Advent Devotional: Day 11

Advent 2021
Day 11: Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Opening Prayer

“Almighty God, who in thy providence hast made all ages a preparation for the kingdom of thy Son: We beseech thee to make ready our hearts for the brightness of thy glory and the fulness of thy blessing in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Methodist Book of Worship, 1965)

Scripture Reading

Revelation 1:17-2:7

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

The Great Tradition

“You have sinned, yet you still can be reconciled. You have someone to whom you can make satisfaction, yes, and one who wills it. If you doubt that this is true, consider what the Spirit says to the churches. He charges the Ephesians with “having abandoned charity.” He reproaches the Thyatirenes with fornication and “eating food sacrificed to idols.” He accuses the Sardians of “works that are not complete.”8 He censures the people of Pergamos for teaching false doctrines. He upbraids the Laodiceans for “placing their trust in riches.”10 And yet he warns them all to repent—even adding threats. But he would not threaten the impenitent if he failed to pardon the penitent.” (Tertullian)

Prayer of Confession

“It shames us to admit to you, compassionate God, our many sins and shortcomings that prevent us from living in covenant with you. We are truly sorry for these, and ask for your mercy, your forgiveness, your grace, and your Spirit to cleanse and purify us. Make us ready for the new life that results whenever you come. In the spirit of advent and the name of the coming Christ we pray. Amen.” Paul Laughlin


I like the words from Tertullian in today’s reading from The Great Tradition. He writes, “But [Jesus] would not threaten the impenitent if he failed to pardon the penitent.” In other words, our Lord Jesus would not call his bride, the church, to repent if he did not love her and desire to forgive her. In our day, we do not tend to receive a call to repentance as an act of love, but of judgment. Yet Christians understand (or, ought to understand) that it is because we are loved that we are called to repent, to turn away from the wrong path and return to the right one. Such was the case with the church at Ephesus.

Jesus began by telling the Ephesians that he had seen their good works and knew they had persevered when it wasn’t easy to do so. They did not put up with wickedness and, furthermore, weeded out false teachers who were leading people astray. He said, “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (vv. 2-4). Can you even dream of being commended for your faithfulness by our Lord? I cannot imagine being able to stand under the weight of awe I would feel hearing such words. Thoughts and feelings of unworthiness would flood my soul. Yet here is our Lord doing just that, extolling the Ephesians for their good works. But he wasn’t done addressing them.

He next revealed that they should not be resting on their laurels, for he was not pleased with a great shortcoming of theirs. He said in verses 4-5, “You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen!” Going through the motions of mere religion is not the same thing as enjoying the union of a deep relationship with Christ and bearing its fruit. Orthodox belief and pharisaical obedience are not the same thing as loving God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength. But please don’t misunderstand – believing right things about Jesus is crucial and obedience to him is absolutely vital. But the former ought to lead to greater and deeper love for Christ while the latter should be the result of that loving relationship. The Ephesians, it appears, had drifted from the foundational love for Christ they once had. Furthermore, it was negatively impacting the way they were treating one another. To this, Jesus commanded, “Repent!”

Do you have ears to hear when Jesus addresses you like that? Being able to receive such a rebuke from Jesus is painful. When his Holy Spirit brings conviction for sin in my life, I feel like curling up in a corner, the grief is so strong. Yet it’s a life-giving word and we are all the better for hearing it and responding as the Spirit of the risen Lord commands. To those who are obedient to the words of Jesus, he proclaims, “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (v. 7). It is Jesus who saves us through his death and resurrection. Moreover, there is no repentance possible if his Spirit is not animating our thoughts, words, and deeds. And still, the fruit of saving faith is manifested in and through the good works for which we were graciously and lovingly created (Ephesians 2:10). Therefore, such works are expected by his covenant children, the church.

Walking Points

  • How do you think you would react if Jesus commended you for your faithfulness? What emotions would you experience?
  • How do you usually respond to Christ’s call in your life to repent of your sinful thoughts, words, deeds, desires, and attitudes? Is there a pattern of stages you go through? Explain.
  • How can you continue to grow in your love for Christ so that it doesn’t become stale and stagnant? Share your thoughts with a friend and pray for one another.

Advent Devotional: Day 9

Advent 2021
Day 9: Monday, December 6, 2021

Opening Prayer

“O God, who in the days of old didst make thyself known to prophets and poets, and in the fulness of time didst reveal thyself in thy Son Jesus Christ: Help us to meditate upon the revelation of thyself which thou hast given, that thy constant love may become known to us, and that we may feel thy presence always with us; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Methodist Book of Worship, 1965)

Scripture Reading

Revelation 1:1-8

The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.


To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits l before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” u

and “every eye will see him,

even those who pierced him”;

and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”

So shall it be! Amen.

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

The Great Tradition

In the same way the Lord applied to himself two Greek letters, the first and the last, as figures of the beginning and the end which are united in himself. For just as Alpha continues on until it reaches Omega and Omega completes the cycle back again to Alpha, so he meant to show us that in him is found the course of all things from the beginning to the end and from the end back to the beginning. Every divine dispensation should end in him through whom it first began, that is, in the Word made flesh. Accordingly, it should also end in the same way in which it first began. So truly in Christ are all things recalled to their beginning. (Tertullian)

Prayer of Confession

“Lord, in the everyday events of the holiday season so often we forget your message of hope and salvation for a lost and hurting world. Forgive us, Lord, and as this season progresses help us grow in our witness to your mercy and grace. Help us keep the pressures of the world in their proper place and help us share the true joy of Christmas. In Christ we pray. Amen.” (James Wilson)


The last book of the Bible is entitled, “Revelation,” which means an unveiling of something previously unknown. More than that, it is something that could not be known unless revealed by God. There is a sense in which we can generally know about God through nature. However, Christians believe all the Bible is the special revelation of God. In other words, it is only through Holy Scripture that we can learn more deeply about God and come to know him relationally.

We might learn without the Bible that two thousand years ago there existed an itinerant preacher named Jesus who was put to death by the Romans. But only through the revelation of God can we know that this same preacher was God incarnate who came to die for the sins of the world. Without revelation we would not know that God desires for us to have a relationship with him. We would not know this union with God can last beyond the grave. That is a small, though vitally important, amount of what we learn only through God’s special revelation.

All the Bible is God’s Word inscripturated, but only Christ is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:1). Jesus was a unique revelation in that he was truly God with us (Matthew 1:2-3). He is still God with us in and through the Person of his Holy Spirit. As the Son of God, Jesus, in his preincarnate state, has existed in all eternity with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. He is truly Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. As Alpha, all things were made and hold together in him (Colossians 1:17). Everything was made by him, for him, and through him (John 1:3, Colossians 1:15-16). As Omega he is the ultimate purpose for which everything has been made. Furthermore, his second advent will mark the end of all things as we know it. As the Apostle John says to those who will read the words found in Revelation, let’s do more than read the words about Jesus found in Scripture; let’s take them to heart.

Walking Points

  • We often think of the baby lying in a manger during the Christmas season. What thoughts do John’s words bring to your mind about Jesus in his first eight verses of Revelation?
  • Does understanding Jesus as “God with us” bring you comfort? Explain.
  • What emotions do you experience when you consider Jesus as Alpha and Omega? Why?
  • Reread Revelation 1:1-8. Write down everything John reveals about Jesus. Spend some time in prayerful contemplation about your list. Share your experience of encountering Jesus in this way with a friend.

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)


“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)


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)


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)


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)


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.