Daily Devotion for December 16, 2012
Third Sunday in Advent
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Our "Virtual Sunday Church" takes us to the Lichfield Cathedral today, to hear the well-known Advent hymn, Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending.
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
God appears on earth to reign.
Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.
The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture, with what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!
Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
O come quickly! O come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down!
Prayer at Daybreak (by Archimandrite Sophronios)
O Lord Eternal and Creator of all things, who with your unknowable goodness called me to this life; I have no life, no light, no joy or wisdom, no strength except in you, O God. I entreat you, teach me to pray aright. Purify me from all taint of flesh and spirit. Bless this day which you give to me, your unworthy servant.
By the power of your blessing enable me, throughout this day, to speak and act to your glory with a pure spirit, with humility, patience, love, gentleness, peace, courage and wisdom. Let me be always aware of your presence. By the power of your love, grant me to hold fast to that which is good. Preserve me from every word or deed that corrupts the soul; from every impulse unpleasing in your sight and hurtful to my fellow man, my brothers and sister.
This in Christ's name, I pray,
Prayer for All People
O God, the creator and preserver of all mankind, I humbly pray to you for all sorts and conditions of humanity; that it might please you to make your Word known to them and bring your saving health to all nations. In particular I pray for the entirety of your church, in all of its many forms; that it may be guided and governed by your Holy Spirit, and that all who profess your name and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth. May all of us live in the unity of spirit our faith in Christ provides to us, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life.
Finally, I commend to your fatherly goodness all those who are ill or in distress, in their mind, body, or circumstances. May it please you to comfort and relieve them in accordance with their needs, giving them patience during their suffering, and a fortunate outcome to all of their problems. And this I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, who was always pleased to relieve the suffering of those he encountered.
May the Passion of Christ be ever in my heart. May your law and your goodness guide my every thought, O Lord. And may the power of your Holy Spirit flow through my words and my actions today, and always.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
1 Chronicles 17:11-14 (Holman C. Std. Bible)
The Lord's Covenant with David
"When your time comes to be with your fathers, I will raise up after you your descendant, who is one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for Me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be a father to him, and he will be a son to Me. I will not take away My faithful love from him as I took it from the one who was before you. I will appoint him over My house and My kingdom forever, and his throne will be established forever."
Luke 1:5-17 (English Std Version)
Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.
But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.
And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."
Notes on the Scripture
Today, with nine days left until Christmas, we start our Christmas readings in earnest. The birth of Christ is bound up with the birth of John the Baptist. God did not send Christ into the world cold, as they say in the theater (and in sales). John the Baptist was His warm-up act and His emcee; he introduced Christ to Israel by prophesying His imminent arrival and then by baptizing Him in the Jordan River.
Their ties began before their birth. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were Levites, the descendants of Aaron, the tribe from which Judaism took its priests. As would happen to Mary in six months, John's father was visited by an angel (Gabriel) to inform him of a miraculous birth. In John's case his birth was remarkable because of the age of his parents. As happens several times in the Old Testament (most notably Sarah), God chooses a barren woman, past the age of conception, to bear a child of a special significance. Thus, people will find it easier to accept the child as special, since his conception was a miracle. His mere existence is a sign of his significance.
John the Baptist reminds us somewhat of Samson. Both were born to barren women; both were announced by an angel; and in both cases, the angel forbade them to drink alcohol. (See Judges 13.) Samson's strictures were more stringent than John's, because he was a Nazarite, and was forbidden to cut his hair or beard. John, however, although not a member of a formal monastic sect, would prove to lead a monastic life: living in the wilderness in rough clothing and surviving on locusts, as a sign of his dedication to God.
Note that the name "Zechariah" can cause some confusion. It is a good transliteration of the ancient Hebrew, but various versions of the Bible Latinize the name to Zacharias or even Zachary. However, there is a more important Hebrew prophet also named Zechariah. This person lived 500 years earlier, and his prophesies are contained in the Book of Zechariah, the penultimate book of the Christian Old Testament.