Readings: Isaiah 4:2-6; Psalm 90; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Luke 21:5-19
If there is one verse which presents the main theme of these words of Jesus, it would surely be, “This will be your opportunity to bear witness.” The nrsv has it, “This will give you an opportunity to testify.” The nlt paraphrases, “But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.”
Many spend their whole lives trying to figure out the exact timing of Jesus’ words. As in our reading, some want to know, “Lord, when will these things be?” Jesus warns us not to go after those who think they have it all figured out. There will be upheavals and natural disasters and pandemics — there will be terrors and signs from heaven, but first, persecutions and opposition to the truth, and trials before kings and governors, for my name’s sake. What is important is not the timing — but the opportunity! What is important is not that we have figured out a specific timetable to these events, but that we seize the opportunities placed before us — to bear witness — to testify — to tell them about Jesus.
Bearing witness and testifying — is a little off-putting for most Lutherans, and maybe many Christians. “Telling others about Jesus” — that we can do. Humbly, genuinely, honestly, simply, most of us can tell others about Jesus, whether it’s kings and governors or children and grandchildren, our next-door neighbor or someone we meet in the course of our day. It doesn’t require memorizing the Bible or spouting theology — it means, as Luther said, “one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread” — the Bread of Life.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me the opportunity and the words to tell others about You! Amen.
Advent Action: You guessed it — tell someone about Jesus today!
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
9:16 “But they—our ancestors—behaved presumptuously; they rebelled and did not obey your commandments. 17They refused to obey and did not recall your miracles that you had performed among them. Instead, they rebelled and appointed a leader to return to their bondage in Egypt. But you are a God of forgiveness, merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and unfailing in your loyal love. You did not abandon them, 18even when they made a cast image of a calf for themselves and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up from Egypt,’ or when they committed atrocious blasphemies.
19“Due to your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud did not stop guiding them in the path by day, nor did the pillar of fire stop illuminating for them by night the path on which they should travel. 20You imparted your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths; you provided water for their thirst. 21For 40 years you sustained them. Even in the wilderness they never lacked anything. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.
22“You gave them kingdoms and peoples, and you allocated them to every corner of the land. They inherited the land of King Sihon of Heshbon and the land of King Og of Bashan. 23You multiplied their descendants like the stars of the sky. You brought them to the land you had told their ancestors to enter in order to possess. 24Their descendants entered and possessed the land. You subdued before them the Canaanites who were the inhabitants of the land. You delivered them into their hand, together with their kings and the peoples of the land, to deal with as they pleased. 25They captured fortified cities and fertile land. They took possession of houses full of all sorts of good things—wells previously dug, vineyards, olive trees, and fruit trees in abundance. They ate until they were full and grew fat. They enjoyed to the full your great goodness.
26“Nonetheless they grew disobedient and rebelled against you; they disregarded your law. They killed your prophets who had solemnly admonished them in order to cause them to return to you. They committed atrocious blasphemies. 27Therefore you delivered them into the hand of their adversaries, who oppressed them. But in the time of their distress they called to you, and you heard from heaven. In your abundant compassion you provided them with deliverers to rescue them from their adversaries.
28“Then, when they were at rest again, they went back to doing evil before you. Then you abandoned them to their enemies, and they gained dominion over them. When they again cried out to you, in your compassion you heard from heaven and rescued them time and again. 29And you solemnly admonished them in order to return them to your law, but they behaved presumptuously and did not obey your commandments. They sinned against your ordinances—those by which an individual, if he obeys them, will live. They boldly turned from you; they rebelled and did not obey. 30You prolonged your kindness with them for many years, and you solemnly admonished them by your Spirit through your prophets. Still they paid no attention, so you delivered them into the hands of the neighboring peoples. 31However, due to your abundant mercy you did not do away with them altogether; you did not abandon them. For you are a merciful and compassionate God.
32“So now, our God—the great, powerful, and awesome God, who keeps covenant fidelity—do not regard as inconsequential all the hardship that has befallen us—our kings, our leaders, our priests, our prophets, our ancestors, and all your people—from the days of the kings of Assyria until this very day. 33You are righteous with regard to all that has happened to us, for you have acted faithfully. It is we who have been in the wrong! 34Our kings, our leaders, our priests, and our ancestors have not kept your law. They have not paid attention to your commandments or your testimonies by which you have solemnly admonished them. 35Even when they were in their kingdom and benefiting from your incredible goodness that you had lavished on them in the spacious and fertile land you had set before them, they did not serve you, nor did they turn from their evil practices.
36“So today we are slaves! In the very land you gave to our ancestors to eat its fruit and to enjoy its good things—we are slaves. 37Its abundant produce goes to the kings you have placed over us due to our sins. They rule over our bodies and our livestock as they see fit, and we are in great distress!
38(10:1) “Because of all this we are entering into a binding covenant in written form; our leaders, our Levites, and our priests have affixed their names on the sealed document.”(NET Bible)
126:1 A song of ascents.
When the Lord restored the well-being of Zion,
we thought we were dreaming.
2At that time we laughed loudly
and shouted for joy.
At that time the nations said,
“The Lord has accomplished great things for these people.”
3The Lord did indeed accomplish great things for us.
We were happy.
4O Lord, restore our well-being,
just as the streams in the arid south are replenished.
5Those who shed tears as they plant
will shout for joy when they reap the harvest.
6The one who weeps as he walks along, carrying his bag of seed,
will certainly come in with a shout of joy, carrying his sheaves of grain.(NET Bible)
3:13 The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
14“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write the following:
“This is the solemn pronouncement of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation: 15‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! 16So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth! 17Because you say, “I am rich and have acquired great wealth, and need nothing,” but do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, 18take my advice and buy gold from me refined by fire so you can become rich! Buy from me white clothing so you can be clothed and your shameful nakedness will not be exposed, and buy eye salve to put on your eyes so you can see! 19All those I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent! 20Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me. 21I will grant the one who conquers permission to sit with me on my throne, just as I, too, conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22The 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.