Devotions for Each Day of Advent

 

 

 

A SEASON FOR SINGING

DEVOTIONS FOR ADVENT

DR. MARY MANZ SIMON

                                                

 

 

--FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT—

THE ADVENT OF OUR GOD

            The Advent of our God

            Shall be our theme for prayer;

            Come, let us meet him on the road

            And place for him prepare.

                                                            --Charles Coffin

Happy New Year!

 

You didn’t miss Christmas.  The calendar still reads December.  But the Church begins a new year on the first Sunday of Advent.  So, Happy New Church Year today.

 

Advent is the Latin word for coming.  We think of two comings during this season.  We anticipate the Babe of Bethlehem who comes at Christmas.  We also are reminded of the final coming of our Lord in judgment.

 

But we don’t just wait around for these events.  The words in today’s hymn encourage us to prepare! Get ready!

 

Our preparation is the same for Christ’s coming at Christmas and his coming in judgment.  We open our hearts to receive our Lord.

 

That’s an important message fir today.  That’s an important reminder for each day of this new Church Year.

 

Christ is coming! We prepare to receive him.

           

            As Judge, on clouds of light,

            He soon will come again

            And all his scattered saints unite

            With him on high to reign.  Amen

                                                                        --Read Isaiah 40:9-11

 

 

 

 

 

 

--MONDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK--

 

ON JORDAN’S BANKS THE BAPTIST’S CRY

            On Jordan’s banks the Baptist’s cry

            Announces that the Lord is nigh;

            Awake and hearken, for he brings

            Glad tidings of the King of kings!

                                                            --Charles Coffin

 

The Jordan River is half a world away from where you and I sit today.  The hymn writer speaks of a long time ago, too.  People in the first century A.D. gathered to hear John the Baptizer.

 

That was a time away, a world away.  But the message of the prophet, which we sing in the words of today’s hymn, spans the years and miles.

 

John announces to us that Christ is coming.  John tells us to pay attention.

 

We don’t wade into the muddy Jordan for cleansing from our sins.  But our Lord has come to us through baptism.  He continues to come to us through Word and Sacrament.  We welcome his coming.

           

            Then cleansed be ev’ry heart from sin;

            Make straight the way for God within,

            And let us all our hearts prepare

            For Christ to come and enter there.  Amen.

                                                                        --Read Mark 1:4-9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

--TUESDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK—

 

LIFT UP YOUR HEADS, YOU MIGHTY GATES

                        Lift up your heads, you mighty gates!

                                                                                                --Georg Weissel

 

What is Advent doing for you?  This is the third day of this special time in the church year.  What a difference has Advent made in your life?

 

Years ago, the weeks before Christmas were a time of fasting and penance.  Advent now is celebrated as a time of holy joy and holy fear.  We remember Christ’s first coming as the Babe of Bethlehem and anticipate his second coming as Judge.

 

Advent does make a difference.  Like an engagement period before a wedding, there is time to prepare; not just for the one-day celebration, but for the future we will share with Christ.

 

“Lift up your heads,” German pastor Georg Weissel urges in the words of today’s hymn. We’re not getting ready for just an ordinary person or an ordinary time.

 

“Who is this great King?” The question is asked in the Psalm of David on which Weissel based this hymn.  The [psalmist answers, “The triumphant Lord—he is our great King!”

 

We’re already into Advent.  Our use of the days in Advent can make a difference—for Christmas this year and our life with Christ forever.

 

                        O saving Lord, Christ Jesus, come!

                        My heart stands wide.  Make it your home.

                        In ev’ry nook and cranny shine—

                        With judgment strong and grace divine.

                        With Spirit’s wisdom guide my ways

                        To vistas wide and endless days.

                        I praise you and adore,

                        Both now and evermore.  Amen.

                                                                                    --Read Psalm 24

--WEDNESDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK—

 

COME, O LONG-EXPECTED JESUS

 

                        Come, O long-expected Jesus,

                        Born to set your people free;

                        From our fears and sins release us

                        By your death on Calvary.

                                                                        --Charles Wesley

 

This hymn is hard for me to sing.  The tune by “Singin’ Billy” Walker of South Carolina is not particularly difficult.  The words are easy to pronounce.  It’s the image of the cross of Calvary, not the star of Bethlehem, that makes me uncomfortable.

 

“Born to set your people free … by your death on Calvary” is a picture that’s easy to avoid during this pre-Christmas season.  Mary and Joseph with their Newborn is such a tender scene.  It’s so easy to focus on the baby Jesus as a precious, cuddly, tiny human being.  That’s the mental image I like to remember during these busy days.

 

There’s more than the star of Bethlehem in Christ’s life.  The cross on Calvary waits.

 

That Child born of Mary will grow up, enjoy a brief adulthood, and then die.  But that cross soon will be empty, for Christ will rise.  Even as we anticipate the birth of Jesus, we think of the time when he will raise us to the glorious throne, in the words of today’s hymn.

 

To Bethlehem and beyond, we travel this Advent.  We move toward Calvary, then even further, to an eternal home with Christ, our Lord.

 

                        Born your people to deliver, born a child and yet a king;

                        Born to reign in us forever, now your gracious kingdom bring.

                        By your own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone;

                        By your all-sufficient merit raise us to your glorious throne.  Amen.

                                                                                                --Read Galatians 4:4-5

--THURSDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK—

 

WHEN ALL THE WORLD WAS CURSED

 

                        When all the world was cursed by Moses’ condemnation,

                        Saint John the Baptist came with words of consolation.

                        With true forerunner’s zeal the greater One he named,

                        And him, as yet unknown, as Savior he proclaimed.

                                                                                                --Johann G. Olearius

 

Contemporary psychologists might characterize John the Baptist as having a poor self-concept.  In the Gospel of John, the Baptizer speaks directly, “I am not the Messiah” (John 1:30).  John the Baptist says of Christ, “I am not good enough even to bend down and untie his sandals” (Mark 1:7).

 

But Christ praised his forerunner.  In the Gospel of Matthew we read Jesus’ words, “I assure you that John the Baptist is greater than any man who has ever lived” (Matthew 11:11)

 

In the early church, John the Baptist’s Day was celebrated as a major festival with three worship services.  This remembrance was scheduled for June 24, six months before the birth of Christ, according to the unrevised calendar used at that time.  Early church worshippers also remembered the day on which John was conceived, the day on which he baptized Christ in the Jordan, and the day on which he was executed!

 

For many reasons, John the Baptizer is a significant figure in the history of the Christian church.  His real importance, however, was in the message he brought.  We sing those words in today’s hymn: “Behold the Lamb of God.”

 

                                    Behold the Lamb of God that bears the world’s transgression,

                                    Whose sacrifice removes the enemy’s oppression.

                                    Behold the Lamb of God, the bearer of our sin,

                                    Who for our peace and joy will full atonement win.  Amen.

                                                                                                            --Read John 1:29

 

 

--FRIDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK—

 

COME, O PRECIOUS RANSOM

 

                                    Come, O precious Ransom, come, only hope for sinful mortals!

                                                                                                            --Johann G. Olearius

 

“Come here.  Come now.”  A child learning to read often sees those words in a primer.  We frequently use those simple, two-word sentences, too.

 

“I want Christmas to come now,” our daughter Angela used to plead in early December.  She was eager for the holiday.

 

“I hope I won’t be here next time you come, pastor,” a 100 year old woman told my husband.  She was eager to get to heaven.

 

“Come here.  Come now.”  Our daughter tried to rush the celebration of Christ’s first coming.  The elderly woman hoped to speed Christ’s coming for her.  Often our timetables differ from God’s plan for us.

 

The people who designed the church calendar purposely planned Advent to include four Sundays.  Although the number of weekdays in Advent varies, we know exactly how many Sundays we have each year to prepare for Christmas.

 

It is not yet time for remembering Christ’s first coming or for his coming in judgment.  Instead, we have Advent.

 

We are given time to prepare ways to keep Christ in Christmas.

We are given time to prepare our hearts for heaven.

 

                                    Come, O precious Ransom, come, only hope for sinful mortals!

                                    Come, O Savior of the world; open are to you all portals.

                        Come, you beauty let us view, anxiously we wait for you.  Amen

--Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

                       

                                   

 

--SATURDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK—

 

THE KING SHALL COME

 

                                    The King shall come when morning dawns

                                    And light triumphant breaks,

                                    When beauty gilds the eastern hills

                                    And life to joy awakes.

                                                                                    --John Brownlie

 

Few of us will come face-to-face with royalty during our lifetime.  To be close enough to touch a queen or even a prince is something that usually happens in dreams.

 

But one day it will be more than a dream.  We will meet the King of kings.

 

We will not come before Jesus as strangers but as members of his chosen household.  How well we know this King of kings depends, in part, on our activities now.

 

Some immediately will recognize him as the loving Savior with whom they talked frequently in prayer.

 

Others will praise the Lord as the best of all gifts, whom they worshipped regularly with other believers.

 

Still others of us will recognize him as the Source of strength, received through his body and blood in the sacrament of Holy Communion.

 

The King of kings is coming.  Will we reach out eagerly for his hand?

 

                                    The King shall come when morning dawns

                                    And light and beauty brings.

                                    Hail, Christ the Lord! Your people pray:

                                    Come quickly, King of kings.  Amen.

                                               

 

-SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT—

YE SONS OF MEN, OH, HARKEN

 

                                    Ye sons of men, oh, harken:

                                    Your heart and mind prepare;

                                    To hail the Almighty Savior,

                                    O sinners, be you care.

                                                                        --Valentin Thilo

 

“A watched pot never boils” is an old saying with some truth.  When someone simply waits without doing much, not much seems to happen.

 

How fortunate, then, that we don’t just count the days until Christmas.  Preparation is a theme of the second week of Advent which begins today.  We focus not on the waiting for Christ but on our preparation to receive him.

 

For many years God had prepared his people for the coming of his Son.  Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, and even John the Baptist, born just six months before Jesus, reminded people that the Savior would be coming.

 

Now we do so many things to get ready for Christmas.  What will you be doing, this second week of Advent, to remember Christ’s first coming? How are you preparing, this second week of Advent, for Christ’s final coming?

 

                                    Prepare my heart, Lord Jesus,

                                    Turn not from me aside,

                                    And grant that I receive thee

                                    This blessed Adventide.  Amen.

                                                                        --Read Matthew 3:3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

--MONDAY OF THE SECOND WEEK—

COMFORT, COMFORT THESE MY PEOPLE

                                    “Comfort, comfort these my people,

                                    Speak of peace!” so says our God.

                                    Comfort these who sit in darkness

                                    Groaning under sin’s dread rod …

                                                                        --Johann Olearius

 

At first glance, this hymn might seem out of place.  Words of comfort seem few during this season of “Do this,” “Do that,” “Do it all faster.” Is it possible to have feelings of peace with Christmas Eve only weeks away?

 

It might appear the German hymn writer penned these lines for a different time.  Actually, he did! Johann Olearius wrote these words for the celebration of the Day of St. John the Baptist, June 24.  Yet, the message of this hymn really is appropriate for this second week of Advent.

 

Read the verses from Isaiah 4 on which this hymn is based.  Be comforted as you read the Old Testament words describing the revelation of God’s glory.  Stop a moment to feel God’s peace you are reminded of his promises.

 

Jesus’ coming that first Christmas fulfilled so many of the prophecies found in Isaiah.  God’s coming to us today, this Monday of Advent’s second week, offers peace and comfort.

 

We know our sins are forgiven.  We have the promise of eternal life.

 

Take comfort, speak of peace.  Those are more than words from today’s hymn.  Those are the words of our Lord.

 

                                    “Comfort, comfort these my people,

                                    Speak of peace!” so says our God.  Amen.

                                                                                    --Read Isaiah 40:1-5

 

 

 

 

--TUESDAY OF THE SECOND WEEK—

WAKE, AWAKE, FOR NIGHT IS FLYING

 

                                    “Wake, awake, for night is flying,”

                                    The watchmen on the heights are crying.

                                                                                    --Philipp Nicolai

 

A quick glance at the calendar is the only reminder we need that “time is flying.”

 

German pastor Philipp Nicolai, author of today’s hymn might have felt time pressures before this hymn was published in 1599.  Nicolai left one parish because of a Spanish invasion.  People in the place in which he next pastured became victims of the bubonic plague.

 

Nicolai wrote this hymn and others “to leave behind me … as a token of my peaceful, joyful Christian departure, or … to comfort other sufferers.”

 

Singing the parable of Matthew 25 is a spirited reminder that we always must be ready for Christ’s coming.  “Be ready” is constantly on our minds during these weeks before Christmas.  But the pages of life will move at the same pace next year.  If we are to “sing shouts of praise eternally!” as Nicolai anticipates, every day must be a time of preparation for our Lord.

 

                                    “The Bridegroom comes, awake!

                                    Your lamps with gladness take!

                                    Alleluia!

                                    With bridal care

                                    And faith’s bold prayer,

                                    To meet the Bridegroom, come, prepare!” Amen.

                                                                                    --Read Matthew 25:1-13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

--WEDNESDAY OF THE SECOND WEEK—

LO, HE COMES WITH CLOUDS DESCENDING

 

                                    LO, HE COMES WITH CLOUDS DESCENDING.

                                    ONCE FOR EV’RY SINNER SLAIN.

                                                                        --Charles Wesley

 

Do you need Christmas this year?

 

That’s an important question.  Pastors talk about those people who “need” the church when someone is very ill or when a baby is to be baptized.  At other times, worship with God’s people and an active church life are not very important.

 

Do you need Christmas this year? Will the singing, the celebrating be important?

 

If we’re honest with ourselves, there are some years when catching the holiday spirit really does make a difference.  Other years, Christmas comes and doesn’t leave much of a mark.

 

Christmas is coming.  Do you need Christmas this year?

 

Christ is coming.  Do you need Christ, now and in the future?

 

We come to Christmas with excitement.  In the true spirit of
Advent, we come to Christ with holy fear, holy joy.

 

                                    Ev’ry eye shall now behold him

                                    Robed in glorious majesty;

                                    Those who set at nought and sold him,

                                    Pierced and nailed him to the tree,

                                    Deeply wailing, deeply wailing,

                                    Shall their true Messiah see.  Amen.

                                                                        --Read Matthew 24:30-31

 

 

 

 

--THURSDAY OF THE SECOND WEEK—

LET ALL MORTAL FLESH KEEP SILENCE

 

                                    Let all mortal flesh keep silence

                                    And with fear and trembling stand;

                                    Ponder nothing earthly-minded,

                                    For with blessing in his hand

                                    Christ our God to earth descending

                                    Comes our homage to demand.

                                                                        --Liturgy of St. James

 

These lines are from the Liturgy of St. James, an ancient worship service.  Some attribute authorship to James, the first Bishop of Jerusalem.  The words above are used when the bread and wine are brought to the Communion table.

 

This hymn is found in the section titles “The Lord’s Supper” in many hymnals.  Often parishes use this song during the distribution at Communion.  Yet, this ancient verse is appropriate for the second week of Advent when a theme is repentance.

 

Neither this hymn nor Christian doctrine treat repentance as an isolated topic.  Repentance always goes together with forgiveness.  Although we stand “with fear and trembling,” Christ comes “with blessing in his hand.”  What a gracious God!

                                                           

                                    King of kings yet born of Mary,

                                    As of old on earth he stood,

                                    Lord of lords in human vesture,

                                    In the body and the blood,

                                    He will give to all the faithful

                                    His own self for heav’nly food.  Amen.

--Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

 

 

 

 

 

--FRIDAY OF THE SECOND WEEK—

AT THE NAME OF JESUS

                                    At the name of Jesus

                                    Ev’ry knee shall bow,

                                    Ev’ry tongue confess him

                                    King of glory now …

                                                            --Caroline M. Noel

 

What’s in a name? A lot, if you ask a parent-to-be who holds a book of names.

 

What’s in a name? A lot, if you ask a child who is named for a famous relative.

 

Unlike other parents, Mary and Joseph did not need to select a name for their Son.  Matthew records that the angel who announced Mary’s pregnancy to Joseph also named their Son.  Jesus means “the Lord saves” or “will save.”

 

Jesus was a fairly popular name in the first century.  The disciples used various titles to distinguish Jesus the Christ.  Biblical references include “Jesus of Nazareth,” “Jesus, Son of David,” and “The Prophet.”

 

We, too, use many names for Jesus.  The Good Shepherd, Lord, Son of God are all accurate descriptors.

 

Most of all, though, Jesus Christ is Savior.  He has saved us from eternal death and gives us the promise of everlasting life.

                                    Glory then to Jesus,

                                    Who, the Prince of light,

                                    To a world in darkness

                                    Brought the gift of sight;

                                    Praise to God the Father;

                                    In the Spirit’s love

                                    Praise we all together

                                    Him who reigns above.  Amen.

                                                                                    --Read Matthew 1:18-23

                       

 

                       

 

--SATURDAY OF THE SECOND WEEK—

SAVIOR OF THE NATIONS, COME

                                    Savior of the nations, come,

                                    Virgin’s Son, make here thy home!

                                                                                    --St Ambrose, Martin Luther

 

Christmas is only weeks away.  We can now see how the holiday is shaping up.  Will Christmas meet our expectations? Will you get what you want out of Christmas?

 

Having high hopes for the holidays contributes to the excitement of the season.  As Christians, we know one expectation always will be met: Christ will come.

 

Jesus comes not just as a baby, but as “Savior of the nations,” to borrow from today’s hymn title.

 

Will you get what you want out of Christmas? If you seek the Son of God, the answer is “Yes.”

 

Will Christmas meet you expectations? If you seek a personal Savior, the answer is “Yes.”

 

Will your hopes for the holiday be met? If you seek Jesus Christ as Lord, the answer is “Yes.”

 

                                    Not by human flesh and blood,

                                    By the Spirit of our God,

                                    Was the Word of God made flesh –

                                    Woman’s Offspring, pure and fresh.  Amen.

                                                                                    --Read John 1:14

 

 

                                   

 

                                   

                                   

 

--THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT—

BEHOLD, A ROSE IS GROWING

 

                                    This precious Rose of Sharron,

                                    In prophet’s promise, plain,

                                    Is now by humble Mary

                                    In swaddle gently lain.

                                                            --German author unknown

 

The poinsettia is well-known in the United States as the Christmas flower.  The blossom associated with this season, the Advent rose, is not as familiar.

 

Use of this colorful rose of Palestine as a pre-Christmas symbol might have started as early as the 13th century, according to some writers.  The rose often is pictured with a white candlestick.  This is intended to show that the Old Testament prophecy of Christ, the Light of the world, has been fulfilled.

 

A symbol has been defined as a silent teacher.  The rose of which we sing today states clearly and loudly a message for us all this Adventide:

 

                                    The Flow’r, so young and ender,

                                    A Baby in the straw,

                                    Bespeaks a certain weakness:

                                    Death’s strong sepulchral flaw.

                                    Yet this is God-Come-Near-

                                    The Voice of the Almighty

                                    Drowns out all earthly fear.  Amen.

                                                                        --Read Isaiah 11:1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

--MONDAY OF THE THIRD WEEK—

“COMFORT, COMFORT,” SAYS THE VOICE

                                   

                                    “Comfort, comfort,” says the Voice,

                                    “My people that they may rejoice …”

                                                                        --Waldemar Rode

 

“What do you want Santa to bring?” When young, our three children frequently were asked this question.  They sometimes hesitated to answer, but even as a three-year-old, Matthew had learned to respond, We have a Jesus birthday cake.”  Angela and Christy would say a bit more properly, “We have Jesus’ birthday cake.”

 

Even some adults who have seen many Christmases wait for a Santa to visit in the form of a friend or relative.  Unfortunately, some people wait for a St. Nicholas who never appears.

 

How wonderful we don’t seek a figure dressed in red and white! We have the promise of God, as recorded in Isaiah and repeated in today’s hymn, “Comfort, comfort my people.”  We are reassured that not only will Christ be born, but that he will die and rise as our Savior.

 

What will we bring? Radio preacher Dr. Oswald Hoffman used to say, “In Christ, with Christ, for Christ, bring comfort to people.  Speak comfortably to them as Christ brings comfort to you.”

 

What will Jesus bring? We answer with confidence, “Jesus brings joy at his birth and eternal life at our death.”

 

                                    The hour now strikes, the dawnlight breaks,

                                    God keeps the promises he makes.  Amen.

                                                                                    --Read Isaiah 40:1-2

 

 

 

 

 

--TUESDAY FO THE THIRD WEEK—

O LORD, HOW SHALL I MEET YOU

                                    O Lord, how shall I meet you,

                                    How welcome you aright?

                                    Your people long to greet you,

                                    My hope, my heart’s delight!

                                    Oh, kindle, Lord most holy,

                                    Your lamp within my breast

                                    To do in spirit lowly

                                    All that may please you best.

                                                                        --Paul Gerhardt

 

“O Lord, how shall I meet you?” is certainly an appreciate question.  Christmas is almost here, and there are presents to buy and wrap; people to see; things to make; the lists seem endless.  Typical holiday pressures seem slight, though, in comparison to what German hymn writer Paul Gerhardt must have faced.

 

Four of Gerhardt’s five children died early in life.  His wife died when the remaining child was only six years old.  The political climate in Germany caused problems for Gerhardt, who was a pastor.  Yet, how positively Gerhardt answers his own question, “O Lord, how shall I meet you?”

 

Sometimes hearing about the problems of others can put our own situations in a proper perspective.  Anticipating our future with Christ always can lighten our load.  As we move toward Bethlehem, the promise of eternal life brings joy, hope, and peace.

 

                                    Despair not; he is near you,

                                    There, standing at the door,

                                    Who best can help and cheer you

                                    And bids you weep no more.  Amen.

                                                                                    --Rad Matthew 21: 1-11

 

 

 

 

 

--WEDNESDAY OF THE THIRD WEEK—

OH, COME, OH, COME, EMMANUEL

 

                                    Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,

                                    And ransom captive Israel,

                                    That mourns in lonely exile here

                                    Until the Son of God appear …

                                                                        --Psalteriolum Cantionum Catholicarum

 

This season of anticipation is not easy for everyone to celebrate.  Some people remember “picture book holidays” when life seemed simpler.  Others recall years when the children were home, or when the children were young.  The celebration of Christmas is most difficult for those who have suffered the loss of a loved one recently or at this time of year.

 

An empty place seems more haunting at the holidays.  Missed companionship leaves a space that is not easy to fill.

 

For these persons, and for all of us, we seek Emmanuel at the manger.  We seek Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”

 

This Christmas, there might be holes in our lives that are not easily filled.  An empty place might remain empty.

 

But Emmanuel is here.  “God with us” we can say to each other in greeting.  “God with us” we can speak to ourselves in comfort.  In the words of today’s hymn, “Come, oh, come, Emmanuel.”

           

                                    Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

                                    Shall come to you, O Israel! Amen.

                                                                        --Read Matthew 1:23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

--THURSDAY OF THE THIRD WEEK—

HARK THE GLAD SOUND

 

                                    Hark the glad sound! The Savior comes,

                                    The Savior promised long;

                                    Let ev’ry heart prepare a throne

                                    And ev’ry voice a song.

                                                                        --Philip Doddridge

 

This season sounds so beautiful! Jingle bells hang on doorknobs.  Favorite carols fill the air.  The rustle of wrapping paper and the ring of the doorbell are such exciting sounds.

 

“Hark the glad sound! The Savior comes,” we sing today.  That’s the most important message of this Adventide.

 

Many of the sounds of this season are traditional, nice, and so pleasant.  “Christ is born,” the words we hear with our ears and accept with our heart, is the only message that matters.

 

                                    Our glad hosannas, Prince of Peace,

                                    Your welcome shall proclaim,

                                    And heav’n’s eternal arches ring

                                    With your beloved name.  Amen.

                                                                        --Read Isaiah 12:1-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

--FRIDAY OF THE THIRD WEEK—

AS WITH GLADNESS MEN OF OLD

                                    As with gladness men of old

                                    Did the guiding star behold;

                                    As with joy they hailed its light,

                                    Leading onward, beaming bright;

                                    So, most gracious Lord, may we

                                    Evermore be led by thee.

                                                                        --William C. Dix

 

We turn on the lights before we enter a dark room.  We light a candle when the electricity goes out.  A flashlight beams softly as a parent checks on sleeping children.

 

Lights play an important part in modern life.  It’s correct to talk about the light and the dark as we approach the year’s shortest day and its longest night.  Today we have more hours of darkness than of daylight.

 

The star of Bethlehem guided visitors to the Baby born on that first Christmas.  That light must have been a great comfort for the travelers from the East.

 

We, too, depend on a special light from God.  It is the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.  Our spiritual life is as dependent on Christ, the Light of the World, as a green plant is dependent on the sun for life-giving rays.

 

Children often sing at this season, “This little Gospel Light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”  Christ shines within the Christian.  Even during these short days, we glow the love of Jesus.

                                    Holy Jesus, ev’ry day

                                    Keep us in the narrow way;

                                    And when earthly things are past,

                                    Bring our ransomed souls at last

                                    Where they need no star to guide,

                                    Where no clouds thy glory hide.  Amen.

                                                                        --Read John 1:4-5

 

 

 

--SATURDAY OF THE THIRD WEEK—

AWAY IN A MANGER

                                    Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,

                                    The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.

                                    The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay.

                                    The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

                                                                        --author unknown

 

Perhaps you’ve pictured this scene: Dr. Martin Luther, Katie, their children, extended family and guests gathered together singing what’s commonly called Luther’s Cradle Hymn, or “Away In A Manger.”  It’s a pleasant scene.  Warmth and good feelings radiate from a beautiful old-fashioned German Christmas.

 

However, it’s a scene that never was.  “Away In A Manger” is the type of verse Luther could written, but he didn’t.  The author is unknown.

 

We can put together a more accurate picture of a Luther family Christmas.  People probably would be together in a central living space, singing carols passed along through the years.  The rhythms would be lullabies.  People would be gathered around a cradle, a real wooden cradle.

 

Like the people of Luther’s Germany, we, move  toward a cradle in the next few days.  Any crib, manger, or stall is adequate.  It’s not the cradle that’s special, but the Baby who rests there.

 

We move toward the crib of the Christ Child.  We come with a lullaby on our lips, singing “Away In A Manger.”  We take eager steps, for the Baby whose birth we celebrate is our Savior.  Thanks be to God!

                                    Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay

                                    Close by me forever and love me, I pray.

                                    Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,

                                    And take us to heaven to live with thee there.  Amen.

                                                                                                --Read Luke 2:7

 

 

 

 

--FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT—

I AM SO GLAD WHEN CHRISTMAS COMES

                                   

I am so glad when Christmas comes,

                                    The night of Jesus’ birth,

                                    When Bethl’em’s star shone as the sun

                                    And angels sang with mirth.

                                                                        --Marie Wexelsen

 

Today’s hymn is an ideal children’s song; the lines are short, the imagery clear, and the words simple.  This week, in Christian churches throughtout the world, children will tell the story of Bethlehem in pageants, programs and special worship services.

 

Some people have said that Christmas is for children.  How fortunate we all can be childlike at Christmas!

 

We don’t intellectually figure out the story of Jesus’ birth.  With childlike faith, we accept and believe the Christmas Gospel.  We step eagerly to the manger.  Our eyes open at the glorious sights of the Nativity.

 

Young or old, because of the gift of faith, we can all “be so glad when Christmas comes.”

 

                                    I am so glad when Christmas comes;

                                    Let anthems fill the air!

                                    He opens wide for every child

                                    His paradise so fair.  Amen.

                                                                        --Read Mark 10:14-15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

--MONDAY, THE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM

                                    O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!

                                    Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by …

                                                                                                --Phillips Brooks

What a place God chose for the birth of his Son! Bethlehem wasn’t large by any standard.  Probably about 300 people lived there at the time of Christ.

 

Bethlehem wasn’t geographically distinctive.  The town was nestled in the hill country of Judea.

But Bethlehem was the birthplace of the much-loved King David.  Ruth, faithful daughter-in-law of Naomi, gleaned grain in the nearby fields of Boaz.

 

And the town certainly was a busy place during the census called by Caesar Augustus.  What chattering might have been heard as water jars were carried home from the central marketplace?

 

But the noise of animals and people from faraway places couldn’t drown out the words Mary and Joseph heard as they searched for a place to give birth to their Child.  “No room.  No room here” came the answer.  There almost was no place for Christ to be born!

 

Many people today welcome Christmas but have no room for Christ.  How many of us today are like those people of Bethlehem long ago, too busy to receive Jesus?

 

Yet, he forgives us.  Again and again Christ reaches out to us.

Christmas is upon us.  There still is time to prepare room for our Lord.  What a place will Christ have in your Christmas?

                                    O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;

                                    Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today … Amen.

                                                                                    --Read Micah 5:2

 

 

 

 

 

--TUESDAY, THE DAY OF CHRISTMAS

JOY TO THE WORLD

                                    Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

                                    Let earth receive its King …

                                                                                    --Isaac Watts

A famous Christian once said, “Christmas is about Christ.  It is not about you, it is about Christ.  It is not about the church, it is about Christ.  It is his birthday. Or it is nothing at all.”

 

Can you hear Christmas? The bells are already ringing.  We join in the singing.

Can you see Christmas? Christ is in the manger.  Happy smiles are everywhere.

 

Can you feel Christmas? The warm hug of a friend touches you with love.  Feel the warmth from sharing with others the real meaning of this season, ribboned ‘round the Christ Child.

 

What a glorious time.  The promise of the Messiah is fulfilled.  Our Christmas celebration gives us a taste of the time when every day will be like Christmas.  Now we sing, “Joy to the world.”  Christ is born!

 

When at his heavenly throne we join the Babe born in Bethlehem, we always will sing of joy in the Lord.  Now our Christmas lasts one day.  In the eternity won for us by Christ, the joy we feel at Christmas will last forever.

 

                                    He rules the world with truth and grace

                                    And makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness

                                    And wonders of his love, and wonders of his love,

                                    And wonders, wonders of his love.  Amen.

                                                                                                --Read Psalm 98:4-9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

--WEDNESDAY, THE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS—

SILENT NIGHT, HOLY NIGHT

                                    Silent night, holy night!

                                    All is calm. All is bright …

                                                            --Joseph Mohr

 

How anxiously I seek the quiet of this hymn each year.  The holiday surrounds me with its bustle and busy-ness.  How readily I return in my memory to the Austrian Alps where this song was written.  Even the cowbells I heard echoing years ago in those mountains remind me now of peace.

 

Christmas is more than memories.  This week of Christmas is an ideal time to focus on the miracle of Christmas.  God, Creator of the world, all-knowing and all-powerful, sent his Son – Jesus Christ – to earth for us.  He was sent to live the perfect life we could not live, to suffer and die for our sins, and to be raised in victory so that we might be saved.  That seems so simple when printed on paper – but what a wondrous event!

 

The message of Christmas stays long after the bells stop ringing and the holiday chimes are packed away.  “Christ the Savior is born” has meaning for each day of our lives.  This season will soon be over, but how grateful I am that Christ is with me forever! My faith is not in Christmas but in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

 

                                    Heav’nly hosts sing, Alleluia!

                                    Christ, the Savior, is born!

                                    Christ, the Savior, is born!  Amen.

                                                                        --Read Luke 2:1-20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

--THURSDAY, THE DYS OF CHRISTMAS—

HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING

 

                                    Hark! The herald angels sing,

                                    “Glory to the newborn King …”

                                                                        --Charles Wesley

 

Probably more than one young child has interpreted this familiar hymn as the song of Harold the Angel.  Such thinking is not that far from the truth, however.

 

A herald announces or tells news.  An angel is a messenger.  The angels, as God’s messengers, announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds.  It was – and is – the best Good News ever heard: “Your Savior was born – Jesus Christ the Lord.”  The angels delivered Good News which leads to salvation.

 

We, too, can be numbered among the heralds.  We, Too, have been commissioned as messengers to tell the story of Christ, to arise and let our faith shine in word and deed.

 

In this hymn, songwriter Charles Wesley even gives us an idea of how to begin our message.  We can start by telling people, “Hark -- listen carefully; pay attention.”

 

“Herald” might not be on the Social Security card we carry; but we have the Great Commission calling card to herald the news of Jesus Christ, to witness, baptize, and teach (Matthew 28:18-20).

                                    “Peace on earth and mercy mild,

                                    God and sinners reconciled.”

                                    Joyful, all you nations, rise;

                                    Join the triumph of the skies;

                                    With angelic hosts proclaim,

                                    “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

                                    Hark! The herald angels sing,

                                    “Glory to the newborn King!” Amen.

                                                                                    ---Read Luke 2:13-14

 

 

 

--FRIDAY, THE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS—

LOVE CAME DOWN AT CHRISTMAS

 

                                    Love came down at Christmas,

                                    Love all lovely, Love divine …

                                                               --Christina G. Rossetti

 

Singing Christmas cards, the kind that play a tune when opened, are a special treat at our house.  The first two lines of today’s hymn seem like one of those musical greetings.  The words almost float off the page.

 

“Love came down at Christmas” such a lyrical thought that one easily can be lulled into forgetting what the words mean.  It was on the first Christmas that God reached down to his people on earth through the gift of his Son: “There is salvation in no one else, for we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  God’s love took human form – for all of us – in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

 

“You almost can reach out and touch love at this time of the year,” a friend once told me.  A Christian lives in love year-round – because of God’s great love in Christ Jesus.

 

                                    Love was born at Christmas,

                                    Star and angels gave the sign.  Amen.

                                                                        --Read 1 John 4:7-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

---SATURDAY, THE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS—

GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN

 

                                    Go tell it on the mountain,

                                    Over the hills and ev’rywhere;

                                    Go tell it on the mountain

                                    That Jesus Christ is born!

 

John Wesley Work II, who wrote the traditional verses of what has been historically revered to as a Negro spiritual, probably would be pleased to see this hymn included in so many hymnals today.  During the early 1900s, Work strongly supported the efforts to preserve and perform Black folk music.

 

The message of his text is as clear and direct as today’s Scripture selection: Tell people about Jesus.  Share your faith in Christ.  Arise from laziness and shine in witnessing.  Sing of our Savior.  Talk about what happened at Bethlehem.  Let everyone know “that Jesus Christ is Born!”

 

Go—and tell.

 

                                    Down in a lonely manger

                                    The humble Christ was born;

                                    And God sent us salvation

                                    That blessed Christmas morn.

                                    Go tell it on the mountain,

                                    Over the hills and ev’rywhere;

                                    Go tell it on the mountain

                                    That Jesus Christ is born! Amen.

                                                                                    --Read Mark 16:15

                                                           

 

 

 

 

 

                                   

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