Daily Devotion for December 3, 2014
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.
His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;
“All hail,” said he, “thou lowly maiden Mary,
Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!
“For know a blessèd mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honor thee,
Thy Son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,
Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!
Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
“To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said,
“My soul shall laud and magnify His holy Name.”
Most highly favored lady, Gloria!
Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born
In Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn,
And Christian folk throughout the world will ever say—
“Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!
Prayer to Endure the World
Dear Jesus, look down on me this morning with sympathy, for I feel much afflicted. I have a headache and my back hurts. I did not sleep well and I did not sleep long enough. I am worried about my health, I am worried about my money, I am worried about my family. My home needs repairs. People do not give me the respect I deserve. Nobody listens to me.
There is a certain person who is driving me crazy! I don't have as much energy as I used to and I'm not sure I have enough to get everything done today that I want to do, or even, that I need to do.
The crazy and even destructive things people say in the media and the political mess in my locality and my nation make me despair. How can people be so stupid? They just seem to get worse and worse. The country is run by morons; how can people fail to elect people with some minimum of competence and honesty? Even in the churches, people cannot see or understand the most basic things about you, and the hypocrisy of so many Christians makes me half-ashamed to call myself one sometimes.
And then, Lord Christ, I realize. The world is not perfectible. There is only one place free from pain, worry, frustration, and all of the nonsense and damage that the human mind can create, and that is in your bosom. Hold me tight, Lord Jesus; give me the strength to endure the pain, give me the certainty of hope to avoid the anxiety, give me the blessed knowledge of Your coming again that I might not be stressed out about the things of this world; for they shall pass away soon enough.
And in the meantime, let me grow in you, that I might see my own wrongdoing and with the help of your Spirit, simply dissolve it away. It is in this world that Satan can find his prey, the fertile soil for evil. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, great Lord. Help me to prepare myself, I pray, in the name of Your love,
Prayer the Gospel May Be Spread
Almighty God, you called your church to be united in faith. By your grace you have given us new life in Jesus Christ, and by your Spirit you have called us to proclaim his name throughout the nations. Awaken in me such a love for you and your world that I may so boldly proclaim Jesus Christ by word and deed that all people may come to know him as Savior and follow him as Lord. And bless and strengthen all those who dedicate their lives to the increase of your church, both at home and abroad. Send your spirit to fill their tongues with your message, and protect them from all harm, to the glory of your Name.
[To boldly proclaim Jesus Christ by word and deed.]
Now all glory to you, mighty God, who is able to keep me from falling away and will bring me with great joy into your glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to you who alone are God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are yours before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time,
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
“Christmas has lost its meaning for us because we have lost the spirit of expectancy. We cannot prepare for an observance. We must prepare for an experience.”
~ Handel Brown
The Young Woman is with Child
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”
But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”
And Isaiah said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Notes on the Scripture
Ahaz, a descendant of David, was the King of Judah. He reigned from roughly 735 BC to 715 BC. I would say he was king “during a difficult period”, but pretty much the entire history of Israel is a difficult period, in one way or another.
When Isaiah was active, Judah and Israel were separate kingdoms and, during Ahaz's reign, at odds with each other. Ahaz was a wicked and even idolatrous king, and the King of Israel (Pekah) was not much better. For example, Ahaz made his son walk through the fire of Moloch, a god who was generally a large statue with an oven in his belly; often, infants were sacrificed in Moloch by being roasted alive.
Both of them made foreign alliances to fight each other, resulting in the occupation of Israel and the subjection of Judah to Assyria. Ahaz repeatedly ignored the counsel of major prophets: Hosea and Micah, as well as Isaiah. The Bible teaches a causal connection between the idolatry of Judah and its decline and subjugation under Azaz, and nobody is more outspoken about the connection than Isaiah.
But the importance of today's Scripture lies not so much in Ahaz ignoring yet another warning from Isaiah — indeed, he does not follow direct instructions from God Himself, who spoke directly to him.
Rather, Isaiah looks past the coming destruction of Israel and Judah to a time when a child will be born to a woman, a child called Immanuel. Immanuel is not so much a name as a title, because in Hebrew it means “God with us”. (Technically, Immanuel would be called a “theophoric” name, that is, a name that embodies the name of God or name of a god. Christopher, which means “bearer of Christ”, is a well-known Christian theophoric name; Apollonia would theophoric from the Greek god Apollo.)
Thus, Isaiah here predicts Christmas itself. The word for “woman”, translated here as “young woman”, causes constant conflict among Bible scholars, for it can easily be translated “maiden” or “virgin”, but might also be applied to a young wife. So the King James Bible reads, “ Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, . . .”
But we should never lose sight of the irreducible, profound, and mystical truth of Isaiah's prophecy. He foretells, 700 years before the fact, that a child will embody God, a child born to a woman, and will become the salvation of God's people.