The Fourth Sunday of Advent
Based on 2 Corinthians 10:1-6
The apostle Paul seems to be wrestling with his very bold speech in his letter, realizing that when present with the Corinthian Christians he is careful to approach them with humility and pastoral sensitivity. It sounds as if there are those in the congregation who are accusing Paul of arrogance and haughtiness, marks of humanity and of “walking according to the flesh.” Is Paul “all-too-human,” so that his pastoral sensitivity is often overshadowed by his sinful human nature? Perhaps — as is the case with all of us. Still, Paul believes that he has reason to speak boldly, and sometimes too boldly, as he seeks to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God…ready to punish every disobedience.”
Boldness and humility. We struggle with that, ourselves, every day. This fourth Sunday in Advent, we are reminded of the song of Mary, upon the visit by the angel, announcing her conception by the Holy Spirit and the birth of Jesus, who would be called holy and Son of God. It is full of the contrast between boldness, arrogance, our haughty human nature, and the willing humility of the mother of Jesus. And Mary said,
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever (Luke 1:46-55).
Our God casts down the mighty and lifts up the lowly. Our God fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty. His royal Son is born in a livestock barn, while Herod, the king, lives in a palace. And how will this turn out? The rich and kingly are thrown down, while the poor and unassuming are raised up. Raised up — as on a cross…
Prayer: Almighty God, Father of Jesus, create in us clean and humble hearts as we prepare to celebrate the mystery of Christmas. Amen.
Advent action: Be bold, and humbly remind someone that Christmas is still about the birth of Jesus, Son of God and Savior of the world!
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.
19:1 This is an oracle about Egypt:
Look, the Lord rides on a swift-moving cloud
and approaches Egypt.
The idols of Egypt tremble before him;
the Egyptians lose their courage.
2“I will provoke civil strife in Egypt:
brothers will fight with one another,
as will neighbors,
cities, and kingdoms.
3The Egyptians will panic,
and I will confuse their strategy.
They will seek guidance from the idols and from the spirits of the dead,
from the pits used to conjure up underworld spirits, and from the magicians.
4I will hand Egypt over to a harsh master;
a powerful king will rule over them,”
says the Sovereign Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
5The water of the sea will be dried up,
and the river will dry up and be empty.
6The canals will stink;
the streams of Egypt will trickle and then dry up;
the bulrushes and reeds will decay,
7along with the plants by the mouth of the river.
All the cultivated land near the river
will turn to dust and be blown away.
8The fishermen will mourn and lament;
all those who cast a fishhook into the river,
and those who spread out a net on the water’s surface will grieve.
9Those who make clothes from combed flax will be embarrassed;
those who weave will turn pale.
10Those who make cloth will be demoralized;
all the hired workers will be depressed.
11The officials of Zoan are nothing but fools;
Pharaoh’s wise advisers give stupid advice.
How dare you say to Pharaoh,
“I am one of the sages,
one well versed in the writings of the ancient kings”?
12But where, oh where, are your wise men?
Let them tell you, let them find out
what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has planned for Egypt.
13The officials of Zoan are fools,
the officials of Memphis are misled;
the rulers of her tribes lead Egypt astray.
14The Lord has made them undiscerning;
they lead Egypt astray in all she does,
so that she is like a drunk sliding around in his own vomit.
15Egypt will not be able to do a thing,
head or tail, shoots or stalk.(NET Bible)
143:1 A psalm of David.
O Lord, hear my prayer.
Pay attention to my plea for help.
Because of your faithfulness and justice, answer me.
2Do not sit in judgment on your servant,
for no one alive is innocent before you.
3Certainly my enemies chase me.
They smash me into the ground.
They force me to live in dark regions,
like those who have been dead for ages.
4My strength leaves me;
I am absolutely shocked.
5I recall the old days.
I meditate on all you have done;
I reflect on your accomplishments.
6I spread my hands out to you in prayer;
my soul thirsts for you in a parched land.(Selah)
7Answer me quickly, Lord.
My strength is fading.
Do not reject me,
or I will join those descending into the grave.
8May I hear about your loyal love in the morning,
for I trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
because I long for you.
9Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord.
I run to you for protection.
10Teach me to do what pleases you,
for you are my God.
May your kind presence
lead me into a level land.
11O Lord, for the sake of your reputation, revive me.
Because of your justice, rescue me from trouble.
12As a demonstration of your loyal love, destroy my enemies.
Annihilate all who threaten my life,
for I am your servant.(NET Bible)
2 Cor. 10:1–6
10:1 Now I, Paul, appeal to you personally by the meekness and gentleness of Christ (I who am meek when present among you, but am full of courage toward you when away!)— 2now I ask that when I am present I may not have to be bold with the confidence that (I expect) I will dare to use against some who consider us to be behaving according to human standards. 3For though we live as human beings, we do not wage war according to human standards, 4for the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down arguments 5and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ. 6We are also ready to punish every act of disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. (NET Bible)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
[Luther writes]: “If I am to examine the spirit I must have the Word of God; this must be the rule, the touchstone, the lapis lydius, the light by means of which I can see what is black and what white.” … “ is is decisive; it does not matter what name he [the preacher] has, if he only teaches faithfully … has the Word of God as a plumb line.” … “What then, will you do? Will you condemn them? No, I do not want to condemn Benedictum and others, but I will take their books and go with them to Christ and his Word as the touchstone and compare the two.” … “If one says, the church or the bishops decided this, then answer: Come, let us go to the touchstone and let us measure with the right yard- stick and examine whether it agrees with the Pater Noster and with the Articles of Faith and whether he also preach forgiveness of sins. If it agrees with what Christ taught us, then let us accept it and do according to it.” (81)
[Luther writes:] “Paul takes them all together, himself, an angel from heaven, teachers upon earth, and masters of all kinds, and subjects them to the holy Scripture. Scripture must reign as queen (haec regina debet dominari), her all must obey and be subject to. Not teachers, judges, or arbiters over her, but they must be simple witnesses, pupils and confessors of it, whether they may be the Pope or Luther or Augustine or Paul or an angel from heaven” … —“I let you cry in your hostility that Scripture contradicts itself, ascribing righteousness now to faith and then to works. It is impossible that Scripture contradict itself; it only seems so to foolish, coarse, and hardened hypocrites” … — “We abandon the talk of the Jews and stick to St. Paul’s understanding which, not without cause, emphasizes the little word ‘seed’ and thereby indicates that Holy Scripture in Gen. 12:3 and 22:18 speaks of a single seed not of many, and says plainly that Christ is such seed. Paul does so out of a genuine apostolic spirit and understanding. We Christians do not care if such interpretation does not please the Jews. Paul’s interpretation weighs more with us than all glosses of the rabbis” … — “One letter, even a single tittle of Scripture means more to us than heaven and earth. Therefore we cannot permit even the most minute change.” (82–83)
–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.