Readings: Isaiah 28:9-22; Psalm 94; Revelation 20:11-21:8; Luke 1:5-25
As we are now in the week of Christmas, it is good for us to have this extended reading about the promise made to Zechariah and Elizabeth and the fulfillment of that promise. It is a vivid and reassuring reminder to us that God had a plan for the salvation of the world and here we see it unfolding in the life of the parents of John.
This reading is also a reminder to you and to me, that God has a plan for us, as well. We sometimes doubt and question because we have no angelic visitation laying out God’s plan for us. If only Gabriel would come to us, just once when we are struggling, to bring us good news of God’s strategy and intention. And yet, isn’t it clear? God’s plan for you — is to know Jesus Christ as your Savior, Shepherd and Friend, to know that He is with you always, and that He wants you, in whatever way possible, to be a burning and shining lamp in darkness.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, be light for my path and guide my way. Amen.
Advent Action: Looking back on the year now drawing to a close, consider three ways God has acted in your life, and share that with someone else.
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
11:1 Open your gates, Lebanon,
so that the fire may consume your cedars.
2Howl, fir tree,
because the cedar has fallen;
the majestic trees have been destroyed.
Howl, oaks of Bashan,
because the impenetrable forest has fallen.
3Listen to the howling of shepherds,
because their magnificence has been destroyed.
Listen to the roaring of young lions,
because the thickets of the Jordan have been devastated.
4The Lord my God says this: “Shepherd the flock set aside for slaughter. 5Those who buy them slaughter them and are not held guilty; those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich.’ Their own shepherds have no compassion for them. 6Indeed, I will no longer have compassion on the people of the land,” says the Lord, “but instead I will turn every last person over to his neighbor and his king. They will devastate the land, and I will not deliver it from them.”
7So I began to shepherd the flock destined for slaughter, the most afflicted of all the flock. Then I took two staffs, calling one “Pleasantness” and the other “Union,” and I tended the flock. 8Next I eradicated the three shepherds in one month, for I ran out of patience with them and, indeed, they detested me as well. 9I then said, “I will not shepherd you. What is to die, let it die, and what is to be eradicated, let it be eradicated. As for those who survive, let them eat each other’s flesh!”
10Then I took my staff “Pleasantness” and cut it in two to annul my covenant that I had made with all the people. 11So it was annulled that very day, and then the most afflicted of the flock who kept faith with me knew that it was the Lord’s message.
12Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, pay me my wages, but if not, forget it.” So they weighed out my payment—30 pieces of silver. 13The Lord then said to me, “Throw to the potter that exorbitant sum at which they valued me!” So I took the 30 pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the temple of the Lord. 14Then I cut the second staff “Union” in two in order to annul the covenant of brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
15Again the Lord said to me, “Take up once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd. 16Indeed, I am about to raise up a shepherd in the land who will not take heed of the sheep headed to slaughter, will not seek the scattered, and will not heal the injured. Moreover, he will not nourish the one that is healthy, but instead will eat the meat of the fat sheep and tear off their hooves.
17“Woe to the worthless shepherd
who abandons the flock!
May a sword fall on his arm and his right eye!
May his arm wither completely away
and his right eye become completely blind!”(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)
18:1 After these things I saw another angel, who possessed great authority, coming down out of heaven, and the earth was lit up by his radiance. 2He shouted with a powerful voice:
“Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the great!
She has become a lair for demons,
a haunt for every unclean spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
a haunt for every unclean and detested beast.
3For all the nations have fallen from
the wine of her immoral passion,
and the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality with her,
and the merchants of the earth have gotten rich from the power of her sensual behavior.”
4Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, so you will not take part in her sins and so you will not receive her plagues, 5because her sins have piled up all the way to heaven and God has remembered her crimes. 6Repay her the same way she repaid others; pay her back double corresponding to her deeds. In the cup she mixed, mix double the amount for her. 7As much as she exalted herself and lived in sensual luxury, to this extent give her torment and grief because she said to herself, ‘I rule as queen and am no widow; I will never experience grief!’ 8For this reason, she will experience her plagues in a single day: disease, mourning, and famine, and she will be burned down with fire, because the Lord God who judges her is powerful!”
9Then the kings of the earth who committed immoral acts with her and lived in sensual luxury with her will weep and wail for her when they see the smoke from the fire that burns her up. 10They will stand a long way off because they are afraid of her torment, and will say,
“Woe, woe, O great city,
Babylon the powerful city!
For in a single hour your doom has come!”
11Then the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn for her because no one buys their cargo any longer— 12cargo such as gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all sorts of things made of citron wood, all sorts of objects made of ivory, all sorts of things made of expensive wood, bronze, iron and marble, 13cinnamon, spice, incense, perfumed ointment, frankincense, wine, olive oil and costly flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and four-wheeled carriages, slaves and human lives.
14(The ripe fruit you greatly desired
has gone from you,
and all your luxury and splendor
have gone from you—
they will never ever be found again!)
15The merchants who sold these things, who got rich from her, will stand a long way off because they are afraid of her torment. They will weep and mourn, 16saying,
“Woe, woe, O great city—
dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet clothing,
and adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls—
17because in a single hour such great wealth has been destroyed!”
And every ship’s captain, and all who sail along the coast—seamen, and all who make their living from the sea, stood a long way off 18and began to shout when they saw the smoke from the fire that burned her up, “Who is like the great city?” 19And they threw dust on their heads and were shouting with weeping and mourning,
“Woe, Woe, O great city—
in which all those who had ships on the sea got rich from her wealth—
because in a single hour she has been destroyed!”
20(Rejoice over her, O heaven,
and you saints and apostles and prophets,
for God has pronounced judgment against her on your behalf!)
21Then one powerful angel picked up a stone like a huge millstone, threw it into the sea, and said,
“With this kind of sudden violent force
Babylon the great city will be thrown down,
and it will never be found again!
22And the sound of the harpists, musicians,
flute players, and trumpeters
will never be heard in you again.
No craftsman who practices any trade
will ever be found in you again;
the noise of a mill will never be heard in you again.
23Even the light from a lamp
will never shine in you again!
The voices of the bridegroom and his bride
will never be heard in you again.
For your merchants were the tycoons of the world,
because all the nations were deceived by your magic spells!
24The blood of the saints and prophets was found in her,
along with the blood of all those who had been killed on 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.