Home > Reading > Daily Reading – December 23, 2020

Readings: Isaiah 29:9-24; Psalm 17; Revelation 21:9-21; Luke 1:26-38


In the Apostle’s Creed, we confess, “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.”

For all the trappings of Christmas, literally, the “Christ-mass,” it is finally all about God become flesh in Jesus, God the Father’s only Son. And this Jesus became flesh being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the young maid, Mary, so that He would be Son of God and man! As inconceivable as this is to modern, rational, reasonable minds, the angel answers, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Had Jesus not been God, in the flesh, He would’ve been only a useful spiritual guide, a worthy teacher, a guru deserving of our attention. Jesus offers helpful advice on loving your neighbor, caring for the poor and needy, doing good for the sake of others — as do so many other religious figures in the history of the world. To be Savior of the world? This Jesus, born of Mary, must be “Son of the Most High God!” This is the meaning of the message sent through Gabriel — that this child would be God and man, two natures in one being, to be one with us, yet Son of God, come down from heaven to suffer under Pontius Pilate, be crucified, die and be buried. This Son of the Most High would descend into hell, yet on the third day rise again, ascend into heaven and sit at the right hand of His Father. The Son would come again to judge the living and the dead. This is why we confirm our faith, saying, “I believe that this Jesus, true God and true man, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, delivered me from all sins from death and from the power of the devil…that I may be His own…and serve Him.” (Luther’s Small Catechism, Explanation of the Second Article.)

Prayer: Lord, I am Your servant. Let my life be according to Your word. Amen.

Advent Action: Read the Small Catechism on the Creed, bookofconcord.org

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.

We would like to consider these devotions a conversation. Email the authors if you would like to comment or share a thought, [email protected] or [email protected].

READING THE WORD OF GOD GUIDE

Zech. 12

12:1 This is an oracle, the Lord’s message concerning Israel: The Lord—he who stretches out the heavens and lays the foundations of the earth, who forms the human spirit within a person—says, 2“I am about to make Jerusalem a cup that brings dizziness to all the surrounding nations; indeed, Judah will also be included when Jerusalem is besieged. 3Moreover, on that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy burden for all the nations, and all who try to carry it will be seriously injured; yet all the peoples of the earth will be assembled against it. 4On that day,” says the Lord, “I will strike every horse with confusion and its rider with madness. I will pay close attention to the house of Judah, but will strike all the horses of the nations with blindness. 5Then the leaders of Judah will say to themselves, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem are a means of strength to us through their God, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.’ 6On that day I will make the leaders of Judah like an igniter among sticks and a burning torch among sheaves, and they will burn up all the surrounding nations right and left. Then the people of Jerusalem will settle once more in their place, the city of Jerusalem. 7The Lord also will deliver the homes of Judah first, so that the splendor of the kingship of David and of the people of Jerusalem may not exceed that of Judah. 8On that day the Lord himself will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the weakest among them will be like mighty David, and the dynasty of David will be like God, like the angel of the Lord before them. 9So on that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.

10“I will pour out on the kingship of David and the population of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication so that they will look to me, the one they have pierced. They will lament for him as one laments for an only son, and there will be a bitter cry for him like the bitter cry for a firstborn. 11On that day the lamentation in Jerusalem will be as great as the lamentation at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12The land will mourn, each clan by itself—the clan of the royal household of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the clan of the family of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; 13the clan of the descendants of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; and the clan of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; 14all the clans that remain, each separately with their wives.

(NET Bible)

Ps. 144

144:1 By David.

The Lord, my Protector, deserves praise—

the one who trains my hands for battle

and my fingers for war,

2who loves me and is my stronghold,

my refuge and my deliverer,

my shield and the one in whom I take shelter,

who makes nations submit to me.

3O Lord, of what importance is the human race that you should notice them?

Of what importance is mankind that you should be concerned about them?

4People are like a vapor,

their days like a shadow that disappears.

5O Lord, make the sky sink and come down.

Touch the mountains and make them smolder.

6Hurl lightning bolts and scatter the enemy.

Shoot your arrows and rout them.

7Reach down from above.

Grab me and rescue me from the surging water,

from the power of foreigners

8who speak lies,

and make false promises.

9O God, I will sing a new song to you.

Accompanied by a ten-stringed instrument, I will sing praises to you,

10the one who delivers kings

and rescued David his servant from a deadly sword.

11Grab me and rescue me from the power of foreigners

who speak lies

and make false promises.

12Then our sons will be like plants,

that quickly grow to full size.

Our daughters will be like corner pillars,

carved like those in a palace.

13Our storehouses will be full,

providing all kinds of food.

Our sheep will multiply by the thousands

and fill our pastures.

14Our cattle will be weighted down with produce.

No one will break through our walls,

no one will be taken captive,

and there will be no terrified cries in our city squares.

15How blessed are the people who experience these things.

How blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.

(NET Bible)

Rev. 19:1–21

19:1 After these things I heard what sounded like the loud voice of a vast throng in heaven, saying,

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,

2because his judgments are true and just.

For he has judged the great prostitute

who corrupted the earth with her sexual immorality,

and has avenged the blood of his servants poured out by her own hands!”

3Then a second time the crowd shouted, “Hallelujah!” The smoke rises from her forever and ever. 4The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures threw themselves to the ground and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne, saying: “Amen! Hallelujah!”

5Then a voice came from the throne, saying:

“Praise our God

all you his servants,

and all you who fear him,

both the small and the great!”

6Then I heard what sounded like the voice of a vast throng, like the roar of many waters and like loud crashes of thunder. They were shouting:

“Hallelujah!

For the Lord our God, the All-Powerful, reigns!

7Let us rejoice and exult

and give him glory,

because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come,

and his bride has made herself ready.

8She was permitted to be dressed in bright, clean, fine linen” (for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints).

9Then the angel said to me, “Write the following: Blessed are those who are invited to the banquet at the wedding celebration of the Lamb!” He also said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10So I threw myself down at his feet to worship him, but he said, “Do not do this! I am only a fellow servant with you and your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony about Jesus. Worship God, for the testimony about Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

11Then I saw heaven opened and here came a white horse! The one riding it was called “Faithful” and “True,” and with justice he judges and goes to war. 12His eyes are like a fiery flame and there are many diadem crowns on his head. He has a name written that no one knows except himself. 13He is dressed in clothing dipped in blood, and he is called the Word of God. 14The armies that are in heaven, dressed in white, clean, fine linen, were following him on white horses. 15From his mouth extends a sharp sword so that with it he can strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he stomps the winepress of the furious wrath of God, the All-Powerful. 16He has a name written on his clothing and on his thigh: “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

17Then I saw one angel standing in the sun, and he shouted in a loud voice to all the birds flying high in the sky:

“Come, gather around for the great banquet of God,

18to eat your fill of the flesh of kings,

the flesh of generals,

the flesh of powerful people,

the flesh of horses and those who ride them,

and the flesh of all people, both free and slave,

and small and great!”

19Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to do battle with the one who rode the horse and with his army. 20Now the beast was seized, and along with him the false prophet who had performed the signs on his behalf—signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. Both of them were thrown alive into the lake of fire burning with sulfur. 21The others were killed by the sword that extended from the mouth of the one who rode the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves with their flesh.

(NET Bible)

[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.

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