Thursday of the Week of Advent I
Based on 1 Corinthians 15:1-34
Fictitious race car driver, Ricky Bobby, in the movie “Talladega Nights” prefers to think of and pray to Baby Jesus, “Eight-pound, six-ounce Newborn Baby Jesus…so cuddly but still omnipotent.” (Never thought you’d find that reference in a devotion, didn’t you?)
Of course, we all love the image of Jesus as a baby, “no crib for his bed,” “holy infant, so tender and mild.” Martin Luther loved to focus on the nativity of our Lord, writing, “Behold Christ lying in the lap of his young mother, still a virgin. What can be sweeter than the Babe, what more lovely than the mother!” He also wrote, “Let us, then, meditate upon the Nativity just as we see it happening in our own babies. I would not have you contemplate the deity of Christ, the majesty of Christ, but rather his flesh. Look upon the Baby Jesus.” And yet, for Luther as for us, the baby lying in a manger can never be separated from the Son of God, dying on the cross! Luther proclaims, “Now is overcome the power of sin, death, hell, conscience and guilt, if you come to this gurgling Babe and believe that he is come, not to judge you, but to save” (Martin Luther’s Christmas Book).
At the beginning of Advent, it is appropriate, then, to hear Paul’s reminder to the church in Corinth. Paul reminds the Church of the truth of the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord. We are not on a journey only to Bethlehem, the stable and manger. We will arrive at Golgotha and the cross, the empty tomb and Easter morning. The message and meaning of Christmas are empty without the ever-present reality that this child, this babe born in Bethlehem, was born to be the Savior of the world. He was born to be the first fruits of those who have died, now to be raised from the dead. Let us be mindful each day during Advent that the shadow of the cross always falls across the manger. Let us never doubt the miracle of God With Us nor the Good News that Christ was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, we give thanks for your birth as a baby, to be the Savior of the world. Help us to remember your humble birth, suffering, death, and joyful resurrection. Amen.
Advent action: As you display your home/family nativity scene, include a cross in the tableau.
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.
5:1 I will sing to my love—
a song to my lover about his vineyard.
My love had a vineyard
on a fertile hill.
2He built a hedge around it, removed its stones,
and planted a vine.
He built a tower in the middle of it
and constructed a winepress.
He waited for it to produce edible grapes,
but it produced sour ones instead.
3So now, residents of Jerusalem,
people of Judah,
you decide between me and my vineyard!
4What more can I do for my vineyard
beyond what I have already done?
When I waited for it to produce edible grapes,
why did it produce sour ones instead?
5Now I will inform you
what I am about to do to my vineyard:
I will remove its hedge and turn it into pasture,
I will break its wall and allow animals to graze there.
6I will make it a wasteland;
no one will prune its vines or hoe its ground,
and thorns and briers will grow there.
I will order the clouds
not to drop any rain on it.
7Indeed, Israel is the vineyard of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
the people of Judah are the cultivated place in which he took delight.
He waited for justice, but look what he got—disobedience!
He waited for fairness, but look what he got—cries for help!
8Beware, those who accumulate houses,
who also accumulate field after field
until there is no land left,
and you are the only landowners remaining within the land.
9The Lord of Heaven’s Armies told me this:
“Many houses will certainly become desolate,
large, impressive houses will have no one living in them.
10Indeed, a large vineyard will produce just a few gallons,
and enough seed to yield several bushels will produce less than a bushel.”
11Beware, those who get up early to drink beer,
those who keep drinking long after dark
until they are intoxicated with wine.
12They have stringed instruments, tambourines, flutes,
and wine at their parties.
So they do not recognize what the Lord is doing,
they do not perceive what he is bringing about.(NET Bible)
127:1 A song of ascents; by Solomon.
If the Lord does not build a house,
then those who build it work in vain.
If the Lord does not guard a city,
then the watchman stands guard in vain.
2It is vain for you to rise early, come home late,
and work so hard for your food.
Yes, he provides for those whom he loves even when they sleep.
3Yes, sons are a gift from the Lord;
the fruit of the womb is a reward.
4Sons born during one’s youth
are like arrows in a warrior’s hand.
5How blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them.
They will not be put to shame when they confront enemies at the city gate.(NET Bible)
1 Cor. 15:1–34
15:1 Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also. 9For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11Whether then it was I or they, this is the way we preach and this is the way you believed.
12Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. 15Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. 18Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. 19For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.
20But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. 22For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him. 24Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he has brought to an end all rule and all authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be eliminated is death. 27For he has put everything in subjection under his feet. But when it says “everything” has been put in subjection, it is clear that this does not include the one who put everything in subjection to him. 28And when all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.
29Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, then why are they baptized for them? 30Why too are we in danger every hour? 31Every day I am in danger of death! This is as sure as my boasting in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32If from a human point of view I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what did it benefit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. 33Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” 34Sober up as you should, and stop sinning! For some have no knowledge of God—I say this to your shame!(NET Bible)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
[Luther writes]: “It is a notorious error to believe that by a statement such as this, ‘It is not permitted to explain Scripture by one’s own spirit’ (proprio spiritu) we are called upon to put the holy Scripture aside and to direct our attention to the commentaries of men and believe them. is explanation, I maintain, is doubtlessly invented by Satan himself that by that means he might lead us far away from Scripture and into a desperate understanding of Scripture. On the contrary, this statement wants to say that Scripture is to be understood alone through that spirit by whom it is written, which spirit you can nd more present and alive nowhere than in this holy Scripture written by him. Therefore, our endeavor must be not to put aside Scripture and to direct our attention to the human writings of the Fathers, but to spend all the more and all the more persistent labor alone on the holy Scripture, all the more since there is great danger that one might understand it with his own spirit, in order that the employment of such persistent labor might overcome that danger and finally assure us of the spirit of the Scripture which can be found nowhere else but in Scripture, for ‘here he did put up his tabernacle and in the heavens (that is, the apostles), his dwelling place.’ … Or tell me if you can, who is the judge who finally decides when two statements of the Fathers contradict themselves? Here the judgment of the Scripture decides, and this cannot be done if we do not give Scripture the first place so that Scripture itself is the most certain, the most accessible, the most readily understood which interprets itself and approves, judges, and illumines all (words) of all … as Psalm 118 (119:130) says.” (76–77)
–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.