seven kings: 10five have fallen; one is, and the other has not yet come, but whenever he does come, he must remain for only a brief time. 11The beast that was, and is not, is himself an eighth king and yet is one of the seven, and is going to destruction. 12The ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but will receive ruling authority as kings with the beast for one hour. 13These kings have a single intent, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. 14They will make war with the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them, because he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those accompanying the Lamb are the called, chosen, and faithful.”
15Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw (where the prostitute is seated) are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages. 16The ten horns that you saw, and the beast—these will hate the prostitute and make her desolate and naked. They will consume her flesh and burn her up with fire. 17For God has put into their minds to carry out his purpose by making a decision to give their royal power to the beast until the words of God are fulfilled. 18As for the woman you saw, she is the great city that has sovereignty over the kings of the earth.”(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.