Daily devotion for Advent #28

Dec 24 – John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

What’s the best Christmas gift you’ve ever gotten? Maybe it was the brand-new doll or bike you wanted when you were little, or the newest phone that everybody wants if you’re a little older. Maybe it was tickets to a concert or the promise of a trip – something you’d never get to do otherwise. Or maybe it’s simply time with someone that you weren’t sure you’d be able to see – a child, home from college; a family member in the military. 

The greatest gift ever given at Christmas is Christ. He is a gift because what He brings could never be earned or bought; only given. He Himself is the gift. To have God as one’s very own, to be one with God again – this is what Jesus promises, and what He gives. It is a promise not only for “the faithful”, for the few in contrast to the world. This is a promise for all people of all time. It is a mark of God’s love that He gave His Son for us, even when people still deny Him, mock Him, and ignore Him. 

We do not. We worship Him. We honor Him. We acclaim Him as Lord, for only Christ is the summation of all our hopes. Deliverance from death, the forgiveness of our sins, and the promise of eternal life come with Him. That Baby lying in the manger is far more than He seems. God grant that each of us turn to Christ in faith and find life, Amen! 

Lord God, heavenly Father, we give thanks that in your great mercy and compassion you allowed your dear Son to become incarnate and through him redeemed us from sin and eternal death. Enlighten our hearts by your Holy Spirit that we may always be thankful for such grace and be comforted in all trouble and temptation, and at last, obtain eternal salvation; through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

Daily devotion for Advent #27

Dec 23 – Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born. 

To us a son is given.

The authority to rule will rest on his shoulders.

He will be named:

    Wonderful Counselor,

    Mighty God,

    Everlasting Father,

    Prince of Peace.

By all rights, Jesus should be a walking contradiction. Someone who is the Mighty God at the same time He is a child, born in time from the nature of His mother? Someone who is a mighty warrior, and also the Prince of Peace? Someone who is a baby, and yet is called Everlasting Father? Fallen human reason scoffs at the things said of Christ, and will not know Him or serve Him. People erect fanciful castles in the air, spun from spurious human logic and weak-brained thinking, and expect to vaunt themselves against the Holy One of Israel, He who has all authority in heaven and on earth to rule and who will destroy all authority on the Last Day. 

We know better. And we know better not because we know better, with our reason or logic, for after all, fallen human reason must be enlightened and informed by God’s Word. No, we know better because faith knows things unseen. Faith is a kind of knowing that goes beyond sight, to unseen realities. It even lays hold of Christ, who even though you do not see Him now, you love Him, and at the thought of His salvation for you you are filled with a glorious and inexpressible joy. This Child could have held all the might of man within His hand simply by virtue of who He is, from His very birth – even from His goings out which are of eternity, as the prophet Micah reminds us (5:2). Yet He chose to set it all aside, to wade through the muck of human sinfulness, to embrace us and hold us fast in the midst of our brokenness. 

This is what it truly means to rule: not to be waited on, to languish on the throne while underlings scurry to do your bidding, to pop grapes into your mouth as minions labor mightily to bring your whims to fruition; but rather to serve, instead of being served – and to do this by giving one’s life as a ransom for many. Only Jesus could fulfill this. Only Jesus could lead like this. Only Jesus is the Savior. All hail King Jesus, the Child born to us! Amen. 

O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: come to save us, O Lord our God.

Daily devotion for Advent #26

Dec 22 – Matthew 2:11b
Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.


If there’s one thing we associate with Christmas, it’s giving gifts. Big gifts, small gifts; gifts planned for half the year, gifts bought at the last moment; gifts that are just right, and gifts… Well, let’s say it’s good that gift receipts are a thing.


Jesus, it has been aptly said, is the greatest gift of all. He is exactly what we need. He is our peace, our comfort, and our joy. He is wisdom and righteousness from God for us. In Him we find joy and gladness that far surpasses anything that comes in a box or an envelope. The treasures He brings are lasting, and they will never end.


In response, we give Him our best. The wise men didn’t stop at the dollar store or the flea market on the edge of town (not that that’s anything wrong with those places!) But they wanted the very best and costliest gifts – ones for for a King.
Gold, it was prophesied, would be given to King Messiah when He came. Isaiah said that “the wealth of nations” would be brought to Him. Frankincense was used in worship to make clouds of sweet smelling smoke that rose up as the prayers of God’s children ascended. Some still use it for that purpose today. Myrrh was used as an ingredient in lotions and cosmetics, and in anointing the dead. St John records that the men who buried Jesus used a mixture of myrrh and aloes. Thus even in His early infancy, we reminded that Jesus came to be our substitute and die for sin.


The wise men brought Jesus their best. What do we bring to Jesus? Let it always be the best of what we have – the best of what he has blessed us with. Amen.


O King of the gentiles and their desired One, the cornerstone that makes both one: come, and deliver man, whom you formed out of the dust of the earth.

Daily devotion for Advent #25

Dec 21 – Matthew 2:11a
After they went into the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother, they bowed down and worshipped him.


Faith is far more than people realize. It’s not just knowing the facts about the Christian faith. It’s not being able to rattle off definitions of theological terms or scads of Bible passages at the drop of a hat. Faith, at its heart, is trust: a conviction that He is telling you the truth, that what He says will come to pass, and that come what may, He will never lie to you.


This means that faith will sometimes do things that look very odd in the eyes of the world. Faith makes choices that seems silly or out of line when compared with natural human reason. But that’s okay, because faith is always borne out by God’s faithfulness. It’s always proven true in the end.


Take these wise men. They traveled across the Middle East, in a day and age when travel was not a walk in the park. They left behind their official duties and their comfortable, well off lives to go chasing after an ancient prophecy and something they thought they saw in the sky. They interacted with cadgey, bloodthirsty monarchs, and risked their very reputations as wise men – for what? For a Child, sitting on His mother’s lap.


Yes, and what a Child! Here is the living, breathing fulfillment of all God’s promises. Here is their peace, their joy, and the fulfillment of all their hopes. Forgiveness of sins and eternal life were theirs, because Jesus made it so.


He has also done so for you. So when your faith looks foolish or out of step, or when people nod and smile condescendingly, or want to find fault and pick at your faith, don’t let it bother you. We shouldn’t expect someone who doesn’t share our faith to understand. As long as we have Jesus the truth, we know that we are blessed. Amen.


O Dayspring, Brightness of light eternal, and Sun of Justice, come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Daily devotion for Advent # 24

Dec 20 – Matthew 2:10
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with overwhelming joy.


Starting about the middle of October, we are bombarded with images of CHRISTMAS. Most of them revolve around buying things. Joy, peace, and togetherness come in a box. Everything you want – your hopes and dreams, your longing for human connection, your desire for purity and safety and love – is all for sale. But we all know that buying things won’t fix your soul, or take away your guilt, or set you free from sin.


Jesus does that. He alone is our help, our deliverance, and our joy. The wise men were overjoyed not only because they had found the Savior – at this point they had not yet met Jesus face to face – but because God had removed their doubts by giving them the Bethlehem star to guide them. In their place, He had given them joy.
Joy does not depend on getting exactly what you want, either wrapped up under the tree or getting the exact right affirmation and love from the people in your life. It does not depend on an unbroken string of good days, or more good days than bad days. It does not depend on being good enough for God. Joy depends on Jesus, who is eternal and ever faithful in His mercy. Let Him be your joy as well. Amen.


O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens: come, and lead forth the captive who sits in the shadows from his prison.

Daily devotion for Advent #23

DECEMBER 19 – MATTHEW 2:1

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, when Herod was king, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem.

The wise men are a familiar part of the Christmas story. But who were they, really? They were men who studied the heavens and tracked the motions of the stars and the planets. Then they advised the king and others in government service about what they witnessed overhead. In a time where science, philosophy, and religion had not yet diverged, they dabbled in some of each discipline. We might liken them to modern-day scientists who work on top-secret government projects, people who toil away investigating arcane fields that might one day give their country an edge. Because of their specialized knowledge, they enjoyed special prestige and influence. No doubt they were handsomely compensated for their service. Thus these wise men might have seemed to have everything, humanly speaking – but something was still missing. They still understood that they needed a Savior, one who was to come and free them from their guilty consciences and take away their sins. 

We find ourselves in a position very similar to the wise men. Our society prides itself on being very highly advanced, on understanding the workings of science and the human mind and body in great detail. Technology allows us to peer into the womb or into deep space. It lets us talk, in nearly real time, with someone on the other side of the world – maybe the entire world (or at least the part of it on social media, or with an internet connection) at the same time. Yet for all our smart phones and microwave popcorn and fancy sneakers, we still need the same things. We need Jesus. We need forgiveness, comfort, peace, and security with God. We need a Savior. 

It’s been said that “wise men still seek Him.” Undoubtably a cliche – but like most cliches, it’s a cliche for a reason: because it’s true. Christ is the wisdom of God, and when we have found Him, we have found the highest good our souls can seek or crave. To Him be all power, wisdom, knowledge, and authority, now and forever. Amen. 

O Root of Jesse, Who dost stand for an ensign of the people, before Whom kings shall keep silence, and unto Whom the Gentiles shall make their supplication: come to deliver us, and tarry not.

Daily devotion for Advent #22

DECEMBER 18 – LUKE 2:20

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Some sights leave an indelible impression on us. I think of watching a thunderstorm slowly make its way across a northern Wisconsin lake as a friend and I watched. The flashes of purple-white lightning illuminated the rolling thunderclouds, lighting up the night. I can recall many similar times in the woods, experiencing sights of natural beauty. It’s not only nature – life events like the birth of a child, even your favorite team winning a championship, can stick with you as if it were yesterday. 

You see that same reaction in the shepherds. They had been accosted by the heavenly hosts, received the best news anyone has ever heard – and then when they sped to the manger, they came face to face with God in the flesh. The culmination of all God’s promises, “the hopes and fears of all the years”, the Desired of nations – right in front of them! Here is their forgiveness, their hope, their joy, as real as real can be. This is your forgiveness, your hope, and your joy too, no less than theirs. 

Note also why they rejoiced: because God’s Word to them had come true. What the Lord had said had come to pass, and once again God had proven Himself true. No word of His has ever fallen to the ground – nor will it ever fail. His Word is just as true for you. He has proven His Word to be true, over and over again. The eternal Word is ever true, and as many times as we return to it, we find new facets of the truth. Jesus, the Truth of God, is ever faithful. 

O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, Who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, and didst give unto him the Law on Sinai: come and with an outstretched arm redeem us.

Daily devotion for Advent #21

DECEMBER 18 – LUKE 2:20

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Some sights leave an indelible impression on us. I think of watching a thunderstorm slowly make its way across a northern Wisconsin lake as a friend and I watched. The flashes of purple-white lightning illuminated the rolling thunderclouds, lighting up the night. I can recall many similar times in the woods, experiencing sights of natural beauty. It’s not only nature – life events like the birth of a child, even your favorite team winning a championship, can stick with you as if it were yesterday. 

You see that same reaction in the shepherds. They had been accosted by the heavenly hosts, received the best news anyone has ever heard – and then when they sped to the manger, they came face to face with God in the flesh. The culmination of all God’s promises, “the hopes and fears of all the years”, the Desired of nations – right in front of them! Here is their forgiveness, their hope, their joy, as real as real can be. This is your forgiveness, your hope, and your joy too, no less than theirs. 

Note also why they rejoiced: because God’s Word to them had come true. What the Lord had said had come to pass, and once again God had proven Himself true. No word of His has ever fallen to the ground – nor will it ever fail. His Word is just as true for you. He has proven His Word to be true, over and over again. The eternal Word is ever true, and as many times as we return to it, we find new facets of the truth. Jesus, the Truth of God, is ever faithful. 

O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, Who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, and didst give unto him the Law on Sinai: come and with an outstretched arm redeem us.

Daily devotion for Advent #20

DECEMBER 17 – LUKE 2:16-17

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they told others the message they had been told about this child.

God’s promises always prove true. This has been seen time and time again. On matters big and small, from lost donkeys to deliverance in battle, from the level of oil in a jar to the fate of nations, God’s Word never fails to come true. Unbelievers mock, the ignorant gape at the evidence in front of their eyes, and the devil rages, but God’s Word always prevails. 

You see that most clearly as you look into the manger. Who is it? – a baby. Not just any baby! The promised Savior, the Son of God, the Word made flesh. The One who said, “I AM the Truth,” then proceeded to back it up with a spotless life. The One who succumbed to a shameful death, orchestrated with lies – and then proved the truth of His own words, and the hollowness of His enemies’ words, when He rose from the dead. When you know Jesus, you know the truth. If you know Jesus, you know the most important thing. If you don’t know Jesus, there’s nothing else a person can know that will make up for the lack. 

Note carefully what those shepherds did with the truth they knew: they shared it. They did not hold it to themselves, in case someone else ruined it or mistreated it. If that were so, why has God given it to us, who too often are false and easily tempted by sin and false ideologies? No, He wants His truth to get out! 

The bare facts of God’s message are well known – so well known as to be a punchline in the eyes of the sinful world. The world views them as threadbare cliches not worth the time. But the facts of God’s message are just that, facts – deeply important, immensely powerful; as powerful as God. What those facts mean for an individual makes an immense amount of difference. You know people who need to hear God’s truth again. Now may be the time that the Holy Spirit had in mind for you to tell them. Share that news far and wide, whenever you get the chance! 

O Wisdom, Who didst come out of the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come and teach us the way of prudence. Amen.

Daily devotion for Advent #19

DECEMBER 16 – LUKE 2:13-14

Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude from the heavenly army, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward mankind.” 

What’s your favorite song? Maybe it’s one that makes you want to get up and dance. Perhaps it’s one that played at a crucial moment in your life – like on the evening you met your significant other, for example. Or maybe it’s just one you remember from “way back”, that helps you remember how you felt once and appreciate how far you’ve come. 

This song might not be a lot of people’s first choice for a favorite – even for a lot of Christians! They might go for a beloved hymn or a tune off the radio first. But when you look at the words, it becomes apparent what a great song this is. “Glory to God in the highest” – isn’t that what every pious Christian heart wants? The dearest wish for every Christian is that God is glorified. For Him to be glorified in the highest means in totality, by all heaven and earth, all creation. And “peace, good will toward mankind” – what better news could there be! That God has laid His wrath by, and instead has chosen to demonstrate His love towards the world by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful man – that spells peace and God’s good will indeed! 

That’s why the Christian Church has gravitated towards using this song of the angels in the liturgy. Whenever it is sung, we are reminded of our Lord’s incarnation for us. This song announces to all who hear that here, in the Divine Service, gathered around the Lord’s altar, we find peace – because we find Jesus. We can count with utter certainty that Jesus is where He promises to be, and one of those places is in, with, and under the bread and the wine in the Holy Communion. 

So the next time you hear the angels’ song, join in and belt it out. Give God the glory, and enjoy the peace that His Son brings! Amen. 

O Christ, Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world; grant us Your peace. Amen.