Daily Devotion for December 20, 2016
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.
Shepherds, in the fields abiding,
Watching o'er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing,
Gloria in excelsis deo!
Gloria in excelsis deo!
Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great desire of nations,
Ye have seen His natal star;
Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear:
Though an Infant now we view Him,
He shall fill His Father’s throne,
Gather all the nations to Him;
Every knee shall then bow down:
Prayer for the Morning
Heavenly Father, this morning I pray for those who are beginning to know Christ: may You strengthen them on their journey. I pray for all children, and for those who take care of them, especially those who awaken them to faith. I pray for the ill and those who are ending their lives in loneliness: Oh Lord, give them the strength they need. I pray for those who are condemned to prison or exile: Lord, sustain their hope. I pray that the fire of your Spirit may renew the energies of all your saints and enable us to welcome those who do not know you. And finally, Lord, may your Church be constantly renewed, in prayer, in your Word and in your worship; in Christ's name, this I ask,
Prayer for the Spirit of Christmas
Oh Lord, I am so tired. It seems like the lists of to-do’s get longer each day, the frenzy in my home each night gets wilder. It seems like the holidays have barely started and already I am behind.
Help me, dear Jesus. Let me feel your loving arms wrap me tightly in the warm embrace of your endless love. Teach me to make choices about my time, to remember what is important this season and to say “no” whenever my “yes” would take me away from your peace. Fill me with patience, love and a sense of humor. Remind me of your deep love for me and let the fire of that love be something I can share with everyone around me.
[Let me learn to say “no” to the demands of the world, when it takes away from my peace.]
Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, let me think about these things. What I have learned and received, let me do; and the God of peace be with us all.
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.”