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Monday, November 23
Text: “Lift High the Cross” LSB 837
Our opening hymn yesterday on the last Sunday in the Church Year was the familiar “Lift High the Cross”. Several things come to mind at the hearing of the title. Perhaps the elevating of the cross during a processional at Easter enters the mind. Perhaps the task of the Church is thought of, to “Lift High the Cross”, to lift high the great symbol not only of our faith but also the great demonstration of God’s love for us on a cross.
As the Church Year comes to a close, I’ll point you to verse two for our devotional thought. “Led on their way by this triumphant sign, The hosts of God in conquering ranks combine.” Those “hosts of God” are a wonderful thing to understand. The hosts of God are all those who make up the Christian Church in all time and space. We actually hear them every Sunday in The Preface before the Lord’s Supper. You know the words: With angels and archangels and all the company of heaven”. It must never be forgotten that we are part of an innumerable band of believers that not only spans the earth, but fills the heavens. We march together through space and time lifting high the cross, the symbol of our victory, a victory already won for us. No matter what challenges we face here, whether it be pandemic or persecution, we are victorious in the Savior who died and rose for us. We are not alone in our struggle. Not only do we march together in worship, devotion, prayer and service with the people of Immanuel Lutheran, we march with all who bear on their brows the seal of Him who died.
Please pray with me. Heavenly Father, often these days it can seem to be me against the world. Thank You that behind me, in front of me, and with me is the whole Christian Church on earth and in heaven. Help me to “Lift High the Cross” in my life to be an encouragement to those who march with me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Tuesday, November 24
Text: “Come, Thou Almighty King” LSB 905
This hymn was written over 200 years ago in a time of growing rationalism, the idea that reason and the senses are the only source of truth. The anonymous writer of “Come, Thou Almighty King” lifts up the Triune God in the midst of this rising unbelief. Verse one holds up the first person of the Trinity: “Father all glorious, O’er all victorious”. The second stanza praises the second person of the Trinity and His gift of salvation: “Come and Thy people bless, And give Thy Word success, And let Thy righteousness On us descend”. And the third verse acclaims the Holy Spirit: “Thou, who almighty art, Now rule in every heart, And ne’er from us depart, Spirit of power.” The final verse is a proclamation of the Trinity itself: “To Thee, great One in Three, Eternal praises be”.
Most say we have moved past this season of rationalism, the idea that reason and senses are the only source of truth, and into what is called “Post-modernism”. Post modernism is the belief that there is no truth whatsoever, except the truth that every individual posits for himself. We see this all around us with the normalizing of what we once called sin in its many and varied forms. Our times are ones where anything goes because I determine truth, not some God.
In the midst of such giant unbelief, we not only hold on to the Triune God who is our eternal Father, our Redeeming Brother and our faith giving Spirit, we also proclaim that truth to each other in Word and song. We proclaim that truth to a world that needs the Triune God, and all He has done, is doing and will do, more than ever.
Please pray with me. To Thee, great One in Three, Eternal praises be Hence evermore! Thy sovereign majesty May we in glory see, And to eternity Love and adore. Amen.
Wednesday, November 25
Text: “Have No Fear, Little Flock” LSB 735
German composer Heinz Werner Zimmermann wrote the first verse to this beloved hymn based upon the familiar words of Luke 12:32, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” We are sheep who are loved immeasurably by the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for those sheep. In the 1970s our Concordia Publishing House asked Marjorie Jillson to write three more verses that finished the hymn we sang as the Hymn of the Day this past Sunday.
Marjorie Jillson had a fruitful career. She taught at Gallaudet College in Washington DC, the most prominent college for the deaf in the world. She served the Joint Chiefs of Staff for years, as well. Jillson suffered from, and struggled with, a thyroid disease all of her life. Many of the lyrics she penned in her life point to the resurrection of the body and the complete healing that will be ours when Christ returns in glory. Verse three of this hymn echoes our healing hope: “Praise the Lord high above; Praise the Lord high above, For He stoops down to heal you, Uplift and restore you. Praise the Lord high above.” Indeed, Christ works through doctors and medicine today to heal and restore. We count on that in this time of pandemic. When healing is not in His will, Jillson writes: “Thankful hearts raise to God, thankful hearts raise to God, For He stays close beside you, In all things works with you; Thankful hearts raise to God.” In 2010 Marjorie Jillson was called to her eternal rest. When Christ comes again, she will know complete healing in a resurrected body. That is our promise as well.
Please pray with me. Dear Jesus, continue to bring Your healing to those in need in these uncertain times. Give me peace to know You are always with me, Your love and forgiveness are my constant companion. Draw my eyes to the eternal healing of body and soul that is mine in the coming resurrection. In Your Name, Amen.
Thursday, November 26
Text: Isaiah 64:1-9
Looking forward to this Sunday, the First Sunday in Advent, and the first Sunday in the new Church Year, Isaiah encourages us that even when it appears that God is distant and disengaged, He is not. “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence” Isaiah writes in our Old Testament reading. Who hasn’t wished for such power of God displayed in this pandemic? Does it appear to you that God is absent, or worse, uncaring?
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Isaiah tells us: “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for Him.” God is acting! In doctors and nurses who work God’s healing. In a vaccine, apparently, right around the corner. God is acting, if you will have eyes to see. Isaiah then points us to God’s greatest acting, “You meet Him who joyfully works righteousness.” You have met Christ who joyfully worked righteousness in you by paying for your sin and gifting to you His righteousness. God is at work in these days. Even when He does not work earthly healing, He works eternal healing for “all His people.”
This Sunday we begin to look forward to Christmas when God put into motion that eternal healing now available to all in Christ. This coming Sabbath you will again “meet Him who joyfully works righteousness. You’ll meet him in worship. You’ll meet Him at His table. He will give you healing, His righteousness that opens the doors to His eternal presence. That is real reason for Thanksgiving.
Please pray with me. Heavenly Father, Rend the heavens and come down to me. Speak in Your Word. Act at Your Supper. Give me Your righteousness, Your peace, Your strength, Your healing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Friday, November 27
Text: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
In verse 7 of this Epistle reading Paul says that we “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ … in the Day of our
Lord Jesus Christ.” Learning to wait is an integral part of the Advent Season. That waiting is designed to be a time of preparation for what is to come. To not be prepared is never good. We were not prepared for either December 7, 1941 or September 11, 2001. Tragedies of incredible proportion ensued. You might argue that it is impossible to be prepared for something you don’t know is coming. You would win that argument.
Christ is coming again. There, you know. Time to be prepared. That is why this Epistle reading is such good news. Paul again writes: “You are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you await the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul encourages us that all that we need to be ready for Christ to come again, God has provided. The chief preparation for Christ to come again is the faith that trusts in Christ crucified. The Holy Spirit has given you that faith in your Baptism and He nurtures it today in Word and at His Table, our topic for this coming Sabbath. Further, He has given the Church all the “Spiritual gifts” that are necessary for us to build each other, to prepare each other for the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is God’s chief purpose when He established the church, what Paul in our Epistle calls “the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”. That, as we wait for His return, we encourage one another with our words, with our faithfulness and with our sacrifice for the work of the Gospel.
Who has encouraged you and helped you to be prepared for Christ’s coming? Reach out to them today, this day after Thanksgiving, and say “Thank You for encouraging me in my faith.” Then give thanks where thanks are due, to the God who has prepared you in Christ for the place He has prepared for you at His side.
Please pray with me. Heavenly Father, prepare my heart and mind to be ready for your return. Use me to encourage others in my words and actions to, likewise, be prepared, so that no one I love will be caught unaware and unprepared. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Saturday, November 28
Text: Mark 11:1:10
Why in the world are we having a Palm Sunday reading a few Sundays before Christmas? Let me suggest that the reason might be for us to expect the unexpected. Jesus the King of Creation comes into Jerusalem riding on donkey. Not what we would expect from God. Truth be told we get it wrong regularly. When we are blessed in the things of this world, we think God must be close, often He is never farther. When we think Jesus to be distant because of circumstances, He is only a whisper away. When we expect Jesus to be meek and mild, He thunders like a lion speaking warning and woe. When we expect judgment, He overflows mercy. And when we think we have this God thing figured out, we join with the Palm Sunday revelers our “Hosannas” and in the next moment we find Him nailed to a cross for our sins. In our day to day life we lament when we don’t get what we want from God and then in the next moment realize we don’t get what we deserve, either. To understand our God means to expect the unexpected.
The Japanese have an art form called Kintsugi. It is the art of repairing broken pottery using precious metals to glue and reconstruct what was broken. The result is a piece of art that is more beautiful and more valuable than the original. That is exactly what God has done for you. He has taken your brokenness and mended it with the precious blood of Christ and made you into something even more valuable and beautiful. And the real beauty of the piece is not so much in how it looks, but in how it is used. Like I said, expect the unexpected.
Please pray with me. LORD, You have healed me in unexpected ways. Use me in ways I may not expect. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.