Daily Devotion for December 13, 2015
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!
For a Heart Open to God's Word
God, as you gave us the sun to lighten our days, so you have given us your Word to lighten our minds and our souls. I pray that you will pour out on me your Spirit as I pray today, that my heart and mind may be opened to your Word, and that I may learn and accept your will for my life.
Shine within my heart, loving God, the pure light of your divine knowledge; open the eyes of my mind and the ears of my heart to receive your Word, this day and always,
An Advent Prayer
God, grant me the grace to be patient and vigilant in watching, waiting, and listening attentively, so that I won't miss Christ when he comes knocking at my door. Remove whatever hinders me from receiving the gifts which the Savior brings — Joy, peace, justice, mercy, and love. And let me always remember that these are gifts that are only received by giving; let me remember, during this season and throughout the year, the downtrodden, the oppressed, the outcast, the prisoner, the weak, and the defenseless, with my prayers and with my substance.
In the name of Christ I pray,
Song of Praise
Bless the Lord all you works of the Lord: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord you heavens: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord you angels of the Lord: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord all people on earth: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.
O people of God bless the Lord: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord you priests of the Lord: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord you servants of the Lord: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord all you of upright spirit: bless the Lord you that are holy and humble in heart.
All Bless the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.
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.
1 Chronicles 17:11-14 (Holman CSB)
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 (ESV)
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 12 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.
ohn 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.