6:67 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
– John 3:31-36
Greetings on this most holy day in the life of the Church, this most significant day in the history of our world. Without question, Christmas is the single-most important event that has ever happened. God became one of us. Jesus took on our human flesh. In so doing, He made it clear that our lives are of eternal value to Him. As a result, people throughout the world are remembering and celebrating the birth of Christ. There is more activity on this one day, tied to the work and actions of God in Christ, than perhaps any other day in the entire year. And yet, in spite of the many celebrations of Christmas, the things we do to remember and give thanks for the birth of Jesus — as appropriate as they are — today is a day centered, not in the activities of our lives and the things we do to remember Him, but in the actions He took and the things He did in remembering us.
The passage assigned for this Christmas Day is one that comes at the close of the ministry of John the Baptist. John was the forerunner of Jesus. His calling was to prepare the way for Christ. He baptized. He taught. He called people to repent of their sin. Ultimately, his ministry was to lead people to Jesus. The verse prior to the ones we read offers a good summary of what was taking place in John’s ministry and how he understood his ministry in relation to Christ. He said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” He must become greater, as I (as his forerunner) take on a less prominent role. And so, it happened. From that moment on, Jesus took center stage. And from that moment on, the entire biblical witness, as it had been throughout all of salvation history, was centered and focused in Christ.
John pulls no punches in stating the essential difference between his own ministry and that of Jesus. “He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all… For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.” In other words, this world belongs to God. God has been in control from the beginning of time. And from the beginning of time, God had planned and purposed that He would save the world in Jesus.
And so He did, by sending His Son to become one of us. When the Christ-child was born in Bethlehem, there left no doubt that our lives matter to God. Not for the moment. Not for a given and limited time. But for eternity.
Everything in your life matters to God. Everything in your life is known by God. All of your mistakes. All of your misdeeds. Everything in your life that would have separated you from Him. God knows it all. God knows everything you have done. And He still loves. He still cares for you. And He always will.
In recalling the many ways in which God had spoken to His people in the past, the writer to the Hebrews makes it clear that God has spoken even more clearly in Jesus. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:1-3)
The apostle Paul says the same thing, in his letter to the Galatians, making it clear that God has a saving purpose for us in sending His Son. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
As a result, our Lord’s birth into our world has immediate and eternal implications for our lives. His action on our behalf, in becoming one of us, leads us with no better choice than to respond to Him in lives of faith. All of history revolves around the birth of Jesus. Everything in life finds its ultimate meaning and purpose in what God has done for us in His Son. That includes your life and mine, and how, through our lives, we respond in faith to Him.
Much of our world does not know or understand the significance of this day. Many people in our world are not unaware of what this day is all about. Let it not be so with us. Let it not be so with you. God came into this world for you. He has loved you from the beginning of time, from before the time when you were born, and He always will. If ever there were any doubt about how deep and how real His love for this world is, that was all erased and washed away in the sending and the birth of Jesus. May God bless you on this most holy day, and may the blessings of God, revealed to us most clearly in the person of Jesus, continue to give you strength and encouragement to live for Him.
Prayer: Father, we thank You for this day and for the saving work You accomplished for us in Jesus. Help us to trust in Him, not only on this day when we celebrate His birth, but each day until You call us home eternally to live with You. In His name we pray. Amen.
Christmas Action: Be sure to include a prayer of thanks to God as you celebrate this day. Include that prayer with your family or friends, or simply as one between you and God. On that first Christmas, He came into this world for you. And now, on this Christmas, He is inviting you to trust in him.
Devotion written by the Rev. Dr. Daniel Selbo
Watch a video recording of the devotional daily: facebook.com/thenalc
Genesis 1:1 (Listen)
The Creation of the World
1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
1 John 4:7–16 (Listen)
God Is Love
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
John 3:31–36 (Listen)
31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Psalm 2 (Listen)
The Reign of the Lord’s Anointed
2:1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Psalm 149 (Listen)
Sing to the Lord a New Song
149:1 Praise the LORD!
Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the godly!
2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
3 Let them praise his name with dancing,
making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with salvation.
5 Let the godly exult in glory;
let them sing for joy on their beds.
6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats
and two-edged swords in their hands,
7 to execute vengeance on the nations
and punishments on the peoples,
8 to bind their kings with chains
and their nobles with fetters of iron,
9 to execute on them the judgment written!
This is honor for all his godly ones.
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 98 (Listen)
Make a Joyful Noise to the Lord
98:1 Oh sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
2 The LORD has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
4 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
5 Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody!
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!
7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who dwell in it!
8 Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
9 before the LORD, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.
Psalm 96 (Listen)
Worship in the Splendor of Holiness
96:1 Oh sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!
10 Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”
11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12 let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the LORD, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.
This daily prayer and Bible reading guide, Devoted to Prayer (based on Acts 2:42), was conceived and prepared by the Rev. Andrew S. Ames Fuller, director of communications for the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). After a challenging year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been provided with a unique opportunity to revitalize the ancient practice of daily prayer and Scripture reading in our homes. While the Reading the Word of God three-year lectionary provided a much-needed and refreshing calendar for our congregations to engage in Scripture reading, this calendar includes a missing component of daily devotion: prayer. This guide is to provide the average layperson and pastor with the simple tools for sorting through the busyness of their lives and reclaiming an act of daily discipleship with their Lord. The daily readings follow the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year daily lectionary, which reflect the church calendar closely. The commemorations are adapted from Philip H. Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals and Commemorations, a proposed common calendar of the saints that builds from the Lutheran Book of Worship, but includes saints from many of those churches in ecumenical conversation with the NALC. The introductory portion is adapted from Christ Church (Plano)’s Pray Daily. Our hope is that this calendar and guide will provide new life for congregations learning and re-learning to pray in the midst of a difficult and changing world.