As we come to the 2019 season of Advent, the world is very different from last year for all of us. Some of our loved ones may have passed. Maybe there were additions to the family via a birth, an adoption, or a marriage. Perhaps there was a tough diagnosis or news of a wonderful remission. There may have been a joyous promotion or a difficult termination of a job. Then there are the relentless tensions in our nation and around the world as people struggle to get along. All of this kind of unsettledness puts Advent in a different light each year. We read these Scripture passages gaining deeper and greater insight into their timeless significance. The truth is, time on earth is moving ever closer to the Return of the Lord, the final Advent.
As this is the twelfth year of writing these devotionals, running this year from December 1st through Epiphany, January 6th, the purpose remains the same, which is simply to help us grow in our understanding of the God we worship and to develop or maintain a daily pattern of spending time with the Lord in his word. There is a reason the Lord provided manna one day at a time. Paul writes, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection.” That is exactly what we’re after. The passages, which focus on Advent, are chosen from the Revised Common Lectionary Year A. I’ve included a variety of kinds of music to inspire and underscore the points we are making in the short commentaries. The prayers come from the last 3,000 years of conversations with God by various people, including some from the present day. I would encourage you to make an Advent wreath and have someone light the appropriate candle as you do each devotional. (For those of you who wonder, the pink candle (joy) is lit on the third Sunday in Advent and the white Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve.) If you read these as a family, have different members read different parts. It is wonderful if the whole family can all sit down and eat at the same time, concurrently, simultaneously, all together at least once during the week! On the farm in Illinois we all ate together every night after the milking was done. The cows brought the family together for supper! It was wonderful! You may want to buy a cow!
A short word about the Scripture passages themselves. The Bible was written originally without chapters and verse numbers. With that in mind, I left out the verse numbers so that it reads a little differently. I find it easier to grasp the whole of the thought. I trust you will find the same.
One final word, feel free to pass the link along to family, friends, and co-workers around the country and the world who may benefit from the devotionals. Then they will receive the emails in their boxes each morning. One of the largest international groups receiving these emails is in Hong Kong! So far we have subscribers in North and Central America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Of course subscribing is free. The link to subscribe is: sharpdevotional.com It’s that simple and thank you for subscribing and passing the link along!
Watch for the Lenten Devotional beginning February 26th, 2020. The Lord be with you all.
Sunday, December 1 – FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT
* Read the Preface if you haven’t. It will give some context.
andle Lighter: “The Light of the world is coming!” (As you light the first Advent candle.)
Reader: “Keep watch!”
Response: “You don’t know what day your Lord is coming.”
Scripture: Matthew. 24: 36-44
No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.
When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes. Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left. So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”
Reader: “The words of Jesus”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
This passage of Scripture is part of a conversation Jesus had with his disciples during Holy Week, just a few days before his Crucifixion. Jesus has spoken about the destruction of the Temple that was yet to come (it occurred in 70 AD) but he also spoke of the coming of the Son of Man. The point in his words to the disciples has to do with the suddenness of the end of time as well as the people’s lack of awareness of God’s ultimate redemption of the whole created order. The Lord is coming again. This truth is not simply a verse in the Bible. My guess is that most of the people you encounter today, if they even believe or thought of the Lord’s Return, would think of it only as a line in the Bible, not something to take very seriously, certainly not something that could actually happen in their lifetime. The people in Noah’s day were completely, unabashedly consumed with the present, not unlike people today. Jesus’ strong warning to his disciples―keep watch! Always be ready for the coming of the Son of Man. What many Christians have forgotten is that we hold two identity cards simultaneously. We are citizens of this earth and we are citizens of heaven concurrently. The latter is the more significant of the two. We are seated with Christ in heaven right now. Though this is the world we currently see, make no mistake, we are united with Christ in the heavenlies as Paul says. (Eph.1:4) Live this day as a practicing citizen of heaven until the time when heaven will be visible and this earth a faint, dim memory. . .if that.
Just a passing note. Jesus always referred to himself as the Son of Man throughout his ministry, a Messianic phrase associated with the book of Daniel (7:13) and the prophet Ezekiel. In referring to himself in this manner, he was emphasizing the humanity of Christ while claiming to be the Messiah in a more subtle way. It was not until he appeared before the Jewish high council at his trial early in the morning of Good Friday when asked by the high priest point blank, “Are you the Son of God?” that Jesus replied, “You say I am.” This affirmation was the only time Jesus referred to himself with this phrase. The next time we read it, it comes from the lips of the Roman soldier stationed at the cross. At that point, his identity as Lord of heaven and earth was emphatically stated and our dual citizenship papers stamped in the blood of the Lamb. The power of Satan was shattered!
Music: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” Peter Hollens
Bonus: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” Anna Hawkins (In Hebrew and English)
O Lord, I live here as a fish in a vessel of water, only enough to keep me alive, but in heaven I shall swim in the ocean. Here I have a little air in me to keep me breathing, but there I shall have sweet and fresh gales. Here I have a beam of sun to lighten my darkness, a warm ray to keep me from freezing; yonder I shall live in light and warmth for ever. My natural desires are corrupt and misguided, and it is thy mercy to destroy them. My spiritual longings are of thy planting, and thou wilt water and increase them. Quicken my hunger and thirst after the realm above. Here I can have the world, there I shall have thee in Christ. Here is a life of longing and prayer, there is assurance without suspicion asking without refusal. Here are gross comforts more burden then benefit, there is joy without sorrow, comfort without suffering, love without in constancy, rest without weariness. Give me to know that heaven is all love, where the eye affects the heart and the continual viewing of thy beauty keeps the soul in continual transport of delight. Give me to know that heaven is all peace, where error, pride, rebellion, passion raise no head. Give me to know that heaven is all joy, the end of believing, fasting, praying, mourning, humbling, watching, fearing, repining and lead me to it soon. This I pray through the Son of God. Amen. ―Valley of Vision, p.203