Readings: Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 150; 2 Peter 3:11-18; Luke 7:28-35
John the Baptist played a significant role in preparing the way for the coming of the Christ. He was the forerunner. He paved and prepared the way. He ushered in the beginning of what is often referred to as the Messianic Age. Functioning much like the Old Testament prophets, he pointed beyond himself to the promised One who was to come.
Of all people, it could easily be argued that no one who has ever lived has fulfilled their God-given role better than John. “Among those born of women,” Jesus says, “none is greater than John.” And yet, Jesus goes on to say that “the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than (John).” What is our Lord telling us?
What He is telling us is that there is a major difference between life lived prior to Jesus and life lived fully in Jesus and within His kingdom. Prior to Jesus’ appearance in this world, His life among us was a future promise. It had not yet happened. He had not yet appeared. The prophets spoke of Him. The Scriptures pointed to Him. But His appearance had not yet taken place. But once it happened and He appeared, all the promises found their fulfillment in Him. Not only was His life a fulfillment of the promises, but in His life, He was the promise. Jesus was the Christ. Jesus was the One promised of old, the fulfillment of all to which the Old Testament prophets had pointed.
The irony in this passage, as well as in the life of Jesus, was the fact that many of the common people, including those referred to as “the tax collectors and sinners,” recognized Jesus as the fulfillment that He was, while the religious leaders, the ones who knew the Scriptures well, were the very ones who were unwilling to believe and to trust. Their trust was in themselves. Their faith was in what they wanted for themselves to be right. Their “wisdom” was only able to see as far as their personal and self-justifying concerns.
No matter how it was presented, they consistently found fault. John the Baptist ate little and drank nothing alcoholic, and they claimed, “he had a demon.” Jesus was willing to eat and to drink and to celebrate with the rest, and they called Him “a drunkard and a friend of sinners.” No matter what happened, they would not accept it. No matter what was done and through whom it was done, it was never finally enough.
Little did they know that Jesus’ very reason for being born was to become the fulfillment of everything God had promised. “Friend of sinners?” Thank God, He was. Willing to love the unlovable? We should be eternally grateful. All the way from heaven to this earth. All the way from the manger to the cross. Nothing could stop the love of God in Jesus. Nothing could stand in the way of God’s saving plan made real and fulfilled in Christ.
The question for us today is one of where we place our trust and where, and in whom, we find our hope. If we find it in anything but God’s saving plan and purpose in Christ, it is misguided. If we place it in anything other than what God has promised and fulfilled in Jesus, it will leave us empty and foolish. But if our hope is in Christ and our trust is in Him, then not only will we be wise, but we will eternally be numbered among those considered by Jesus to be “greater than John.”
Today is the commemoration of Nicholas, bishop of Myra. Very little is known about his life, apart from his service as bishop and the fact that he suffered torture and imprisonment during the persecution under the Emperor Diocletian. Tradition holds that he was a defender of orthodoxy against Arianism. According to one legend, he was censured by the emperor Constantine after he had dealt Arius a blow to the head during the Council of Nicaea.
Nicholas was honored as a saint in Constantinople by the emperor Justinian, who in 580 dedicated a church to him in that city. In England, almost 400 churches have since been dedicated to Nicholas, and perhaps more dedicated to him throughout the world than to any other saint. In modern times, he is most noted as a protector and benefactor of children. As with all the saints, Nicholas was willing to stand up for his faith and for his Lord. In spite of the sacrifices he made during his life, he found meaning for his life only as it was connected to Christ. May the same be said of us. May the same be found to be true in the life we live each day.
Prayer: Almighty God, we thank you for your saving plan promised and fulfilled in Jesus. Help us to be wise and to trust, each day, in what You have done and accomplished for us in Him. Amen.
Advent Action: Spend ten minutes in prayer, thanking God for the wisdom given to us in Jesus and for the fulfilled promise that belongs to us eternally in Christ.
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
10:1 On the sealed documents were the following names:
Nehemiah the governor, son of Hacaliah, along with Zedekiah,
2Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah,
3Pashhur, Amariah, Malkijah,
4Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch,
5Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah,
6Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch,
7Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin,
8Maaziah, Bilgai, and Shemaiah. These were the priests.
9The Levites were as follows:
Jeshua son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel.
10Their colleagues were as follows:
Shebaniah, Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan,
11Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah,
12Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah,
13Hodiah, Bani, and Beninu.
14The leaders of the people were as follows:
Parosh, Pahath Moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani,
15Bunni, Azgad, Bebai,
16Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin,
17Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur,
18Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai,
19Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai,
20Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir,
21Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua,
22Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah,
23Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub,
24Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek,
25Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah,
26Ahiah, Hanan, Anan,
27Malluch, Harim, and Baanah.
28“Now the rest of the people—the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple attendants, and all those who have separated themselves from the neighboring peoples because of the law of God, along with their wives, their sons, and their daughters, all of whom are able to understand— 29hereby participate with their colleagues the town leaders and enter into a curse and an oath to adhere to the law of God which was given through Moses the servant of God, and to obey carefully all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, along with his ordinances and his statutes.
30“We will not give our daughters in marriage to the neighboring peoples, and we will not take their daughters in marriage for our sons. 31We will not buy on the Sabbath or on a holy day from the neighboring peoples who bring their wares and all kinds of grain to sell on the Sabbath day. We will let the fields lie fallow every seventh year, and we will cancel every loan. 32We accept responsibility for fulfilling the commands to give one-third of a shekel each year for the work of the temple of our God, 33for the loaves of presentation and for the regular grain offerings and regular burnt offerings, for the Sabbaths, for the new moons, for the appointed meetings, for the holy offerings, for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the temple of our God.
34“We—the priests, the Levites, and the people—have cast lots concerning the wood offerings, to bring them to the temple of our God according to our families at the designated times year by year to burn on the altar of the Lord our God, as is written in the law. 35We also accept responsibility for bringing the firstfruits of our land and the firstfruits of every fruit tree year by year to the temple of the Lord. 36We also accept responsibility, as is written in the law, for bringing the firstborn of our sons and our cattle and the firstborn of our herds and of our flocks to the temple of our God, to the priests who are ministering in the temple of our God. 37We will also bring the first of our coarse meal, of our contributions, of the fruit of every tree, of new wine, and of olive oil to the priests at the storerooms of the temple of our God, along with a tenth of the produce of our land to the Levites, for the Levites are the ones who collect the tithes in all the cities where we work. 38A priest of Aaron’s line will be with the Levites when the Levites collect the tithes, and the Levites will bring up a tenth of the tithes to the temple of our God, to the storerooms of the treasury. 39The Israelites and the Levites will bring the contribution of the grain, the new wine, and the olive oil to the storerooms where the utensils of the sanctuary are kept, and where the priests who minister stay, along with the gatekeepers and the singers. We will not neglect the temple of our God.”(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)
4:1 After these things I looked, and there was a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said: “Come up here so that I can show you what must happen after these things.” 2Immediately I was in the Spirit, and a throne was standing in heaven with someone seated on it! 3And the one seated on it was like jasper and carnelian in appearance, and a rainbow looking like it was made of emerald encircled the throne. 4In a circle around the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on those thrones were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white clothing and had golden crowns on their heads. 5From the throne came out flashes of lightning and roaring and crashes of thunder. Seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God, were burning in front of the throne, 6and in front of the throne was something like a sea of glass, like crystal.
In the middle of the throne and around the throne were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. 7The first living creature was like a lion, the second creature like an ox, the third creature had a face like a man’s, and the fourth creature looked like an eagle flying. 8Each one of the four living creatures had six wings and was full of eyes all around and inside. They never rest day or night, saying:
“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, the All-Powerful,
Who was, and who is, and who is still to come!”
9And whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the one who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders throw themselves to the ground before the one who sits on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever, and they offer their crowns before his throne, saying:
11“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
since you created all things,
and because of your will they existed and were created!”(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.