Readings: Isaiah 5:8-17; Psalm 145; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Luke 21:20-28
While our North American culture seems to celebrate Christmas more as a secular holiday, the Church values Advent as a time for spiritual reflection and meditation. We reserve most of the focus on prophecies about the Babe of Bethlehem for later in December, hearing about John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph the third and fourth Sundays in Advent. The first two weeks follow closely the themes laid out on the last Sunday of the Church year, Christ the King Sunday, when we hear of Jesus returning in power and glory. This is true also in the daily lectionary which we are following in these devotions.
This explains, then, the reading above about the destruction and desolation of Jerusalem, days of vengeance, great distress and wrath, signs in sun, moon and stars, people fainting with fear and foreboding of what is coming on the world. “For the powers of the heavens will be shaken,” says the Lord Jesus. And what a prophecy! From the Lord, Himself! Who would want to be alive to witness such upheaval? And why does the Lord share this with His followers? We might be better off not knowing what is to come. And yet, the Lord wants us to be prepared, watching and waiting. The Lord wants us to be aware of the times and signs so that when that day comes, it will not catch us unaware. Rather, Jesus says, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” The Lord shares these things with us so that we will better understand the “birth pangs” of the coming of the new age (Matthew 24:8). Even more, He wants us to understand them so that we will attend to His coming — not cowering in fear, but standing straight, with heads up and looking for Him as He comes.
Prayer: Oh, come, oh come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear. Amen.
Advent Action: Learn something about Ambrose, bishop of Milan. His Advent hymn says, “All praise, eternal Son, to Thee, whose advent sets Thy people free.” Here is a link to information on the bishop: oca.org/saints/lives/2020/12/07/103485-saint-ambrose-bishop-of-milan
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
11:1 So the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem, while the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten to settle in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the other nine remained in other cities. 2The people gave their blessing on all the men who volunteered to settle in Jerusalem.
3These are the provincial leaders who settled in Jerusalem. (While other Israelites, the priests, the Levites, the temple attendants, and the sons of the servants of Solomon settled in the cities of Judah, each on his own property in their cities, 4some of the descendants of Judah and some of the descendants of Benjamin settled in Jerusalem.)
Of the descendants of Judah:
Athaiah son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalalel, from the descendants of Perez; 5and Maaseiah son of Baruch, the son of Col-Hozeh, the son of Hazaiah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Joiarib, the son of Zechariah, from the descendants of Shelah. 6The sum total of the descendants of Perez who were settling in Jerusalem was 468 exceptional men.
7These are the descendants of Benjamin:
Sallu son of Meshullam, the son of Joed, the son of Pedaiah, the son of Kolaiah, the son of Maaseiah, the son of Ithiel, the son of Jeshaiah, 8and his followers, Gabbai and Sallai—928 in all. 9Joel son of Zicri was the officer in charge of them, and Judah son of Hassenuah was second-in-command over the city.
10From the priests:
Jedaiah son of Joiarib, Jakin, 11Seraiah son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, supervisor in the temple of God, 12and their colleagues who were carrying out work for the temple—822; and Adaiah son of Jeroham, the son of Pelaliah, the son of Amzi, the son of Zechariah, the son of Pashhur, the son of Malkijah, 13and his colleagues who were heads of families—242; and Amashsai son of Azarel, the son of Ahzai, the son of Meshillemoth, the son of Immer, 14and his colleagues who were exceptional men—128. The officer over them was Zabdiel the son of Haggedolim.
15From the Levites:
Shemaiah son of Hasshub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Bunni; 16Shabbethai and Jozabad, leaders of the Levites, were in charge of the external work for the temple of God; 17Mattaniah son of Mica, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, the praise leader who led in thanksgiving and prayer; Bakbukiah, second among his colleagues; and Abda son of Shammua, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun. 18The sum total of the Levites in the holy city was 284.
19And the gatekeepers:
Akkub, Talmon, and their colleagues who were guarding the gates—172.
20And the rest of the Israelites, with the priests and the Levites, were in all the cities of Judah, each on his own property.
21The temple attendants were living on Ophel, and Ziha and Gishpa were over them.
22The overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Mica. He was one of Asaph’s descendants, who were the singers responsible for the service of the temple of God. 23For they were under royal orders which determined their activity day by day.
24Pethahiah son of Meshezabel, one of the descendants of Zerah son of Judah, was an adviser to the king in every matter pertaining to the people.
25As for the settlements with their fields, some of the people of Judah settled in Kiriath Arba and its neighboring villages, in Dibon and its villages, in Jekabzeel and its settlements, 26in Jeshua, in Moladah, in Beth Pelet, 27in Hazar Shual, in Beer Sheba and its villages, 28in Ziklag, in Meconah and its villages, 29in En Rimmon, in Zorah, in Jarmuth, 30Zanoah, Adullam and their settlements, in Lachish and its fields, and in Azekah and its villages. So they were encamped from Beer Sheba to the Valley of Hinnom.
31Some of the descendants of Benjamin settled in Geba, Micmash, Aija, Bethel and its villages, 32in Anathoth, Nob, and Ananiah, 33in Hazor, Ramah, and Gittaim, 34in Hadid, Zeboyim, and Neballat, 35in Lod, Ono, and the Valley of the Craftsmen. 36Some of the Judean divisions of the Levites settled in Benjamin.(NET Bible)
128:1 A song of ascents.
How blessed is every one of the Lord’s loyal followers,
each one who keeps his commands.
2You will eat what you worked so hard to grow.
You will be blessed and secure.
3Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
in the inner rooms of your house;
your children will be like olive branches,
as they sit all around your table.
4Yes indeed, the man who fears the Lord
will be blessed in this way.
5May the Lord bless you from Zion
that you might see Jerusalem prosper
all the days of your life,
6and that you might see your grandchildren.
May Israel experience peace.(NET Bible)
5:1 Then I saw in the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne a scroll written on the front and back and sealed with seven seals. 2And I saw a powerful angel proclaiming in a loud voice: “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to break its seals?” 3But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or look into it. 4So I began weeping bitterly because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered; thus he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
6Then I saw standing in the middle of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the middle of the elders, a Lamb that appeared to have been killed. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7Then he came and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne, 8and when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders threw themselves to the ground before the Lamb. Each of them had a harp and golden bowls full of incense (which are the prayers of the saints). 9They were singing a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals
because you were killed,
and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God
persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation.
10You have appointed them as a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
11Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels in a circle around the throne, as well as the living creatures and the elders. Their number was ten thousand times ten thousand—thousands times thousands— 12all of whom were singing in a loud voice:
“Worthy is the lamb who was killed
to receive power and wealth
and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and praise!”
13Then I heard every creature—in heaven, on earth, under the earth, in the sea, and all that is in them—singing:
“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise, honor, glory, and ruling power forever and ever!”
14And the four living creatures were saying “Amen,” and the elders threw themselves to the ground and worshiped.(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.