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Daily Devotion for December 15, 2010
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.
Prayer of Thanks for God's Creation
O Lord God of Israel and God of the nations, you are the only God in heaven above or the earth below. I walk before you with all my heart. I bless your name in the morning when I rise and in the evening when I sleep, and all the day when your creation fills my eye. Bless me to remember you this day; when I see and hear the thousand miracles of your creation, let me see them anew, recalling that you have made them, and no other; that I may live in your presence among the common miracles I take for granted. Through Christ I pray,
For the Human Family
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.
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 motherís 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 ten 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 warmup act and His emcee; he introduced Christ to Israel by prophecying 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. Like Jesus, John's father was visited by an angel to inform him of an unexpected birth, although in John's case his birth was remarkable because of the age of his parents.
If you have been following the Daily Devotional for the past month, you will also see a similarity between John the Baptist and Samson. Both were born to barren women; both were announced by an angel; and both were forbidden to drink alcohol. Samson's strictures were more stringent than John's, because he was a Nazrite, 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, as a sign of his dedication to God.
Notice the reference to Judaistic religious practices of the time. The priests served in groups or "divisions", on a rotating basis. Almost nobody was allowed inside the Temple to stand in the presence of God; a priest from the current group was chosen by lots. Some older Christian churches have a similar sacramental practice; in the Russian Orthodox Church, for example, when the Holy Eucharist is celebrated, the priest traditionally stands before the altar separated from the congregation by a screen of icons to perform the consecration. The ceremonial practices of some Orthodox churches is actually, in some respects, more like ancient Judaism than modern Judaism itself!