As we come to the 2021 season of Advent, the world continues in an unsettling course. There are the relentless tensions in the United States and around the world as people struggle to relate to one another in a civilized manner. In the midst of wars of all kinds, disease, and great division, we have the glorious truth that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever! As we read these timeless Scripture passages each day, we gain deeper and greater insights into their timeless significance as we see them through different eyes each year, underscoring the sovereignty of our great God. The truth is, time on earth is moving ever closer to the Return of the Lord and the final Advent. If you look at this whole season of Advent, Christmastide and Epiphany, the pattern is one of anticipation (Advent), fulfillment (Nativity) and proclamation (Epiphany).
This year Advent begins from November 28th and goes through Epiphany, January 6th. Our original purpose of these daily encounters with Scripture remains the same. I want to quote C.S. Lewis: “One must train the habit of faith. The first step is to recognise the fact that your moods change. The next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious readings and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Our faith must be fed.” (from A Year with C.S. Lewis, p.286. Taken from “Mere Christianity”).
And I add my words: 1) To provide an opportunity to encounter the Lord daily speaking through his written Word. 2) To help give us a better grasp of the unity of the Bible as one grand story and increase our knowledge of this Library of Books. 3) To help get us into the daily pattern of reading Scripture. 4) To give us a daily encounter with a wide variety of vocal music of substance to inspire our faith. 5) And to introduce us to the prayers of some of the saints of the past and “sinners” from the present! I can think of no better way to start the day. St. Paul writes, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection.” That is exactly what we’re after.
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. The version I have used is the NLT (The New Living Translation).
If you find these daily excursions into the Scriptures rewarding, I would greatly appreciate your help in passing the word along. As always, subscribing is simple and free. Have the person go to: sharpdevotional.com and put in their email address to subscribe. That’s it. (You can unsubscribe at any time.) Then they will receive the emails in their boxes early each morning EST. Be sure to Whitelist our email to reduce the chance of getting caught in spam filters!
Finally, 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, at least once during the week! On the farm in Illinois we all ate together every night after the milking was done. The Guernsey cows established suppertime! It was wonderful eating together every night and catching up on the day around the table.
Watch for this year’s Lenten Devotional beginning March 2, 2022. Also, a HUGE THANK YOU again to Jonathan Sharp who is the one making all of this possible on the internet side of things. The Lord be with you all.
© Daniel Sharp 2021
Dan’s email at: email@example.com
As an extra this year, here are 45 minutes of glorious Advent hymns with texts to enjoy at your leisure! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nX975125R-U
Sunday, November 28, FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT
*Read the Preface if you haven’t. It will give some helpful background for the devotionals.
Candle Lighter: “The Light of the world is coming!” (As you light the first Advent candle.)
Reader: “Heaven and earth will disappear,”
Response: “but my words will never disappear. ”
Scripture: Luke 21:25-36
“And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”
Then he gave them this illustration: “Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that the Kingdom of God is near. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.
“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.”
As I write this in August, I’m wondering how things will be in our world at the end of November when you are reading these words. There is no doubt from anyone that the last couple of years have been strange in many ways worldwide. Grappling with this passage of Scripture can help us put these days in proper perspective. As always, we go to the context.
Palm Sunday has already happened and Jesus is addressing his followers and the Jewish leadership just days before his crucifixion. Notice he states that the strange signs come, not from humans or any earthly situation, but from the heavens. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Joel each spoke of such an event in the First Testament. These heavenly based signs warn of the coming of the Son of Man and final judgment. (Jesus often used the title, ‘Son of Man,’ in referring to himself.)
Jesus goes on to say that this generation will not pass away before all these things come to pass. Since all the people who heard him say this died and he is yet to return, it might seem to be a problem. There are a few interpretations, all of which are quite possible and make sense. Jesus could have been referring to: 1) the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Romans (which did happen during their lifetime) when Jesus came “in judgment” on the nation of Israel’s rejection of Jesus; 2) refer to a future generation when these heavenly miraculous signs appear―where the focus is on the signs. Here the image of a wild, unruly sea is often used symbolically of chaos within nations; or 3) “generation” in Greek can refer to a “race” of people, meaning in this case, that the Jews as a people will not disappear before Christ returns―where the focus is on God’s patience with his chosen people. Scholars are divided on their interpretations. But the overall message of Jesus is clear―don’t get absorbed by the world situation. Live in expectation of his return.
As we move through the pericope, we see a couple of Advent themes emerging: 1) pay attention to the signs all around you and 2) be patient in your waiting. This season is about watching, waiting and being alert for the return of the Savior. Jesus’ words to us for whenever you’re reading this are to live with the awareness of being a part of eternity now and praying for strength to maintain that perspective. Don’t let the current situation of the world overwhelm you.
The Lord says I am sovereign and I will return. I have not lost control and I am not taken by surprise about anything that is happening. No world or national leader is in power that I have not allowed. Fear not. You are my children and I hold you in my hands. Everyone who has ever lived will stand before me and give an account of their days on earth and how they have responded to me. Your salvation will be complete! So live in faith and certain hope today. I will come back on a cloud in power and glory just like I left at the Ascension. Remember, the last words I spoke in your Bible are, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Don’t doubt me.
Music: “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending” John Rutter
Lo, he comes with clouds descending,
once for favoured sinners slain;
thousand thousand saints attending
swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
God appears on earth to reign.
Every eye shall now behold him
robed in dreadful majesty;
those who set at naught and sold him,
pierced and nailed him to the tree,
deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
shall the true Messiah see.
Yea, Amen! Let all adore thee
high on thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory,
claim the kingdom for thine own;
O come quickly, O come quickly, O come quickly,
Alleluia! come, Lord, come.
Prayer:O God, who hast sent thy blessed Son into the world to be the Savior of all men, and hast promised that he will come again, we pray thee to increase in us the spirit of watchfulness and prayer, that in the day of his appearing the lamps of our spirit may burn brightly, and we may enter with joy into the marriage supper of the Lamb; through Jesus Christ our Lord. ―Prayers for Sunday Services, p.67