Readings: Isaiah 5:18-25; Psalm 146; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28; Luke 21:29-38
We are often amazed at those, throughout history, who seem to know and understand the many signs spoken of by Jesus and other prophets throughout Holy Scripture. Yesterday we read of Jerusalem surrounded by armies, Judeans fleeing to the mountains, great distress on earth, signs in the sun, the moon and the stars. These prophecies immediately precede our reading for today, and then Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree and concludes, “when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.”
No matter how hard we might try, most of us find the signs confusing, to say the least. And the Lord tells us to beware of those who claim to have it all figured out (Luke 21:8). What I do know and understand is this: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” What I do know and understand are these words of warning: “‘But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon your suddenly like a trap…But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength.’”
In this life of distraction, temptation and sin, it is all too easy to be weighed down, burdened by the worries and cares of everyday living so that we rarely look up, hardly ever give thought to spiritual things. The Lord knew well the realities of daily life and our human nature, warranting His call to us, again and again, to watch ourselves, to stay awake and alert, praying that we would have strength to endure and to prepare. For — the Good News is — the kingdom of God is near! The Lord will come — and we hope to stand, by God’s grace and blessing, “before the Son of Man!”
Prayer: Lord our God, give us strength to escape all these things which will take place, and by Your grace and blessing, let us stand before the Son of Man when He comes. Amen.
Advent Action: Luke tells us, “And early in the morning all the people came to (Jesus) in the temple to hear him.” Rise early tomorrow morning and read the daily lesson, John 7:53-8:11.
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
12:1 These are the priests and Levites who returned with Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, 2Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, 3Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, 4Iddo, Ginnethon, Abijah, 5Mijamin, Moadiah, Bilgah, 6Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah, 7Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, and Jedaiah. These were the leaders of the priests and their colleagues in the days of Jeshua.
8And the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who together with his colleagues was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. 9Bakbukiah and Unni, their colleagues, stood opposite them in the services.
10Jeshua was the father of Joiakim, Joiakim was the father of Eliashib, Eliashib was the father of Joiada, 11Joiada was the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan was the father of Jaddua.
12In the days of Joiakim, these were the priests who were leaders of the families: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah; 13of Ezra, Meshullam; of Amariah, Jehohanan; 14of Malluch, Jonathan; of Shecaniah, Joseph; 15of Harim, Adna; of Meremoth, Helkai; 16of Iddo, Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam; 17of Abijah, Zicri; of Miniamin and of Moadiah, Piltai; 18of Bilgah, Shammua; of Shemaiah, Jehonathan; 19of Joiarib, Mattenai; of Jedaiah, Uzzi; 20of Sallu, Kallai; of Amok, Eber; 21of Hilkiah, Hashabiah; of Jedaiah, Nethanel.
22As for the Levites, in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua the heads of families were recorded, as were the priests during the reign of Darius the Persian. 23The descendants of Levi were recorded in the Book of the Chronicles as heads of families up to the days of Johanan son of Eliashib. 24And the leaders of the Levites were Hashabiah, Sherebiah, Jeshua son of Kadmiel, and their colleagues, who stood opposite them to offer praise and thanks, one contingent corresponding to the other, as specified by David the man of God.
25Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub were gatekeepers who were guarding the storerooms at the gates. 26These all served in the days of Joiakim son of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra the priestly scribe.
27At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, they sought out the Levites from all the places they lived to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication joyfully with songs of thanksgiving and songs accompanied by cymbals, harps, and lyres. 28The singers were also assembled from the district around Jerusalem and from the settlements of the Netophathites 29and from Beth Gilgal and from the fields of Geba and Azmaveth, for the singers had built settlements for themselves around Jerusalem. 30When the priests and Levites had purified themselves, they purified the people, the gates, and the wall.
31I brought the leaders of Judah up on top of the wall, and I appointed two large choirs to give thanks. One was to proceed on the top of the wall southward toward the Dung Gate. 32Going after them were Hoshaiah, half the leaders of Judah, 33Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, 34Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, Jeremiah, 35some of the priests with trumpets, Zechariah son of Jonathan, the son of Shemaiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Micaiah, the son of Zaccur, the son of Asaph, 36and his colleagues—Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani—with musical instruments of David the man of God. (Ezra the scribe led them.) 37They went over the Fountain Gate and continued directly up the steps of the City of David on the ascent to the wall. They passed the house of David and continued on to the Water Gate toward the east.
38The second choir was proceeding in the opposite direction. I followed them, along with half the people, on top of the wall, past the Tower of the Ovens to the Broad Wall, 39over the Ephraim Gate, the Jeshanah Gate, the Fish Gate, the Tower of Hananel, and the Tower of the Hundred, to the Sheep Gate. They stopped at the Gate of the Guard.
40Then the two choirs that gave thanks took their stations in the temple of God. I did also, along with half the officials with me, 41and the priests—Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with their trumpets— 42and also Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malkijah, Elam, and Ezer. The choirs sang loudly under the direction of Jezrahiah. 43And on that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced, for God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard from far away.(NET Bible)
129:1 A song of ascents.
“Since my youth they have often attacked me,”
let Israel say.
2“Since my youth they have often attacked me,
but they have not defeated me.
3The plowers plowed my back;
they made their furrows long.
4The Lord is just;
he cut the ropes of the wicked.”
5May all who hate Zion
be humiliated and turned back.
6May they be like the grass on the rooftops,
which withers before one can even pull it up,
7which cannot fill the reaper’s hand
or the lap of the one who gathers the grain.
8Those who pass by will not say,
“May you experience the Lord’s blessing!
We pronounce a blessing on you in the name of the Lord.”(NET Bible)
6:1 I looked on when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a thunderous voice, “Come!” 2So I looked, and here came a white horse! The one who rode it had a bow, and he was given a crown, and as a conqueror he rode out to conquer.
3Then when the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come!” 4And another horse, fiery red, came out, and the one who rode it was granted permission to take peace from the earth so that people would butcher one another, and he was given a huge sword.
5Then when the Lamb opened the third seal I heard the third living creature saying, “Come!” So I looked, and here came a black horse! The one who rode it had a balance scale in his hand. 6Then I heard something like a voice from among the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat will cost a day’s pay, and three quarts of barley will cost a day’s pay. But do not damage the olive oil and the wine!”
7Then when the Lamb opened the fourth seal I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come!” 8So I looked and here came a pale green horse! The name of the one who rode it was Death, and Hades followed right behind. They were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill its population with the sword, famine, and disease, and by the wild animals of the earth.
9Now when the Lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been violently killed because of the word of God and because of the testimony they had given. 10They cried out with a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Master, holy and true, before you judge those who live on the earth and avenge our blood?” 11Each of them was given a long white robe, and they were told to rest for a little longer, until the full number was reached of both their fellow servants and their brothers who were going to be killed just as they had been.
12Then I looked when the Lamb opened the sixth seal, and a huge earthquake took place; the sun became as black as sackcloth made of hair, and the full moon became blood red; 13and the stars in the sky fell to the earth like a fig tree dropping its unripe figs when shaken by a fierce wind. 14The sky was split apart like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place. 15Then the kings of the earth, the very important people, the generals, the rich, the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16They said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17because the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to withstand it?”(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.