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ADVENT Devotions 2009

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Old 12-04-2009, 07:53 PM   #1
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As Christians we prepare for the birth of our Savior



"THE JOURNEY BEGINS IN ROME"

November 29, 2009

Luke 2:1:"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman World."


The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem actually begins in Rome. Caesar Augustus was concerned about many matters in his kingdom. One of them was its size. Roman men were not marrying and not having children. He imposed penalties for those not contributing to the growth of the kingdom. One way to monitor the growth was with a census.

The census would work an Advent blessing. It had been prophesied the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Caesar had expected the census would be one of the marks of his greatness. He listed it as eighth among the thirty-five "Acts of Augustus."

He might well have expected his death would be noted by the number of years since the founding of Rome. Instead, the baby that would be born in Bethlehem because of his census would cause his death to be marked by that birth.

As we begin our Advent journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, we are reminded that what may seem like the innocent events of government, under the blessings of God, have a profound impact on how God's grace is released into the world. This act of Caesar had a profound impact on God's grace to us.

There are many governments involved in many decisions these days. Many of them appear to have no impact on the message of God's love for us and His people, but they do! We give thanks for God's blessings on the acts of leaders and their governments in times' past. We pray He might bless those acts and decisions of government these Advent days. For as He acted to release His love in the days of Caesar Augustus, so He acts to release His love to us and through us today.

THE PRAYER: O heavenly Father, we pray Your blessings upon the acts of those who govern these days. Use their acts for Your glorious purposes. Amen.
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Old 12-04-2009, 07:56 PM   #2
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"CAESAR AND HIS GOVERNMENT"

November 30, 2009

Luke 2:1: Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman World..."


Advent always happens in the context of government. It did in the days of Joseph and Mary. It does today.

In the days of Joseph and Mary, the "days of Caesar," the government was highly respected and feared. Caesar was seen as a "god." He had the respect of all those who were citizens of Rome-whether by choice or not. Many of those citizens saw Caesar as their god. They worshipped him and his image. They held in deep suspicion anyone who failed to honor Caesar.

In the days of Joseph and Mary, there were those who, while citizens of Rome, and who respected Caesar as the leader, honored another God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They would do what the government required as long as it did not cause them to deny their God.

In our day there are many living under governments that do not consider themselves divine. But some who may read these devotions in another language in another place do. They, like us, will participate in activities, like a census, their government requires. While many will follow the requirements of their government simply as good citizens, some will do so with the full hope and expectation their participation will not draw attention to themselves.

It is Advent. We are living out our Advent as citizens under government. We give thanks for those of us who can live out our Advent season highly respecting the government we live under and without fear. We pray God's blessings upon those who live out their Advent this year under governments that also see themselves as divine.

THE PRAYER: We pray Your blessings, Lord, upon all governments of the world, that they may allow Your people in every nation to joyfully and eagerly journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Amen.
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Old 12-04-2009, 07:58 PM   #3
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"THE CENSUS"

December 01, 2009

Luke 2:2: "This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria."


We know about census-taking. It happens regularly. The results are very important. They determine how we will be represented. They determine our tax base. They determine financial resources for which different areas will be eligible. Taking censuses in our time is important.

Israel also knew what taking a census was about. It knew about the census taken at Mount Sinai and just before they entered the Promised Land. It knew about the census King David authorized. Those censuses had pretty negative consequences. Joab, his general, tried to discourage David from taking these censuses. For David, taking the census showed arrogance. God disapproved. The census was followed by a pestilence (I Chronicles 21).

In the faithful teaching of the Rabbis, Israel knew about these censuses. The residence of Nazareth and Joseph would have known these Biblical narratives too. For them, there would be no choice but to follow the decree. How God would deal with it was beyond their control.

Joseph might also have known the prophecies that the Messiah, the Promised One, would be born in Bethlehem. There was no other way than by obeying this decree that Mary was going to have her baby any place other than Nazareth.

We do pray and hope the censuses being taken in the nations of the world will serve purposes that God can bless. We give great thanks that the census decreed by Caesar resulted in the fulfilling of the Biblical promises regarding Bethlehem, our salvation, and the salvation of the world!

THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, we pray Your blessings on those who authorize the censuses of our times, those who administer them, and those who read them. Continue to work Your purposes for now and for the future. Amen.
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Old 12-04-2009, 07:59 PM   #4
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"NAZARETH - THE VILLAGE"

December 02, 2009

Luke 2:4 :"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth."


Nazareth: a small village nestled into one of the hills of lower Galilee overlooking the triangular Plain of Esdraelon. It is not once mentioned in the Old Testament. It provided only the bare essentials. To get additional provisions one needed to travel to a neighboring town, maybe Sepphoris, about four miles away through rugged back roads.

But it did have religious leaders who would have dutifully taught their residents the faithfulness of God, the history of their people, and the promises of God for His people.

Nazareth did not have a great reputation. People did not expect much from Nazareth. One of Jesus own disciples sneered, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46)

Many of us come from such small towns. Many of those small towns have no reputation at all. They provide only the bear essentials. If one wants or needs more, one will need to go to a neighboring, larger town.

But those small villages often do have faithful pastors and teachers who devotedly share the mighty acts of God in ages past, the history of God's people, and the promises of God for the future. They tell about this One who came from Nazareth as the Savior of the world, and as your Savior!

You may have come from a little town that isn't well known and has no famous people from it. May our Lord bless your message as you share the Savior who came from a little village named, Nazareth.

THE PRAYER: O Lord, we ask Your blessings upon the small villages of the world. In particular, we pray Your blessings as they share the One who came from the little village of Nazareth, and as they carry the message of His love to all the world. Amen.
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Old 12-04-2009, 07:59 PM   #5
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"JOSEPH"

December 03, 2009

Matthew 1:19: "Joseph ... was a righteous man."


Joseph, "Guardian of Our Lord," is commemorated on March 19th in the Church. What we know of him for sure is that he was present at the birth of Jesus (2:16), at His circumcision (Luke 2:21), the presentation (Luke 2:22), and the search for Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:41-52). We know his trade was that of a carpenter and that he was a righteous man (Matthew 1:19). He was a devout follower of the Law and, like the patriarchs-gladly responded to visionary dreams. He was also a faithful and affectionate father to Jesus. Both Luke and Matthew emphasize he was Jesus' legal father.

What we do not know is how old he was when he made the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. If he resembled the pious, hard-working class of his Jewish colleagues in Galilee, he would have probably been at least 25 years old.

Nor do we know when he died. He was apparently alive when Jesus began His ministry (Matthew 13:55), but had died before His crucifixion. We know this from Jesus commending His mother to the care of John from the cross, a gesture that would have been unnecessary had Joseph still been alive.

We do know that many fathers are making the Advent journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem this December. We know they too are pious followers of Jesus, caring greatly for their marriage, and for their children. They eagerly witness the significant events in their children's lives (Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation). They make available to them many opportunities, and remind them that only "one thing is needed" (Luke 10:42b). They, too, by their dedication and devotion are guardians of their children.

May our Lord bless all fathers this Advent Season.

THE PRAYER: O Lord, we are so grateful for the gift of Joseph in the Advent narrative. Bless every father in this Advent time assuring each one of Your steadfast love, and empower each for faithful living. Amen.
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Old 12-04-2009, 08:00 PM   #6
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"JOSEPH'S HOME"

December 04, 2009

Matthew 1:1-17 "... and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ."


The godly home is very significant. Joseph was obvious raised in such a home. We don't know any details; we just know the results. The results tell us he knew the history of his family very well. He knew the stories about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He knew the stories of his namesake, Joseph and his coat of many colors. He had been taught the stories of Moses, of the Children of Israel in the Wilderness, of the entry into the Promised Land.

The Rabbis and his parents would have shared with him many stories about King David, about his boyhood, about his being selected king, about his strengths and his weaknesses, about his music. Like all the boys of his time, he could sing many of his Psalms. They expressed his faith, his heart, and his hopes.

But mostly these Rabbis would have taught him about his God, the one who had made a covenant with Abraham and had made the same covenant with him. He would have been taught about God's choosing this people as His chosen people, the people by which He would bless all people. He would have been taught about the promise of the Messiah. He would have been taught how those promises were expressed in the writings of the prophets.

It would not have been a home without sin. But he would have been taught that when there is sin, there is also sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. He would have known the feelings of guilt. He would also have been taught about forgiveness.

THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, we are grateful for our homes. We are grateful for those who have taught us the history of our people, but mostly the stories of our great God. Bless our homes. Amen.
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Old 12-05-2009, 10:14 AM   #7
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"MARY"

December 05, 2009

Luke 1:26b:"The virgin's name was Mary."


Mary. We are first introduced to her when the angel approaches her. The angel tells us everything we need to know about her. She is highly favored. The Lord is with her. She should not be afraid. She has found favor with God.

Her response confirms what the angel had said about her. She is the Lord's servant. Whatever it is that the Lord has in mind, let it be. She is to be the mother of the Messiah! Nothing for her will ever be the same!

This very significant event is celebrated in the Church on March 25th, nine months before the church celebrates the birth of the Christ child. In the Middle Ages, it was thought that following a mystical conjunction of events, March 25th was the day creation began. It was also thought March 25th was the day Christ died.

So, from the 6th century through the 18th century in Christian Europe, the great doctrines of creation, incarnation, and atonement were all celebrated on the same day. March 25th, the day of Annunciation, was celebrated as New Year's Day.

There is a popular song sung during Advent entitled "Mary, Did You Know." She knew a lot. She knew God's favor. She new she was going to have a baby. She knew she would name Him Jesus. She knew He would save His people from their sins.

May our Lord grant us faith to know no less about Mary and her baby.

THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, we are grateful for the gift Mary was to her world and for the greater Gift she bore for us and for our Salvation. Amen.
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Old 12-06-2009, 10:07 AM   #8
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"JOSEPH AND THE ANNUNIATION"

December 06, 2009

Matthew 1:19: "Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly."


We are not told how Joseph found out his fiancé was pregnant. It might have been that Mary told him. It might have been from a friend after Mary had gone to visit Elizabeth. How he found out is not the important point. The important point was his reaction. Joseph's first reaction was that he did not want to make it more difficult for Mary that it had to be. Because engagement was seen as the same as marriage, and could only be broken by a decree of divorce, he thought this to be the most honorable.

To Joseph's credit he believed the angel that appeared to him in a dream. Dr. Oswald C. J. Hoffmann, long-time speaker on The Lutheran Hour, called that one of the greatest miracles of Christ. Joseph believed the angel and became for Mary what she needed.

Faith remains one of the great gifts of Advent. We do not pretend to understand everything revealed to us through the Holy Scriptures. What we do believe is that it was announced to Mary and to Joseph that Mary was going to have a baby, and that this baby would be the Savior of the world!

THE PRAYER: O heavenly Father, grant us great Advent faith in what was revealed to Mary, to Joseph, and to us, that our Savior was born to a virgin named Mary. Amen.
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Old 12-07-2009, 09:54 AM   #9
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"THE WEDDING"

December 07, 2009

Luke 1:20: "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife."


While we don't know any details from the marriage of Joseph and Mary, we do know something about weddings at that time. We know they were often arranged by parents, but parents would certainly have been aware of who had caught whose eye and attention. They certainly would have known about each other. They would have shared much in common living in this little village. In addition, they shared a distant but common ancestry, as both of them were descendents of King David through different wives.

While we know something about weddings through our Lord's first miracle at the wedding in Cana, we don't know if such a celebration was held at Joseph and Mary's wedding. We do know they did not experience physical intimacy until after the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:24f).

Engagements and weddings are tender events. Many of these events take place during Advent. While they are often arranged by parents in our time, the promises made in a wedding affect them very much. Getting engaged or married during Advent is a powerful time to experience Christ within these events, receiving from each other all that Christ would release through them.

THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, bless every couple experiencing marriage these Advent days that they may receive and share Your rich blessings with each other and so many others. Amen.
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Old 12-08-2009, 09:38 AM   #10
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"PLANNING THE JOURNEY"

December 08, 2009

Luke 2:4: "So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea ..."


The news came. The census was to be taken. The registration would have to be made in Bethlehem.

In one sense it was not necessary for Mary to go. Joseph could have registered his family. But Mary's going along solved two problems. The first was the early birth to the newly married couple. They could not get to Bethlehem and back before the baby would be born.

The second concern that would be solved was the fulfillment of the very familiar passage predicting the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Mary had every reason to go.

But going would not be easy. It would be at least three days of riding on a donkey. This has been powerfully placed in our mind through art, imagination, and literature.

The decision still had to be made about which route to take. They could have gone through the central valley, winding through the hills of Samaria. This would be the shortest way. But it would mean contact with the Samaritans. It would be the colder route, possibly more uncomfortable for Mary. Or they could take the southeast route across the Plain of Esdraelon, down to the Jordan River valley as far as Jericho.

All of us have plans to make regarding our Advent journey to Bethlehem. Some are for comfort; some are to make sure we arrive at the manger.

THE PRAYER: Bless our Advent planning, Lord. There are alternative ways we can go. Bless the choices we make. Amen.
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Old 12-09-2009, 09:46 AM   #11
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"LEAVING NAZARETH"

December 09, 2009

Luke 2:4: "So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth ..."


Leaving Nazareth might well have been an anxious time. There were undoubtedly those who discouraged Mary from going. How would she explain why it was so important for her to go? She may have had second thoughts herself. She was leaving what she knew for the unknown. Still, go she must. She must get to Bethlehem.

What shall she take with her? What is critical? What can she leave behind? There would not be much room for physical things. She knew what she carried inside was the most important thing. As her song in Elizabeth's presence indicates, she understands how she is being honored, how this is a gift to her of which she is unworthy, and how God was extending through her the promises of the past with the blessings of the future. She understands her unworthiness. She understands the gift to her. She understands the gift within her.

We are also on the way to Bethlehem. We, too, must go. We have been there before. There is a temptation for us to take along many physical things. It may be better for us to travel light. But what we carry within us is most important. While we are not leaving from Nazareth, we are leaving for Bethlehem. Our song might also express how honored we are, how unworthy of this marvelous gift, how God remains faithful to His promises of the past, and how determined He is to release His blessings into the future. We do well to understand the gift to us.

THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, bless us as we leave for Bethlehem. Grant that we leave what we can and take what we must. Amen.
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Old 12-10-2009, 09:40 AM   #12
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"UNCLEAN!"

December 10, 2009

Luke17:11-13 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"


The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was about 90 miles. It would take at least three days, perhaps more, if Mary was not feeling well. As Joseph and Mary made their journey they may well have passed by some who Jesus would encounter in his ministry. Among them might well have been some lepers.

"Unclean! Unclean!" That is what the lepers might well have called out as they saw this strong, gentle man leading his donkey with his very pregnant wife, It was required that they call out. But they might have done it anyway. Who would want to spread this dread disease?

Little did they know the baby this young mother was to bear would one day not be put off by their "Unclean!" He would approach them; He would touch them; He would heal them.

There is little chance we will come across any physical lepers on our journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. But we will pass by many who are afflicted with the leprosy of sin. We know this is true, because we ourselves have the disease.

The good news is that the One who healed those with physical leprosy, has also healed us who have the leprosy of sin! He did it by His suffering, death, and resurrection. Though we might well have needed to call out "unclean!" He has made us clean.

The question is, what will those who observe us on our journey to Bethlehem see?

THE PRAYER: May we, afflicted with the leprosy of sin, know and share the healing made possible by Jesus, the Christ!
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Old 12-11-2009, 09:37 AM   #13
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"ALONG THE JORDAN"

December 11, 2009

Matthew 3:13 "Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John."


Joseph and Mary's journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem might well have taken them to the Jordan Valley and along the Jordan. It would have been the warmer of the routes available to them. That would have been more comfortable for Mary.

The Jordan River meant a lot to Joseph and Mary. They knew about crossing the Jordan, according to the book of Joshua. They knew well the story of the Children of Israel coming to the Jordan early in their wilderness wonderings, and then not having the courage to trust the Lord and enter the Promised Land. Almost 40 years later they would come to the Jordan again, and under the trusted leadership of Joshua they would cross the river on dry ground into a land "flowing with milk and honey" (Exodus 3:17b).

Little did they know the past would pale in comparison to the future. It would be in the Jordan that John the Baptist would be baptizing. It would be in the Jordan that John would baptize Jesus. It would be at Jesus' baptism that many would hear the voice of God: "This is my beloved Son" (John 3:17a). It was from the Jordan that Jesus would begin His ministry.

As we journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem this Advent, we, too, will do well to reflect upon our baptism. While we probably were not baptized in the Jordan, through the water and God's Word we were joined to the Christ. He poured His love upon us. On the journey to Bethlehem, reflect upon God's rich gift to you in your baptism.

THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, refresh in us the blessings that are ours through the glorious sacrament of Holy Baptism. Amen.
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Old 12-12-2009, 09:52 AM   #14
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"SO THE BLIND CAN SEE"

December 12, 2009

John 9:1f; "As he went along, he saw a man born blind since birth."


As Joseph and Mary made their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, they would have encountered many people. Among them might have been the blind man-then a little boy-whom Jesus encountered years later. Of him the disciples asked, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents?" This question may have haunted the blind man and his parents for years. If they attributed a sin to either the blind man or his parents, they would be wrong.

Only Jesus would answer it correctly: "Neither," He said, ... but this happened so that the glory of God might be displayed in his life." He then placed some mud on the blind man's eyes and commanded he go and wash in the pool of Siloam. He washed, and he could see! He could see and the glory of the Lord was revealed!

Not every one who asks, "What did I do to deserve this?" will be answered with a command to do something and then experience a miracle. But all people can know the assurance that God loves them and sees them as precious. Their bodies may not be healed, but that does not indicate a separation from God.

It was for restoration that Jesus came into the world. He saw the ugly consequence of a world out of harmony. He knew the result of giving in to the temptation of the devil. He saw what giving into one's sinful flesh could do. He knew the consequence for all of this. He knew this was all the evidence of sin. It would not be the punishment for a particular sin.

The punishment would be experienced on the cross. It was for this man born blind. It was for us.

THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, we are so grateful we need not bear the punishment for our sin, and overwhelmed that You did. Bless us with faith to see in this baby, our Savior! Amen.
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Old 12-13-2009, 09:36 AM   #15
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"A LOOK INTO THE DESERT"

December 13, 2009

Matthew 4:1; "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil."


As Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem, they must have often looked across the Jordan into the desert. Their conversation might well have centered on the ancient narratives they received from their families and the Rabbis. Beginning with life in Egypt, with the birth of Moses and his life in the palace, his desert flight, his experience with the burning bush, his confronting Pharaoh, the plagues, Passover, passage through the Red Sea, Mount Sinai, and the giving of the Ten Commandments, there was much to discuss.

While they might have often spoke of their history, they probably talked even more about God's faithfulness to His people. He fed them with manna. He gave them water from the rock. He protected them from their enemies. They were His chosen people through whom He was to bless all people.

Now Joseph and Mary were a part of God's action on behalf of His people. The promised Messiah was about to be born. Little did they know their Son, the Messiah, would spend some extremely difficult time in the wilderness. He would be tempted by the one who tempted Adam and Eve into sin. It would be a desperate spiritual battle.

It would not be His last temptation. But like the rest, He would win them all. And the very good news is He would transfer this victory to us. As sinners, we are often not successful against the evil one. In the deserts of our lives, he too often wins. But the final victory is not his. It is ours because of the Christ's faithfulness. As we make our journey to Bethlehem, we are aware of the temptations. We are even more aware of Christ's forgiveness for us.

THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, protect us from the evil one in our desert travels, and shower Your love and forgiveness upon us. Amen.
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