Readings: Isaiah 2:5-22; Psalm 18:1-20; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13; Luke 20:27-40
It’s worth continuing in 1 Thessalonians for another day, as we hear Paul continuing to struggle with his forced separation from the new converts to Christianity in Thessalonica. Paul’s concern was that “these afflictions” might move these young Christians to forsake their faith and doubt the Lord Jesus. If this is what happens to followers of Jesus, they might ask, who wants to be a Christian? So, Paul sent Timothy to check up on them, to exhort them in their faith, and to “learn about (their) faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted (them) and (their) labor would be in vain.” As Timothy returned, he brought good news of the faith and love of the Thessalonians and Paul was reassured and comforted, for they were standing fast in the Lord.
In light of the months of forced distance and separation mentioned in yesterday’s devotion, it is clear that many of us worry that, during the pandemic, “the tempter is tempting” the followers of Jesus, and there will be some whose faith will be challenged and weakened. When forced into isolation by a pandemic, when finally life returns to some sense of normalcy, will the faithful remain faithful and return to worship within the Body of Christ? Our prayer is that, in spite of trial and tribulation and the tempting of the tempter, you will stand fast in the Lord, remain firm in faith, increasing and abounding in love for one and for all, as we do for you.
Prayer: God our Father and our Lord Jesus, make us increase and abound in love for one another and for you! Amen.
Advent Action: Do a little research to learn about Francis Xavier, a missionary who served in India and Asia because of his love for all God’s children.
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
8:13 On the second day of the month the family leaders met with Ezra the scribe, together with all the people, the priests, and the Levites, to consider the words of the law. 14They discovered written in the law that the Lord had commanded through Moses that the Israelites should live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month, 15and that they should make a proclamation and disseminate this message in all their cities and in Jerusalem: “Go to the hill country and bring back olive branches and branches of wild olive trees, myrtle trees, date palms, and other leafy trees to construct temporary shelters, as it is written.”
16So the people went out and brought these things back and constructed temporary shelters for themselves, each on his roof and in his courtyard and in the courtyards of the temple of God and in the plaza of the Water Gate and the plaza of the Ephraim Gate. 17So all the assembly which had returned from the exile constructed temporary shelters and lived in them. The Israelites had not done so from the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day. Everyone experienced very great joy. 18Ezra read in the book of the law of God day by day, from the first day to the last. They observed the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day they held an assembly as was required.(NET Bible)
124:1 A song of ascents; by David.
“If the Lord had not been on our side”—
let Israel say this.—
2if the Lord had not been on our side,
when men attacked us,
3they would have swallowed us alive,
when their anger raged against us.
4The water would have overpowered us;
the current would have overwhelmed us.
5The raging water
would have overwhelmed us.
6The Lord deserves praise,
for he did not hand us over as prey to their teeth.
7We escaped with our lives, like a bird from a hunter’s snare.
The snare broke, and we escaped.
8Our deliverer is the Lord,
the Creator of heaven and earth.(NET Bible)
3:1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write the following:
“This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a reputation that you are alive, but in reality you are dead. 2Wake up then, and strengthen what remains that was about to die, because I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. 3Therefore, remember what you received and heard, and obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will never know at what hour I will come against you. 4But you have a few individuals in Sardis who have not stained their clothes, and they will walk with me dressed in white because they are worthy. 5The one who conquers will be dressed like them in white clothing, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will declare his name before my Father and before his angels. 6The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’(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.