Advent Devotional: Day 8

Advent 2021
Day 8: Sunday, December 5, 2021

Opening Prayer

“O God our Father, who didst send forth thy Son to be King of kings and Prince of Peace: Grant that all the kingdoms of this world may become the kingdom of Christ, and learn of him the way of peace. Send forth among all people the spirit of good will and reconciliation. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” (United Methodist Book of Worship)

Scripture Reading

Luke 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,

‘Prepare the way for the Lord,

make straight paths for him.

Every valley shall be filled in,

every mountain and hill made low.

The crooked roads shall become straight,

the rough ways smooth.

And all people will see God’s salvation.’ ”

The Great Tradition

The precursor of Christ—the voice of one crying in the wilderness—preaches in the desert of the soul that has known no peace. Not only then, but even now, a bright and burning lamp first comes and preaches the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Then the true Light follows, as John himself said: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The word came in the desert and spread in all the countryside around the Jordan. (Origen)

John, being chosen for the apostleship, was also the last of the holy prophets. For this reason, as the Lord has not come yet, he says, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” What is the meaning of “Prepare the way of the Lord”? It means, Make ready for the reception of whatever Christ may wish to do. Withdraw your hearts from the shadow of the law, discard vague figures and no longer think perversely. Make the paths of our God straight. For every path that leads to good is straight and smooth and easy, but the one that is crooked leads down to wickedness those that walk in it. (Cyril of Alexandria)

Prayer of Confession

“Lord, hear our prayers. Hear what we say, and what we do not say as well. Allow us to mirror, if only imperfectly, your perfect compassion in all we say and do. Allow us to extend the grace to others that you have extended to us. Bless us and make clear for us the opportunities for ministry to each other that have been revealed in our worship together. These things we pray in the name of the infant Jesus, who is revealed to us in this season. Amen.” (Frank Ramirez)

Reflection

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him” (v. 4). This was the reason John was born. He was the one who would declare the news that God’s promised Messiah was on the way. He was the one who prepared people with a baptism of repentance, revealing their need to be cleansed, even if his baptism could not do what being baptized in Christ’s would do.

The early church Fathers often spiritualized the meanings of biblical texts that focused on historical events. They did not always get it right. On the other hand, they often saw things and made connections that our “sophisticated” way of reading Scripture prevents us from seeing. They saw spiritual truths that are clearly present once you have eyes to see. Origen said that John the baptizer, the precursor of Christ, “preaches in the desert of the soul that has known no peace.” His advance-work prepares those who are restless, sinful, broken, and hurting and who need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ and the salvation he brings. He prepares those in need to recognize and receive the true Light of the world.

In whose life are you a “John the baptizer?” For the sake of Christ, who are you preparing to receive the good news of the Gospel? Cyril of Alexandria asks a good question: “What does it mean to prepare the way of the Lord?” His answer is also a good one, though it is hard to swallow. His answer is, “Make ready for the reception of whatever Christ may wish to do. Withdraw your hearts from the shadow of the law, discard vague figures and no longer think perversely. Make the paths of our God straight. For every path that leads to good is straight and smooth and easy, but the one that is crooked leads down to wickedness those that walk in it.”

What is the “whatever Christ may wish to do” in your life? That’s sort of a terrifying question, isn’t it? But why? Is not Christ the loving Savior and Lord of life? Do we trust him so little? Do we believe he will call us to the hard path and narrow road without also equipping us for it and walking along with us? O we of little faith! When Jesus walks with us and lives through us, his yoke is easy and burden light.

Therefore, let’s live in such a way that crooked ways become straight, that rough ways become smooth. And as we talk the talk and walk the walk, Isaiah prophecies that “people will see God’s salvation.” From our vantage point, we know that response will be due to the gracious and sovereign work of the Holy Spirit moving in a person’s life. However, we also know God uses means to his ends. And disciples of Jesus Christ are commanded to serve as precursors – heralds, ambassadors, and examples – for the entrance of Christ into people’s lives. May we be found faithful.

Walking Points

  • What is the, “whatever Christ may wish to do in your life,” that you are holding back from him? Why are you not giving it to Jesus?
  • In what ways does living a godly life before an unbelieving world help prepare them for hearing the Gospel and trusting in Christ?
  • Who can you pray for today to receive the salvation God offers them in Jesus Christ? Start praying for them today and ask God to enable you to prepare the way for that person to hear the Gospel and trust in Christ.

Advent Devotional: Day 7

Advent 2021: Day 7
Saturday, December 4, 2021

Opening Prayer

“Ever present God, you taught us that the night is far spent and the day is at hand. Grant that we may ever be found watching for the coming of your Son. Save us from undue love of the world, that we may wait with patient hope for the day of the Lord, and so abide in him, that when he shall appear, we may not be ashamed; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (UMC Book of Worship)

Scripture Reading

Jude 17-25

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

The Great Tradition

“Jude says that his beloved people must continue to build themselves up in their most holy faith, forever reforming themselves according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance; in other words, by building congregations up, by their preaching, in the teaching of the Holy Spirit.” (Oecumenius)

Prayer of Confession

“We admit to you, most merciful God, that we regularly fall short of holiness, and engage in behavior and entertain attitudes that not only prove self-destructive and hurtful to others, but detract from the gospel we profess with our lips. Forgive us, we pray, and help us to grow in love toward the perfect image of Christ Jesus, whose coming brings both joy and judgment for us all. In his blessed name we pray. Amen.” (Paul Laughlin)

Reflection

We may be tempted to think of the “last days” or “end times” as some distant event. A closer look at Scripture teaches us that it was the resurrection of Jesus Christ that brought forth the “last times” Jude addressed in his letter. As mentioned in a previous devotion, we are living between the advents of Jesus, but in a very real sense, this whole period should be considered the “last times.”

And what does Jude say about these last times? He reminded his first readers, just as he reminds us, that in such times “scoffers” (false teachers who mock our beliefs and hold the Christian faith in contempt) desire to break the body of Christ into pieces. These are people who follow their own passions and desires instead of submitting to the Lordship of Christ and the teaching of his appointed Apostles. And, they are deceivers who want to drag down everyone else with them.

So, what can followers of Christ do during such times? Jude says we must build ourselves up in the faith that was “entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3). Oecumenius said we must continue to reform ourselves in the holy faith taught by the apostles. This too is part of the Great Commission. It is part of what it means to make disciples. For Jesus not only declared we must go into all the world and make disciples and baptize them in the triune name, but to also teach these new followers of Jesus to obey everything he commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).

We should not think this is a “one and done” sort of thing. A life of genuine Christian discipleship is one of constant growth, for there is never a time when we no longer need to grow. If Christlikeness is our goal, then that is a lifelong pursuit. Thus, when we reflect on Jude’s warning that the last days will not be like walking a smooth trail, but closer to navigating rocky terrain sabotaged by false teachers, then how much more must we build ourselves up in the faith! Therefore, let us take heed to these inspired words of wisdom from the Apostle Paul’s in Colossians 2:6-7, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

Walking Points

  • In what ways are you being, “rooted and built up” in Christ? Or, as Jude put it, how are you building yourself up in “your most holy faith?”
  • What are the dangers of not continuing to pursue spiritual growth in the Christian faith?
  • Is there someone in your life you can come along side and help encourage and build up in their faith? Start praying for ways to be a blessing in the life of that person today.

Advent Devotion: Day 6

Advent 2021
Day 6: Friday, December 3, 2021

Opening Prayer

“O Thou who art the source of all existence and the light of all seeing: We remember with joy and awe that the world is thy creation, and that life is thy gift. Lift our thoughts from the littleness of our own works to the greatness, the majesty, and the wonder of thine, and teach us so to behold thy glory that we may grow into thy likeness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Methodist Book of Worship, 1965)

Scripture Reading

Psalm 16

Keep me safe, my God,

for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;

apart from you I have no good thing.”

I say of the holy people who are in the land,

“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”

Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.

I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods

or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;

you make my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;

even at night my heart instructs me.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.

With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

my body also will rest secure,

10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,

nor will you let your faithful one see decay.

11 You make known to me the path of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence,

with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

The Great Tradition

“Our inheritance is the understanding of God (Evagrius), or more fully, the Lord is our inheritance (Augustine). We are to live now so as to possess the Lord (Jerome). He is everything for us (Leander). Let us express our love for him (Augustine). The measure of our inheritance depends on our capacity for God (Evagrius). The measure of Christ’s inheritance is the full company of the redeemed (Cassiodorus), and his passion for their salvation remained strong even in the nighttime of his suffering (Jerome). The path of righteousness is the line of sight fixed on God (Cassiodorus). We have the responsibility to set the Lord before us (Jerome). Christ’s position at the right hand reveals the equality of worth he shares with the Father (Hesychius).”

Prayer of Confession

“O Lord, as we come into your special presence, we bring with us the burdens of yesterday. Many of us have deep concerns about our families, our health, and our material welfare. All of us come to you with the blight of sins which have been committed and with goals which have not been met. Forgive our faults, we pray; give us strength to cope with our troubles and help us dispel our needless worries, thus freeing us to worship and prepare ourselves for the challenges of tomorrow. Amen.” (H. Burnham Kirkland)

Reflection

Gracious God, give me the faith of Psalm 16. I can think of no other way to begin this reflection than with that first sentence. Reading Psalm 16 is uplifting. May it be a constant prayer for all of us. Verses 1-4 remind us that God alone is our safe refuge. God is the giver of good gifts and there is nothing good we have which did not come from him. Therefore, we will not bow to other gods… lesser so-called deities. We will not sacrifice to them or call upon them. Idolatry is a constant temptation for us. May God in his mercy uncover and expose our camouflaged gods and turn our hearts and attention back to him.

Verses 5-8 remind us that God is our portion. He is enough. The boundaries he has established for us are safe and secure. When we are tempted to go beyond the safety of his will, let us be reminded that doing so takes us off the right path. It leads us into all manner of danger. Instead, let us be so saturated in the counsel of God that even while we sleep at night our hearts will meditate upon his wisdom. When we walk with the Lord at our right hand, we will not be ultimately shaken. While we may stumble and even fall, he is there to pick us up. He will never leave our side nor forsake us.

Such a life, according to verses 9-11, leads us to gladness of heart and worship. How else should we respond? What does it mean to you that you will never be abandoned, even in death? What value do you place in the sure knowledge that not only will our loving God make known to us the path of life in the here and now, but that he will continually fill us with his joyful presence and offer us the hope of eternal pleasures, which are his to give to those whom he loves? Can you see now why this Psalm ought to be a prayer written upon our hearts?

Walking Points

  • Reread the summary statements made under The Great Tradition. What speaks to you most? Why?
  • Having read Psalm 16, can you better understand why these saints from the early days of our faith responded the way they did to these verses?
  • Write your own prayer using the words found in Psalm 16 and The Great Tradition. Share it with someone as a word of encouragement.

Advent Devotional: Day 5

Advent 2021: Day 5
Thursday, December 2, 2021

Opening Prayer

“Almighty God, who came to us long ago in the birth of Jesus Christ, be born in us anew today by the power of your Holy Spirit. We offer our lives as home to you and ask for grace and strength to live as your faithful, joyful children always. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Rueben Job)

Scripture Reading

2 Peter 3:11-18

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. f That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

The Great Tradition

May glory always be given to God our Lord and Savior, both now when we are still in the flesh and far from him, wandering through the daily pressures of our adversaries, and especially at that future time when he who has been long desired shall come to all the nations and deign to illuminate us by his presence. Meanwhile, as we await that glorious day, let us go on singing: “One day in your courts is better than a thousand.” (Bede)

Prayer of Confession

O God, as the Advent season reminds us of your imminent return, we also see the many places in our lives where we have been too careless in our ways and too free to walk the paths you would not have us travel. Forgive us, Lord, and take our hand that you might lead us into your paths of righteousness for all to see. Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.” (James Wilson)

Reflection

In what places in your life have you been “too careless in your ways?” What paths have you walked that the Lord “would not have you travel?” In today’s text, the Apostle Peter reminds us that heaven and earth, in their current state, will not continue. They will be consumed, not with rain this time but with fire. We therefore must be careful how we walk in this world, always with an eye on the “day of God.” My longtime mentor is fond of saying there are only two days we ought to have marked on our calendars: today and “that day.” By “that day” he means the same as Peter, the day of God when Christ will return and bring an end to everything as we know it. Or, as C.S. Lewis put it, that moment when the author walks onto the stage and signals the play is over.

But this scene ought not be horrifying to Christians, those who look forward to the day of God and pray with the Apostle John, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). For on that day there will be brought forth a new heaven and new earth where the righteous will dwell (v. 13). Yet while we wait, we are not to be idle and unfaithful. Peter warns us to “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with [the Lord]” (v. 14).

More than that, we should rejoice that God is so patient. How many times have you thanked God for his patience with you throughout your life? Are you grateful the Lord did not return during earlier times in your life? Would you have been ready for him then? Even now, as someone who knows Christ, do you continue to make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with God? And while you understand you are not saved by your conduct, you know very well that your outward behavior can be an all too accurate indicator of what is taking place in your heart. In light of that, how grateful are you for the patience of God?

Therefore, take Peter’s warning to heart and “be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position” (v. 17). Indeed, let’s continue to grow in the faith and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (v. 18), even as we await his return.

Walking Points

  • Name some of the reasons you are grateful for God’s patience in your life.
  • Spend some time giving thanks to God for his patience.
  • Share your reasons with someone you believe needs to be reminded of God’s patience, not in a haughty way as someone who has their act all together, but as a humble recipient of the very patience to which you are bearing witness.

Advent Devotion: Day 4

Advent 2021
Day 4: Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Opening Prayer

“Merciful God, you sent your prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation. Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (UMC Book of Worship)

Scripture Reading

Matthew 21:23-32

Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

29 “ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

The Great Tradition

“It is surprising that the publicans and sinners believed in Christ even before the priests, who were too arrogant. To work in the vineyard is to do justice. Lessons drawn from the parable include the point that it is better to do the righteousness of God without promising to do so than it is to promise and then renege. The son who first refused to work but afterward repented did the will of the father. The son who said he would go but did not go is reproved. Even after the publicans and harlots had believed, the Jewish leaders had not believed.” (Hillary of Poitiers)

Prayer of Confession

“Eternal God, we your Church, who should be instruments of your victory, confess that we have often put barriers in your way. Where we should be a light to the world, we participate in the sin around us. Forgive us, we pray, and free us to be people prepared for your coming, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (H. Burnham Kirkland)

Reflection

Jesus had earlier cleared the temple. He decried its use as a place of commerce (a “den of robbers”) instead of a house of prayer. He, to the say the least, was righteously indignant over the disregard of such a holy place. He then, there in the temple, began to heal the lame and blind who came to him in need. Afterward, he left for the day but came back the next and began teaching in the temple courts.

The accepted religious authorities, still presumably upset about the previous day’s activities, and now witnessing this unofficial teacher instructing others in the temple, began to interrogate Jesus about the authority by which he did these things. In the rabbinic tradition, Jesus replied that he would answer their question if they first answered his. He asked them about the authority of John’s baptism, whether or not it came from God, which presented them with a dilemma. Either way they answered would get them into trouble with the crowd. So, they copped out by saying they didn’t know. Thus, Jesus refused to answer their question.

Jesus followed up with a parable about the stubbornness and arrogance of the religious authorities. Tax collectors and prostitutes, Jesus said, were entering the Kingdom of God ahead of the so-called righteous religious leaders because the former understood their need. By humbly coming to Jesus, they acknowledged his authority and ability to rescue and redeem them from their sinful situation. They repented of (turned away from) their former ways of life and were now living renewed lives under the reign of the true King. That’s what it means to enter his kingdom. That is why Jesus came.

The religious leaders initially would not humble themselves and admit that their pursuit of righteousness was actually self-righteousness, self-promotion, and self-dependence. The coming of Jesus and his standard of true righteousness should have stopped them in their tracks and humbled them, as it ought to do to us. And yet, the good news is that when we have eyes to see and are utterly humbled by what we discover… when we acknowledge we’ve been traveling down the wrong path and, moreover, are unable to live up to the King’s standard in our own strength… it’s then we find ourselves welcomed into his Kingdom. It’s then we are made into new creatures, people who become able to pursue real and abundant life with the power and direction Jesus provides to those who transfer their trust from themselves to him.

Walking Points

  • Have you turned from trusting in yourself and your ability to live a righteous life, to trusting in Jesus and living under his authority and power?
  • If you have, share the story of your journey with a friend. What was it like making that change? Was it painful? Was it worth it? Explain the process and some of the lessons you learned along the way.
  • If you haven’t made that change yet, share with a Christian friend what the obstacles are for you to make that change. Perhaps your friend can help you work through some of those difficulties. But don’t be discouraged if you are not there yet, for God is patient. If all you are able to do is, “want to want” that life, that in itself is pleasing to God. He will help you continue moving in down the right path.

Advent: Day 2

Advent 2021

Day 2: Monday, November 29, 2021

Opening Prayer

“Eternal God, in your providence you made all ages a preparation for the kingdom of your Son. Make ready our hearts for the brightness of your glory and the fulness of your blessing in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (UMC Book of Worship, 1992)

Scripture Reading

2 Peter 1:3-11

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Great Tradition

“This verse follows on what has gone before, because it is by the knowledge of our Lord and Savior that we come to understand all the mysteries of his divinity, by which we have been saved. For he did not send an angel or an archangel to save us, nor did he find anything in us which might allow us to contribute to our own salvation, but when he saw that we were weak and had nothing to boast of, he came in his own glory and power and redeemed us.” (Bede)

Prayer of Confession

“Lord, so often we have allowed our focus to be on the divisions and conflicts in the world and we have lost the vision of your kingdom to come. So often we have sacrificed and died for standards of our own making and we have turned away from your standard of the Cross. Forgive us, Lord, and restore our vision of your mighty kingdom. In Christ we pray. Amen.”

Reflection

Through the precious gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, we have everything we need to live a godly life. Not only are we forgiven of our sin when we place our trust in Christ, but the very Spirit who raised him from the dead takes up residence within us. We are thus empowered and directed by God himself to live the life to which we have been called. Yet, as the Venerable Bede reminds us, we do not contribute anything to our salvation, for we are saved by grace through faith.

Still, the Apostle Peter tells us to add to our faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love (2 Peter 1:5-7). Such are only a few of the good works for which we were created (Ephesians 2:10). About these verses John Chrysostom wrote, “For if [the presence of these godly qualities] is a good thing, how much more their abundance!” Pursuing these good works, or “qualities,” as Peter puts it, does not save us. However, the Apostle points out that continuing to grow in them will protect us from being ineffective and unproductive for the Kingdom of God. Indeed, they are the fruit of being saved in the first place. Besides all that, our Lord’s version of 2 Peter 1:11 should be a great encouragement to all of us: “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). And who doesn’t want to hear that on the Day of the Lord?

Walking Points

  • Give thanks to God that you have been redeemed and given everything you need to live a godly life.
  • Which quality or good work listed in verse 5-7 do you need to focus on most? Spend some time in prayer asking God for the grace you need to mature in that area of the Christian life.

Advent: Day 1

Advent 2021

Day 1: Sunday, November 28, 2021

Opening Prayer

“Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” (BCP 1979)

Scripture Reading

Jeremiah 33:14-16

14 “ ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.

15 “ ‘In those days and at that time

I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;

he will do what is just and right in the land.

16 In those days Judah will be saved

and Jerusalem will live in safety.

This is the name by which it will be called:

The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’

The Great Tradition

“David’s Lord was made David’s Son, and sprang from the fruit of the promised branch—One without fault, the twofold nature coming together into one Person, that by one and the same conception and birth might spring our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom was present both true Godhead for the performance of mighty works and true humanity for the endurance of sufferings.” (Leo the Great)

Prayer of Confession

“O God of infinite promise, we confess that we often fall into hopelessness, skepticism, and even cynicism about the future, and that we despair about our own prospects and the fate of the earth. Forgive us we pray. Strengthen our faith and bolster our hope, so that when your grace bursts into our lives, as it always does, we shall be able to recognize it and be ready to give you our thanks and praise. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen” (Paul Laughlin)

Reflection

Today’s Scripture from Jeremiah reminds us of our Lord’s intention to fulfill the promise he made to his children during Old Testament times. We know Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of that promise. For he is the “righteous Branch sprout from David’s line.” He is “the Lord our Righteous Savior.” The hopes and fears of all the years were met in Christ at his birth. Our God is the one who keeps the promises he makes to his covenant children. As Israel and Judah anticipated the Messiah’s first arrival, we look back at our Lord’s first advent, even as we look forward to his second coming. We live between the times.

By grace, we “cast away the works of darkness and put on… the armor of light” as we seek to live faithfully during our time of great anticipation. Because we know God kept his promise to send his Son the first time, we can live with confidence that he will keep his promise to send him again. Therefore, we will not “fall into hopelessness, skepticism, and even cynicism about the future, [nor] despair about our own prospects and the fate of the earth.” While we await our Lord’s return, we will “always watch and pray” (Luke 21:36) as we witness and serve in his name.

Thanks be to God.

Amen.

Walking Points

  • Offer a prayer to God, thanking him for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Ask the Lord to help you walk faithfully with him during this time of living “in between” his advents.
  • Think about how you would like to grow spiritually during this Advent season, and share your idea with someone.