Archive for the ‘December’ Category

Guide to Ordinary Time Devotions in December 2018   1 comment

Above:  Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri

Image in the Public Domain


Saturday, December 1:



Guide to December Ordinary Time Devotions for 2017   1 comment


Above:  The Cathedral Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, a.k.a. Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Image in the Public Domain


Friday, December 1:

Saturday, December 2:


Devotion for Saturday Before the First Sunday of Advent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Second Coming Icon

Above:  Second Coming Icon

Image in the Public Domain

Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending

DECEMBER 2, 2017


The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and keep us blameless until the coming of your new day,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever . Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18


The Assigned Readings:

Micah 2:1-13

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Matthew 24:15-31


Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock,

shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,

stir up your strength and come to help us.

Restore us, O God of hosts;

show the light of your countenance,

and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The assigned readings for today begin with a violent and exploitative regime in power and end with with God having supplanted them.  The lesson from Micah ends with a new shepherd–Yahweh.  In Matthew the coming of the Son of Man (Jesus) extinguishes the light of the Sun and the Moon, the blessing of which Roman Emperors claimed.  Thus, as a note in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) says on pages 1790 and 1791:

Jesus’ coming is “lights-out” time for Rome.

This is a devotion for the last day of the Season after Pentecost, Year A.  The next day in the liturgical sequence will be the First Sunday of Advent, Year B.  Thus focusing on the Kingdom of God versus the kingdom of this world is an especially appropriate thing do do in this post.  The Roman Empire ceased to exist a long time ago, but exploitative and violent socio-economic-political systems remain in place.  Their “lights-out” time has yet to arrive.  The Kingdom of God, realized partially for a very long time, has yet to arrive in full force.  Until it does each of us should ask himself or herself a potent question:  With which kingdom am I aligned?  Proper subsequent action will depend upon the honest answer.

Yea, Amen!  Let all adore Thee,

High on on Thine eternal throne;

Saviour, take the power and glory,

Claim the Kingdom for Thine own:

O come quickly!

O come quickly!

Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!

–Charles Wesley, 1758 (altered), from The Hymnal (1933), Hymn #184








The Next Post in the Sequence:



Devotion for Friday Before the First Sunday of Advent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Great Day of His Wrath

Above: The Great Day of His Wrath, by John Martin

Image in the Public Domain

Promises of God

DECEMBER 1, 2017


The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and keep us blameless until the coming of your new day,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever . Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18


The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 14:1-9

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

1 Thessalonians 4:1-18


Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Zechariah 14 contains a vision of the establishment of the Kingdom of God in all its glory.  That account influenced the Book of Revelation and, before the composition of that text, hopes of the imminent return of Jesus Christ.  By the 50s C.e., however, many of the earliest Christians had died and many of their survivors grieved for fear that the deceased would miss the Second Coming, which many people of the time assumed might occur immediately.  St. Paul the Apostle wrote to comfort those who grieved accordingly.  The deceased will be there, he insisted, for there is a divine promise of that.

As I type these words in late 2014, many more Christians have died without witnessing the Second Coming.  Recent predictions of specific dates for that event have joined their predecessors in the dustbin on history.  Yet the promises of God remain dependable.  So whatever happens, whenever it occurs, and however it comes to pass, there is no need to grieve for fear that we or others have missed out on a promise of God.








Devotion for December 2 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments


Above:  A Candle Stump

Image Source = J. Samuel Burner

Light in the Darkness




Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 8:9-9:6/7 (depending on versification)

Psalm 5 (Morning)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening)

1 Peter 4:1-9


There will be grave trouble for Judah one day, Isaiah said.  It might not happen soon, but that day will come.  And it did.  Yet, in the midst of that gloomy prediction, there was a second, happy one:  There will be a ruler through whom God will deliver the people.  Scholars debate what the vague references meant, and the reading assumes a certain character if one reads it outside of Christological interpretations, but none of that is germane to my purpose here, today.  My point is this:  There is hope in the darkest darkness, thanks to God.

Speaking of difficult times, the audience of 1 Peter knew suffering for the faith (4:12-19).  Yet God was with them, not only spiritually via the Holy Spirit, but also through each other.  We human beings ought to help each other to, in the words of 1 Peter 4:8,

preserve an intense love for each other (The New Jerusalem Bible)

and use our gifts from God for the common good.  What does Jesus look like?  Hopefully, he looks like you, O reader, like me, and like many other people.  As we prepare, to celebrate the arrival of Christ nearly two thousand years ago, may we first recognize those through whom Christ is present with us today.






Devotion for December 1 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments


Above:  The Harrowing of Hades

Image in the Public Domain

Hope and Fear




Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 7:10-8:8

Psalm 103 (Morning)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening)

1 Peter 3:1-22


He [Jesus Christ] suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again.

–The Apostles’s Creed


Christ himself died once and for all for sins, the upright for the sake of the guilty, to lead us to God.  In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life, and in the spirit, he went to preach to the spirits in prison.  They refused to believe long ago, while God patiently waited to receive them…..

–1 Peter 3:18-20a, The New Jerusalem Bible


The reading from Isaiah tells of the births of two boys.  Immanuel’s arrival marked hope that the Syro-Ephraimite threat to Judah would end soon.  It also contained a promise of divine judgment; read 7:17.  The arrival of Maher-shalal-hash-baz marked the doom of the Syro-Ephraimite thread at Assyria’s hands.  Hope and judgment, bound together, were part of the same message.  The author of the Gospel of Matthew read a different meaning into Isaiah 7, relating it to Jesus.  The combination of hope and judgment is also present there.  That is sound New Testament-based theology.

As much as judgment is potent, so is mercy.  1 Peter 3:19 is one basis (see also 1 Peter 4:6) for the line (from the Apostles’ Creed) about Jesus descending to the dead.  This passage indicates that Hell, at one time at least, had an exit.  And it might have one again.  There is always hope in God.  If God does not give up on us–as I suspect is true–may we extend each other the same courtesy.  Final judgment belongs to God, and I do not presume to a station higher than the one I occupy.  But I do propose that certain ideas we might have heard and internalized relative to divine judgment might be mistaken.  With God all things are possible; may we embrace that mystery.






Week of Proper 29: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Year 2   13 comments

Above:  The Measuring of the New Jerusalem

“And Night Shall Be No More”

NOVEMBER 29 and 30, 2018

DECEMBER 1, 2018


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.



Revelation 18:1-2, 21-19:3, 9 (Revised English Bible):

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven; he possessed great authority and the earth shone with his splendour.  In a mighty voice he proclaimed,

Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!  She has become a dwelling for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, for every unclean and loathsome bird….

Then a mighty angel picked up a stone like a great millstone and hurled it into the sea, saying,

Thus shall Babylon, the great city, be sent hurling down, never to be seen again!  The sound of harpists and minstrels, flute-players and trumpeters, shall no more be heard in you; no more shall craftsmen of any trade be found in you, or the sound of the mill be heard in you; no more shall the light of the lamp appear in you, no more shall the voices of the bridegroom and bride be heard in you!  Your traders were once the merchant princes of the world, and with your sorcery you deceived all the nations.

The blood of the prophets and of God’s people was found in her, the blood of all who had been slain on earth.  After this I heard what sounded like a vast throng in heaven shouting:

Hallelujah!  Victory and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgements!  He has condemned the great whore who corrupted the earth with her fornication; he has taken vengeance on her for the blood of his servants.

Once more they shouted:

Hallelujah!  The smoke from her burning will rise for ever!

The angel said to me,

Write this:  “Happy are those who are invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb!”

He added,

These are the very words of God.


Revelation 20:1-4, 11-21:4 (Revised English Bible):

I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand.  He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the Devil, or Satan, and chained him up for a thousand years; he threw him into the abyss, shutting and sealing it over him,so that he might not seduce the nations again till the thousand years were ended.  After that he must be let loose for a little while.

I saw thrones, and on them sat those to whom judgement was committed.  I saw the souls of those who, for the sake of God’s word and their witness to Jesus, had been beheaded, those who had not worshipped the beast and its image or received its mark on forehead or hand.  They came to life again and reigned with Christ for a thousand years….

I saw a great, white throne, and the One who sits upon it.  From his presence earth and heaven fled away, and there was no room for then any more.  I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne; and books were opened.  Then another book, the book of life, was opened.  The dead were judged by what they had done, as recorded in these books.  The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead in their keeping.  Everyone was judged on the record of his deeds.  Then Death and Hades were flung into the lake of fire.  This lake of fire is the second death; into it were flung any whose names were not to be found in the book of life.

I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had vanished, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband.  I heard a loud voice proclaiming from the throne:

Now God has made his dwelling with mankind!  He will dwell among them and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There shall be an end to death, and to mourning and crying and pain, for the old order has passed away!


Revelation 22:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the city’s street.  On either side of the river stood a tree of life, which yields twelve crops of fruit, one for each month of the year.  The leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations.  Every accursed thing shall disappear.  The throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see him face to face and bear his name on their foreheads.  There shall be no more night, nor will they need the light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will give them light; and they shall reign for ever.

He said to me,

These words are trustworthy and true.  The Lord God who inspires the prophets has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.  And remember, I am coming soon!


Psalm 100 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness

and come before his presence with a song.

Know this:  The LORD himself is God;

he himself has made us, and we are his;

we are the sheep of his pasture.

3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

go into his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and call upon his name.

4 For the LORD is good;

his mercy is everlasting;

and his faithfulness endures from age to age.


Psalm 84 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house

and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;

by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,

my King and my God.

3 Happy are they who dwell in your house!

they will always be praising you.

4 Happy are the people whose strength is in you!

whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.

5 Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs,

for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

6 They will climb from height to height,

and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.

LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;

hearken, O God of Jacob.

8 Behold our defender, O God;

and look upon the face of your Anointed.

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room,

and to stand in the threshold of the house of my God

than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

10 For the LORD is both sun and shield;

he will give grace and glory;

11 No good thing will the LORD withhold

from those who walk with integrity.

12 O LORD of hosts,

happy are they who put their trust in you!


Psalm 95:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving

and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

3 For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth,

and the heights of the hills are his also.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

7 For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!


Luke 21:20-36 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

But when you see Jerusalem encircled by armies, then you may be sure that her devastation is near.  Then those who are in Judaea must take to the hills; those who are in the city itself must leave it and those who are out in the country must not return; because this is the time of retribution, when all that stands written is to be fulfilled.  Alas for women with child in those days, and for those who have children at the breast!  There will be great distress in the land and a terrible  judgement on this people.  They will fall by the sword; they will be carried captive into all countries; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by Gentiles until the day of the Gentiles has run its course.

Portents will appear in sun and moon and stars.  On earth nations will stand helpless, not knowing which way to turn from the roar and surge of the sea.  People will faint with terror at the thought of what is coming upon the world; for the celestial powers will be shaken.  Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  When all this begins to happen, stand upright and hold your heads high, because your liberation is near.

Jesus told them a parable:

Look at the fig tree, or at any other tree.  As soon as it bud, you can see for yourselves that summer is near.  In the same way, when you see all this happening, you may know that the kingdom of God is near.

Truly I tell you:  the present generation will live to see it all.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Be on your guard; do not let your minds be dulled by dissipation and drunkenness and worldly cares so that the great day catches you suddenly like a trap; for that day will come on everyone, the whole world over.  Be on the alert, praying at all times for strength to pass safely through all that is coming and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 29:  Thursday, Year 1:

Week of Proper 29:  Friday, Year 1, and Week of Proper 29:  Saturday, Year 1:


The Book of Revelation culminates with the destruction of the city (and empire) of Rome and the establishment of God’s order, the New Jerusalem.  The Empire had persecuted Christians and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple there.  The latter was a recent memory for many members of the original audience of both Revelation and Luke.  In fact, as I read Luke 21, I perceive that memories of those traumas influenced the telling of the contents.  How could they not?  We humans tell the past in the context of our present and recent history.

There is good news after all.  Revelation is an essentially optimistic book.

“…and night shall be no more….”

–Revelation 22:5a, Revised Standard Version

Part of the text from Revelation reminded me of an anthem my church choir has sung:

Peace be to you and grace from Him who freed us from our sins,

who loved us all and shed his blood that we might saved be.

Sing holy, holy to our Lord, the Lord Almighty God,

who was and is and is to come,

sing holy, holy Lord.

Rejoice on earth, ye saints below, for Christ is coming soon.

E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come and night shall be more.

They need no light, no lamp, nor sun, for Christ will be their all.

In 1954, Paul and Ruth Manz struggled emotionally through the serious (threatening to be fatal) illness of their three-year-old son, John.  Paul, a Lutheran church organist and composer, set words his wife had adapted from Revelation to music.  John recovered and became a minister.  He presided at his father’s funeral in November 2009.

Those of us who have lived for a sufficiently long time understand the darkness of anguish.  I refer not to mere childhood and adolescent alleged emergencies.  No, I mean potentially soul-shattering grief.  In such circumstances, one wonders how one can carry on.  Christ, who suffered grievously, did more than persist–he triumphed, even over death itself.  The power which made that possible can enable us to survive, continue, rebuild, and thrive.  Yew, we can carry one, in Christ, of course.