December 3

The subscriptions went over 1000 so I had to upgrade the plan this morning! So things should be normal from now on with 5 AM EST sending. The devotional is below. Dan

     As some of you know, I am in the process of writing a book which may turn into four volumes of devotionals for the entire Christian year. It is a large undertaking. I am making great progress on the first volume which goes from Advent to Ash Wednesday. Because of this undertaking, I do not have time to write an additional Advent devotional for this year. So, my wife suggested I use some manuscript from part of the book for this year’s daily devotionals. They will be unedited and not the final copy, but you will get a devotional each day as in the past. I would welcome any typo’s, misspellings, etc. you find! There will undoubtedly be some re-write as well! Not sure what the title will be at this point!

How to Read This Year’s Devotionals

     There are some unique challenges in writing such a book since the starting dates of Advent, Ash Wednesday, Easter, and Pentecost all vary from year to year! But I’ve figured out a way to make it work regardless of when those seasons begin. This year Advent begins on December 3rd, the latest it could ever begin meaning Christmas Eve is on Sunday, December 24th. That also means the fourth week of Advent is a single day!

     Accordingly, the devotionals are based on weeks of Advent rather than specific dates. So, we begin with the First Sunday in Advent followed by First Monday in Advent, First Tuesday, and so forth. This year since Christmas Eve is the fourth Sunday in Advent, you’ll have no more days for the fourth week. (All the days of the fourth week do appear in the book, so regardless of what year Advent starts, you’ll always have a devotional. The book will continue with devotionals for each day until March 10th, the latest possible date for Ash Wednesday. There will be an index listing the first Sunday in Advent through 2075 so you will know when Advent begins every year.)

A Word about Advent

     The Christian life is about burrowing deeper and deeper into our faith. What do we mean? If we can picture the Christian Year (Advent, Christmastide, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Ordinary time, Christ the King) as a corkscrew boring down deeper and deeper year by year, we have a good picture of the nature and purpose of the Christian Year. We are not simply repeating stories, as if we are going around and around in a circle.

     As we move from season to season each day leads us through the life and ministry of Jesus, but it is not simply a rehearsal of the earthly life and works of Christ. Certainly, there have been changes in both the world and us during the past year, so the readings come in a different context. We are invited anew into God’s story and life of the living Christ as we move through God’s story in our days on earth. We are observing time with a greater awareness of Jesus’ life by walking through God’s story as the Holy Spirit forms and matures our spiritual life in earthly days.

     Much of the time, our lives revolve around the civil or academic calendars. The result is that we are often trying to fit our “spiritual lives” into our daily routines rather than the other way around. Without an awareness of “Christianly time,” we are simply fending day-to-day trying our best to make sense of the events around us. No wonder we lose perspective! The walk through the Christian Year gives us a Holy Spirit perspective as our spiritual life is molded and shaped by Christ himself. May these devotionals contribute to the work he’s begun in you.

     Above all our primary purpose is to have a daily encounter with the Lord and to hear his voice. Begin each devotional with a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you through his written Word. In addition, our hope is: 1) 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; 2) to assist us in developing a daily pattern of reading Scripture; 3) to provide us with a daily encounter with a wide variety of vocal and choral music of substance to inspire our faith; 4) 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.”

     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: and put in their email address to subscribe. That’s it. (You can unsubscribe at any time.) Then they will automatically receive the emails in their boxes 5:00 AM each morning EST. Be sure to Whitelist our email to reduce the chance of getting caught in spam filters!

The version I have used is the NLT (The New Living Translation).

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

© Daniel Sharp 2023

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First Sunday in Advent          WHOLE PICTURE   1

Scripture:  Malachi 4:1-6

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all.

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. On the day when I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

“Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant—all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.

“Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

Some thoughts:  

     Christmas is coming! In the swirl of the season, we can easily focus too narrowly on this single day. It is helpful to remember that God’s purpose for the birth of the Redeemer is to bring restoration to everything God has created. So, we begin observing the Christian Year at the very end of time, the final advent of Jesus, and work backwards through the season to his birth and then forward to his Passion, Ascension, and advent of the Holy Spirit. You see, the Nativity has a much grander scope than simply the birth of baby Jesus. It is so much more significant than a Jesus’ birthday party!

     This passage from Malachi is both a warning and a joyous promise to us as well. There is no doubt these words will come to pass and there will be judgment for all. Though his words were strong and clear, there is no evidence that the majority of those who heard Malachi’s message changed their crooked ways. As in those days many who hear the gospel today reject the offer of forgiveness and salvation. Nevertheless, those who repented were forgiven by God and spared a severe judgment.

     All people who honor the Lord will experience an abiding joy even in awful times. For them, there is no fear in judgment. The image of “leaping calves being led out to pasture” is another vivid image to a farm boy like me! How well I remember when in late March or early April, we opened the barn doors for the first time and let the calves, which had been penned up during the cold winter months, out into the fresh spring air. They ran and jumped around like little lambs or goats, almost out of control! Their little legs were wobbly with excitement!  We loved to watch the joy of those first minutes of newly discovered freedom. Malachi writes of this kind of joy along with the reminder to “remember our history” and what God has done and requires. 

     The Scriptures give us the repeated reminder to keep God’s biggest story in mind. The Older Testament concludes with the admonition to be on the alert for Elijah and the coming of Messiah. The Newer Testament ends the same way with the admonition to look for the Return of the Messiah and concludes with the call, “Come, Lord Jesus,” the conclusion to the final advent!

Music: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” Anna Hawkins


O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is accomplished.  Lord, how we long for your return. In your mercy come again and receive us unto yourself, grant us a safe lodging in our heavenly home, the home you are preparing for us, and grant us a holy rest, and peace at last through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

                        ―John Henry Newman 1801-1890, from Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984), p.70, Compiled Veronica Zundel,adapted Daniel Sharp

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