Daily Devotion for December 18, 2016
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.
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.
Psalm 98:1-6 (NSRV)
O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.
Luke 1:26-38 (ESV)
Christ’s Birth Announced to Mary
Now in the sixth month [of Elizabeth's pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, for you are highly favored. The Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have never known a man?”
Detail from Oswald Tanner's Annunciation.
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Notes on the Scripture
he passage today is termed “The Annunciation” and is celebrated as a feast day in many churches. The celebration takes place around the spring equinox (in Orthodox churches, it is always March 25 and is extremely important). The Gospels, however, place it directly before accounts of the birth of Christ, and so it is also, in terms of narrative structure, part of Advent.
As with Zechariah, the angel Gabriel acts as God's messenger. The Catholic/Orthodox churches and Protestant churches differ in the degree of importance placed on the veneration of the Virgin Mary. Orthodox churches know her as “Theotokos”, Greek for “the bearer of God”. They place more emphasis on Christ's conception, as opposed to His birth, being the moment at which the salvation of humanity begins.
How a person worships is a very personal matter; some Christians place great emphasis on the Annunciation as the moment when the Good News was first told; some place great emphasis on Christmas; and at the opposite extreme, the Pilgrims did not even celebrate Christmas. Reacting to the debauchery of the holiday in Great Britain, in 1659 the Puritans of Boston formally banned this “great dishonor of God and offense of others”!
And yet their core belief of this fundamental point is identical; God came to save humanity from sin in the person of Christ, who was born as a male baby named Jesus, to a betrothed virgin named Mary, “to the end that all who believe in Him should not perish, but have eternal life”.
Let us join together during the Christmas season in celebrating the unity of all Christians; setting aside differences to emphasize the common beliefs of all who confess Christ to be their Savior.