When Life Dwells Within
67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
– Luke 1:67–79 ESV
Blessed are we. My wife was pregnant with our third child. Already the parents of two sons, we decided to find out ahead of time if we were to expect a boy or girl. It didn’t matter to us. If it was a boy, we were prepared with plenty of “gently used” clothes, a basket filled with Thomas the Tank Engine trains, and enough sporting equipment to supply a chain of retail stores. We had boys. We knew boys. If we had a girl, it would be a new adventure. Either way, we’d be delighted. It didn’t matter to us, because life dwelled within.
Learning the sex of our child (our living, breathing child growing and being nurtured from within) was not the sole purpose of our visit to the Ob/Gyn that morning. Since Leslie was turning 35 years old during the pregnancy, she was clinically labeled as being of “advanced maternal age.” Both of us thought that term was hilarious. We weren’t at all offended. We understood the term and the reasoning. But it was (and still is) something we joke about.
Being of “advanced maternal age” meant that we should also receive genetic counseling. This was a good exercise for us as our family nurse practitioner guided us through a conversation on the birth histories, patterns and possibilities based on our family’s trends. The odds of birth and pregnancy complications increase significantly from the maternal age of 30 to 35. We understood. It was good insight. But it didn’t matter to us, because life dwelled within.
Then, the conversations turned to the optional screenings we could choose to determine possible birth defects, chromosomal problems, spinal/brain development issues or other abnormalities. These screenings could produce false positives or false negatives, and some tests might even be dangerous to the child. However, we chose not to have those tests. The results of such screenings didn’t matter to us, because life dwelled within.
The benefit of prenatal tests and screenings is that they provide a time of preparation for a family if special care is needed once the child is born. The results also give parents the option to terminate the pregnancy if certain “positives” indicate severe birth defects. That was an option we never considered, because life dwelled within.
Zechariah knew personally the tender mercy of God and spoke boldly of it. God visited Elizabeth in her advanced maternal age and created life within her when most thought it was not possible. When Zechariah’s tongue was released, he named his son John. God gave John a prophet-like mission and message that he was to prepare the way for the Christ: the way, the truth and the life. In Jesus Christ, the knowledge of salvation and the forgiveness of sins truly brings light and life where darkness and death once reigned.
As for our family, God gave us a son. And we are delighted! He is autistic. His needs are different. His gifts are many. His interests are unique. His world is a happy place, and we are delighted to share it with him. The toys, the hand-me-down clothes and the sporting equipment are still in use. Our sons matter to us. In a miraculous way only possible through God, life dwells within them.
Prayer: Holy God, create in us hearts that can be a dwelling place for Christ. May our actions magnify the gift of life that only comes through You. Amen.
Pro-Life Action: Contact a local school that has autistic or special needs children. Volunteer. Read to them. Eat lunch with them. Be present with them. Model for them and others that their lives have infinite value.
Today’s devotion was written by Rev. Ken Reed, pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church (NALC), China Grove, NC.
This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.
As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.
Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.
Judges 16:1–14 (ESV)
Samson and Delilah
16 Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her. 2 The Gazites were told, “Samson has come here.” And they surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city. They kept quiet all night, saying, “Let us wait till the light of the morning; then we will kill him.” 3 But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron.
4 After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5 And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.” 6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound, that one could subdue you.”
7 Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 8 Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh bowstrings that had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 9 Now she had men lying in ambush in an inner chamber. And she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he snapped the bowstrings, as a thread of flax snaps when it touches the fire. So the secret of his strength was not known.
10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Behold, you have mocked me and told me lies. Please tell me how you might be bound.” 11 And he said to her, “If they bind me with new ropes that have not been used, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 12 So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And the men lying in ambush were in an inner chamber. But he snapped the ropes off his arms like a thread.
13 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Until now you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me how you might be bound.” And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my head with the web and fasten it tight with the pin, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 14 So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his head and wove them into the web. And she made them tight with the pin and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke from his sleep and pulled away the pin, the loom, and the web.
Psalm 8 (ESV)
How Majestic Is Your Name
8 To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.
1 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Acts 18:1–17 (ESV)
Paul in Corinth
18 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.
5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. 9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, 13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. 15 But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” 16 And he drove them from the tribunal. 17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.
Luther’s first statements concerning this matter we find in the marginal notes written by him in his personal copy of the Sentences of Lombardus, which, in 1510, as a Sententiarius he was called upon to teach. Here we find statements such as the following: “But you, dear reader, whoever you may be, take this as the word of a simple man: no one has ever yet had the experience that the vapors of the earth have illuminated the heavens, but rather that they hold back the light from the earth. By that I want to say that theology is heaven, or, to put it still better, the kingdom of heaven. Man is the earth, and his speculations are the vapors; now understand the rest and see for what reason there are such great di erences of opinion among the doctors. Note, too, that a swine has never been able to teach Minerva even though it o en imagines that it can.” “All light must come from revelation, the human understanding is unable to understand supernatural matters.” “For since no one has seen them, whatever is added to revelation is certainly nothing but human invention.” “Arguments based on reason determine nothing, but because the Holy Ghost says it is true, it is true.” In connection with a disputed question Luther affirms, “though many famous doctors hold this opinion, yet they do not have Scripture on their side but only arguments of reason. But I have the words of Scripture on my side in this opinion that the soul is the image of God, and so I say with the Apostle, ‘Though an angel from heaven, that is, a doctor of the Church, teaches otherwise let him be anathema!’” (13)
–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.