This devotional prepares for the first Sunday of Advent, December 2, 2018. Advent is predominantly a month of hopeful waiting – first of all as we think about how it was to wait for the birth of Messiah and ultimately as we wait for the final redemption that Messiah brings in his second coming to mankind.
Daily Bible Readings:
Monday, December 3. Read Matthew 23:1-4, 34-39. 1) What did Jesus have to say about the teachers of his day (vss. 1-4)? 2) What did he say they ancestors of those teachers did to the prophets? 3)What did Jesus want to do for Jerusalem, but what did Jerusalem do? 4) How is this an enemy to hope?
Tuesday, December 4. Read Matthew 14:1-12. 1) As an example of societal reaction to prophets, about whom did Matthew write this story? 2) Why do you think people react this way to truth? 3) How do you see the same kind of reaction in today’s politics?
Wednesday, December 5. Read Genesis 12:1-3. 1) What did God tell Abraham to do? 2) What promise did God make to Abraham? 3) How do you think Abraham, in this text, was different from the teachers in Monday’s text and Herod in Tuesday’s text?
Thursday, December 6. Read Jeremiah 23:1-6. 1) How did Jeremiah describe the leaders of his day? 2) What did God promise in regard to a “righteous Branch”? 3) Do you think there was ever a time in history when that actually happened? If not, to what do you think Jeremiah is referring?
Friday, December 7. Read Isaiah 42-6. 1) What did God promise in regard to the “survivors of Israel?” 2) What will happen to Jerusalem? 3) Like in the Jeremiah text read yesterday, when do you think Isiah’s prophescy was fuliflled? 4) Is it possible that Isaiah is predicting something greater? If so, what?
Saturday, December 8. Read Jeremiah 33:14-16. This is Sunday’s sermon text.
Hymn of the Week:
Crown Him with Many Crowns
by Matthew Bridges, 1851
Crown him with many crowns,
the Lamb upon his throne.
Hark! how the heavenly anthem drowns
all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing
of him who died for thee,
and hail him as thy matchless king
through all eternity.
Crown him the Lord of life,
who triumphed o’er the grave,
and rose victorious in the strife
for those he came to save;
his glories now we sing
who died and rose on high,
who died eternal life to bring,
and lives that death may die.
Crown him the Lord of love;
behold his hands and side,
rich wounds, yet visible above,
in beauty glorified;
no angels in the sky
can fully bear that sight,
but downward bends their burning eye
at mysteries so bright.
Crown him the Lord of years,
the potentate of time,
creator of the rolling spheres,
All hail, Redeemer, hail!
for thou hast died for me;
thy praise shall never, never fail
Prayer for the Week:
Christ Jesus, on Advent
All that has been created has been made by you and for You.
Make full use of Your rights over me.
I renew the promises I made in Baptism,
when I renounced Satan and all his evil works,
and I promise to live a life of obedience to you alone
and to do all in my power to give worship to you and the triumphs of your kingdom.
Lord Jesus, King of my heart,
I offer you my life in order to be a resident of your Divine city
and wait for your sacred reign
and that thus the Kingdom of Your peace
may be established throughout the universe.
Devotional Article of the Week:
Something Greater to Come
Waiting for the Lord to come.
by Phillip Morrison
Time of Waiting:
A few years ago, I prepared for Lent and Easter by trying to determine from Scripture where Jesus was and what he was doing on each of the days leading to his crucifixion and resurrection. Though it would be interesting to try, it is impossible to follow Mary and Joseph from the time of Gabriel’s visit until they arrived in Bethlehem. We can imagine the hardships of travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, but the Bible simply says that they went. Like all pregnancies, Mary’s involved a lot of waiting.
Advent is our time of waiting. We are waiting not just to read something, or light a candle, or do something, but to feel something. The Bethlehem shepherds felt something, something so strong that angels spoke calming words: “Be not afraid.”
Don’t be afraid? When the four horsemen threaten conquest, war, famine, and death? Don’t be afraid. Let his love envelope and protect you, now and forevermore. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
We lit the second Advent candle, reminding us of the inexplicable love of the God who so loved his creation — especially the creatures made in his own image — that he came to live among us and be one with us. Already knowing us, he wanted us to know him — not as a distant deity, but as the Father God who, as my friend Terry says, is as close as the blood in our veins. He came as a baby that he might know every challenge of our being from cradle to grave and give us hope for life beyond.
Beyond Words to Expression:
None of the four Advent words — hope, love, joy, peace — are easily defined. All of them respond to faith more than knowledge. That is not to belittle the serious quest of people from Albert Schweitzer to Bart Ehrman to authenticate the Jesus of history. I am and will continue to be grateful for whatever knowledge is discovered, but I will also be aware that knowledge fails and faith remains (1 Corinthians 13:8-13).
In recent years, I have looked at hundreds of nativity sets, manger scenes, and crèches — some costing many thousands of dollars. The sculptors and other artists rarely get the faces right. The face of baby Jesus is more often the face of a toddler than a newborn. Joseph’s face is usually bland and nondescript. But Mary! Artist after artist, in whatever the medium, captures Mary’s face full of love. Mary’s is a beatific wondering, pondering, and contemplative expression only mothers have. Did she remember the angel’s visit? Her acceptance of God’s claim on her virgin life? On that night when the angels sang, was she able to forget the snide remarks directed at Joseph and at her by the Nazareth gossips? Could she have foreseen a time when the legitimacy of her son would be questioned?
I see that look on Mary Margaret’s face in old family photos taken January 1, 1957, and days following. My expression is full of love, pride, and bewilderment as I beheld our firstborn. Mary Margaret’s is serene and confident. A mother’s look. A mother’s love. A wondering look. A pondering look.
Love Best Defined:
The love of one person for another defies definition. Elizabeth Barrett Browning succeeded better than most but finally acknowledged that only God’s choice could make her love complete and eternal.
The apostle Paul gave an impressive list of love’s characteristics in 1 Corinthians 13 — patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, not a scorekeeper, rejoices in truth rather than evil, protective, trustful, hopeful, persistent, and unfailing. Put all those characteristics together and you have a list of characteristics, a description but not a definition.
It took the wisdom of age, the time for contemplation offered by exile, and truth revealed by God’s own Spirit for the apostle John to state the truth that says everything there is to say about love: God is love (1 John 4:16). God so loved the world that he gave his fully divine, fully human Son, in Bethlehem, at Calvary, and now in our expectant hearts.
Doctor Paul Chilcote, author of “Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Advent and Christmas with Charles Wesley,” offers an interesting perspective on Philippians 2:5-11, which many people consider an early Christian hymn. When Jesus humbled himself at the cross, he emptied himself of the characteristics normally associated with God: omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence. He emptied himself of everything but love, his very essence.
Like John, German Lutheran pastor and critic of the Nazi regime Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a lot of time to meditate on the Word of God and the role of the church. Arrested in April 1943, he spent two years in prison and concentration camps. On April 9, 1945, just two weeks before U. S. soldiers liberated Flossenburg concentration camp, Bonhoeffer was executed by hanging. About Advent, one of his favorite themes, he wrote:
Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly? Whoever finally lays down all power, all honor, all reputation, all vanity, all arrogance, all individualism beside the manger; whoever remains lowly and lets God alone be high; whoever looks at the child in the manger and sees the glory of God precisely in his lowliness….
The celebration of Advent is possible only to those troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.