Daily Devotion for December 20, 2015
Fourth 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.
Let nothing you dismay,
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day,
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray,
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy.
O tidings of comfort and joy.
In Bethlehem, in Israel,
This blessed Babe was born,
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn,
The which His Mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn,
From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
Prayer for Personal Conduct (from 1 Timothy)
Lord God, I pray that this day my conduct will be like that you have set for your clergy: Above reproach. May I be this day, and during the coming week, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, and not violent, but gentle. May I never be quarrelsome, always seeking peace even in disagreement, and may my love be for you and my fellow man, not for money. I pray that I manage my own household well. If I have any children in my charge, I pray to that I may take the time to see that they are in control and behaving with proper respect. Grant me a good reputation with outsiders, so that I will not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil. This I pray through my Lord Christ, whose love and attention ever gave us an example of conduct,
Prayer of Praise (from Psalm 86)
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon you: for you will answer me.
Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; and no works like those you have done. All nations whom you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; and will glorify your name.
For you are great, and do wondrous things: you are God alone.
Teach me your way, Lord, and I will walk in your truth: unite my heart to fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify your name forever.
Holy Jesus, as I spend these days waiting to celebrate your birth, give me the grace to greet you without suppressed sighs of weariness. Grant me the spirit of generosity; let me open my front door to you, without any thought of inconvenience. Let me work every teaching and commandment you gave us, let me know your love and share it abundantly with all I may meet, remembering throughout this time your message and example of long-suffering love and infinite patience.
[Unite my heart to fear Your name.]
The Lord bless us and keep us. The Lord make his face to shine upon us, and be gracious unto us. The Lord lift up his countenance upon us, and give us peace, this day and evermore.
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 gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.
~ Oren Arnold
Luke 1:57-66 (ESV)
The Birth of John the Baptist
Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered,“No; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.”
And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered.
And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.
Notes on the Scripture
The events recounted by today's Scripture follow the chronology of Luke but are a bit misleading as to the timing of events. John was actually born about six months before Jesus (and the feast of his birthday is celebrated on June 24). Nevertheless, his birth is properly part of the Christmas celebration, because of the parallels between them and because of the amount of interaction between John's mother, Elizabeth, and Mary during their pregnancies. His birth is part of the Christmas story.
The Virgin, Jesus and John Baptist
(Bouguereau ca. 1875)
John the Baptist had a specific role ordained by God as forerunner or precursor of Jesus, who was the foretold Messiah. The New Testament Gospels speak of this role. In Luke 1:17 the role of John is referred to as being “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord”; in Luke 1:76 as “thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways”; and in Luke 1:77, “To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins.”
There are several passages within the Old Testament which are prophetic of John the Baptist, and his role in Christ's mission. Malachi prophesied the coming of John the Baptist in two passages: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1) And again, “I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers.” (Malachi 4:5-6)
The Jews of Jesus' day expected Elijah to come before the Messiah; indeed, some modern Jews continue to await Elijah's coming as well. This is why the disciples asked Jesus (in Matthew 17:10-13), “'Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come (before the Messiah)?'
Jesus replied, 'To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have abused him as they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.' Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.”