Readings: Isaiah 1:10-20; Psalm 122; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Luke 20:1-8
One of the great challenges to Jesus and His ministry related to His authority — and whether His authority was from God or man. In our reading today, it was the chief priests, the scribes and the elders who came to Jesus, questioning Him. They hoped to catch Jesus and to prove that He had committed blasphemy, sacrilegiously claiming His authority came directly from the Lord God. But Jesus would have none of it. Instead, He turned the tables on the religious leaders, once again, asking them a question. And that left the leaders in a greater quandary with the people.
The question of Jesus and His authority is an appropriate, and welcome, question to ponder during Advent. As with the season of Lent, Advent is a time for preparation, yes, but this preparation for the coming of our Lord includes reflection, repentance and re-orienting our lives. We ask, “Jesus, who gave you authority over my life? Who gave you the power to guide and direct me, to influence my decisions, to call forth my obedience?” Because we all share in the same “original sin” of Adam and Eve, we all yearn to be our own gods and lords, thinking we would like to choose for ourselves what will please us, fulfill us, satisfy us. No wonder so many wander away from the one true God and His Son, Jesus, seeking a religion or a spirituality which allows them to be out from under His authority.
Today is the commemoration of St. Andrew, the first apostle to come, follow Jesus (John 1:35-42), responsible for bringing his brother, Simon Peter to the Messiah — the Anointed One. According to tradition, Andrew was martyred (crucified on an X shaped cross) for refusing to obey the Roman consul’s command to refrain from preaching about Jesus and to make a sacrifice to the pagan gods. Andrew was introduced to Jesus and, from that point on, became a disciple of Jesus — yielding and respecting His authority, even to the point of martyrdom. As with all the saints, Andrew is a faithful example of what it means to come, follow Jesus as Lord and God. Andrew exemplifies what it is to look for the coming Messiah and to see Him and acknowledge Him and His authority over our lives, as God’s Anointed One, He who came and still comes into our world!
Prayer: Almighty God, with Andrew, grant that we, called by your Holy Word, may acknowledge Your authority in our lives, now and throughout this Advent season. Amen.
Advent Action: Read about Andrew (and Simon Peter) in John 1:35-42.
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
7:5 My God placed it on my heart to gather the leaders, the officials, and the ordinary people so they could be enrolled on the basis of genealogy. I found the genealogical records of those who had formerly returned. Here is what I found written in that record:
6These are the people of the province who returned from the captivity of the exiles, whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had forced into exile. They returned to Jerusalem and to Judah, each to his own city. 7They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, and Baanah.
The number of Israelite men was as follows:
8the descendants of Parosh: 2,172;
9the descendants of Shephatiah: 372;
10the descendants of Arah: 652;
11the descendants of Pahath Moab (from the line of Jeshua and Joab): 2,818;
12the descendants of Elam: 1,254;
13the descendants of Zattu: 845;
14the descendants of Zaccai: 760;
15the descendants of Binnui: 648;
16the descendants of Bebai: 628;
17the descendants of Azgad: 2,322;
18the descendants of Adonikam: 667;
19the descendants of Bigvai: 2,067;
20the descendants of Adin: 655;
21the descendants of Ater (through Hezekiah): 98;
22the descendants of Hashum: 328;
23the descendants of Bezai: 324;
24the descendants of Harif: 112;
25the descendants of Gibeon: 95;
26The men of Bethlehem and Netophah: 188;
27the men of Anathoth: 128;
28the men of the family of Azmaveth: 42;
29the men of Kiriath Jearim, Kephirah, and Beeroth: 743;
30the men of Ramah and Geba: 621;
31the men of Micmash: 122;
32the men of Bethel and Ai: 123;
33the men of the other Nebo: 52;
34the descendants of the other Elam: 1,254;
35the descendants of Harim: 320;
36the descendants of Jericho: 345;
37the descendants of Lod, Hadid, and Ono: 721;
38the descendants of Senaah: 3,930;
39The priests: the descendants of Jedaiah (through the family of Jeshua): 973;
40the descendants of Immer: 1,052;
41the descendants of Pashhur: 1,247;
42the descendants of Harim: 1,017.
43The Levites: the descendants of Jeshua (through Kadmiel, through the line of Hodaviah): 74.
44The singers: the descendants of Asaph: 148.
45The gatekeepers: the descendants of Shallum, the descendants of Ater, the descendants of Talmon, the descendants of Akkub, the descendants of Hatita, and the descendants of Shobai: 138.
46The temple servants: the descendants of Ziha, the descendants of Hasupha, the descendants of Tabbaoth, 47the descendants of Keros, the descendants of Sia, the descendants of Padon, 48the descendants of Lebanah, the descendants of Hagabah, the descendants of Shalmai, 49the descendants of Hanan, the descendants of Giddel, the descendants of Gahar, 50the descendants of Reaiah, the descendants of Rezin, the descendants of Nekoda, 51the descendants of Gazzam, the descendants of Uzzah, the descendants of Paseah, 52the descendants of Besai, the descendants of Meunim, the descendants of Nephussim, 53the descendants of Bakbuk, the descendants of Hakupha, the descendants of Harhur, 54the descendants of Bazluth, the descendants of Mehida, the descendants of Harsha, 55the descendants of Barkos, the descendants of Sisera, the descendants of Temah, 56the descendants of Neziah, the descendants of Hatipha.
57The descendants of the servants of Solomon: the descendants of Sotai, the descendants of Sophereth, the descendants of Perida, 58the descendants of Jaala, the descendants of Darkon, the descendants of Giddel, 59the descendants of Shephatiah, the descendants of Hattil, the descendants of Pokereth Hazzebaim, and the descendants of Amon.
60All the temple servants and the descendants of the servants of Solomon, 392.
61These are the ones who came up from Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon, and Immer (although they were unable to certify their family connection or their ancestry, as to whether they were really from Israel):
62the descendants of Delaiah, the descendants of Tobiah, and the descendants of Nekoda, 642.
63And from among the priests: the descendants of Hobaiah, the descendants of Hakkoz, and the descendants of Barzillai (who had married a woman from the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by that name). 64They searched for their records in the genealogical materials, but none were found. They were therefore excluded from the priesthood. 65The governor instructed them not to eat any of the sacred food until there was a priest who could consult the Urim and Thummim.(NET Bible)
121:1 A song of ascents.
I look up toward the hills.
From where does my help come?
2My help comes from the Lord,
the Creator of heaven and earth.
3May he not allow your foot to slip.
May your Protector not sleep.
4Look! Israel’s Protector
does not sleep or slumber.
5The Lord is your protector;
the Lord is the shade at your right hand.
6The sun will not harm you by day,
or the moon by night.
7The Lord will protect you from all harm;
he will protect your life.
8The Lord will protect you in all you do,
now and forevermore.(NET Bible)
2:8 “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write the following:
“This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who is the first and the last, the one who was dead, but came to life: 9‘I know the distress you are suffering and your poverty (but you are rich). I also know the slander against you by those who call themselves Jews and really are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. The devil is about to have some of you thrown into prison so you may be tested, and you will experience suffering for ten days. Remain faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown that is life itself. 11The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will in no way be harmed by the second death.’(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.