Wednesday, December 5
Isaiah 2:1-11 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. (v.5)
For a certain period when I was a small child, at bedtime I was terrified of my dark closet. My father installed a night light, but I was still frightened. Then Daddy had the brilliant idea of telling me an adorable little fuzzy creature lived in the closet, but needed to come out at night, so we had to leave the door open for him. (This was decades before the great kids’ movie, Monsters, Inc.) Because I loved and trusted my Dad so much, I believed him, and calmed down.
The prophet Isaiah writes of a light that is even more comforting than a night light: It is the Light of the Lord, and we are to walk in it, amidst the scary darkness of a world that seems to have gone mad with hatred, violence, and evil. How do we do this? In verse 11, Isaiah ends with an exhortation to humility. This attitude of the heart turns on the Light. Perhaps Micah 6:8 sums it up best: “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”
Psalm 119:1-24; 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20; Luke 20:19-26
Thursday, December 6
Psalm 18:1-20 In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. (v.6)
Every Sunday, for several weeks before my “Emmaus Road” conversion experience (the living Christ was revealed to me in the Breaking of the Bread), I sat in the balcony at the church I attended and cried through the entire service. At that time, I was unfamiliar with 2 Corinthians 7:10, “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret.” Later, I would understand those tears from God’s perspective. My personal life had hit a wall, and everything I held dear was falling apart—from relationships to ideologies. I felt I had totally messed up my life, and wasn’t keen on continuing it.
Then, on All Saints’ Day 1987, the living Christ was revealed to me during Holy Communion, and my life was changed forever. Truly, in His temple, the Lord had heard my distressed cry for help, and He answered with a love and forgiveness so profound, that the following year He called me to preach that Good News for the rest of my life. Thanks be to God!
Isaiah 2:12-22; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13; Luke 20:27-40
Friday, December 7
Psalm 16 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. (v.7)
I’ve struggled with insomnia my entire life. As an older kid, I’d hide under blankets with a book and a flashlight when I couldn’t sleep. Now, I prop myself up on pillows with reading material and a clip-on LED book light. Sometimes I fall asleep OK, but then I wake up a few hours later. When I’m lying awake in the middle of the night, I’m tempted to start worrying about one thing or another. But there’s a saying, “Give your troubles to God; He’s up all night, anyway.” So, I try to pray. Psalm 16 reminds us that even in the night, God can give us counsel and instruct our hearts. Maybe that’s why sometimes I awaken with the perfect solution to a problem that had eluded me in waking hours!
The fastest way for me to fall asleep is to imagine myself snug in bed at my grandparents’ home by the sea, in Greece. Actually, an earthquake destroyed the house in 2008. But in my mind, that much-beloved refuge is still there—and so am I—hearing the waves slap the shore and smelling lemon blossoms through the open window. Not only is God with us through every night, He also gives us wonderful memories to lull us to sleep.
Isaiah 3:8-15; Psalm 17; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12; Luke 20:41—21:4
Saturday, December 8
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. (vv.16-17)
Our Epistle lesson for today continues the Advent theme of the coming of Christ. What an amazing picture Paul paints for us in his first letter to the church at Thessaloniki. Great artists throughout history have sought to depict this breathtaking scene on canvasses and in church frescoes. But I don’t think anything can prepare us for how awesome, and awe-inspiring, will be the actual return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
According to this passage, first there will be the Rapture of living Christians, then the resurrection of deceased believers—and all of us will be with the Lord forever. The “special effects” that go along with Jesus’ return sound pretty terrifying. But God’s promise to take us to be with Him forever is a great comfort. It certainly gives me inner peace—during what can be a hectic season in our worldly culture (as well as the church!)—and I pray it will do the same for you this Advent.
Isaiah 4:2-6; Psalms 20, 21; Luke 21:5-19
Sunday, December 9
2 Peter 3:11-18 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. (vv.11-12a NIV)
In our human condition we are all speeding toward growing up and growing older. Health spas, pills, and creams abound in our attempt to delay the inevitable. Now, as I joyfully embrace my grandchildren, I find that I ponder eternity ever more frequently, and I wonder what “the day of God” will be like.
I have a saying on my bulletin board that prompts me to stop and think seriously about where I’ve been, how I’m living, and the ways in which choices I make will affect the future. I don’t recall who said it, but the saying goes like this: “My reaction in every situation is a witness for or against me in eternity.” This is a pretty sobering thought, but it causes me to ponder what the Lord will say when I stand before him and give an account of my life. Have you ever wondered if the Lord will ask you questions such as, “What did you do with my son, Jesus?” or “What did you do with the love I gave to you to give to others?”
I am certainly thankful that Jesus will be there with me on that day, just as he promised.
Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalms 148, 149, 150; Luke 7:28-35
Monday, December 10
Luke 21:20-28 “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (v.28)
The disciples were sitting at Jesus’ feet eager to learn all they could from the Master. The disciples had just been talking about “how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God” (v.5). In his infinite wisdom, Jesus chose that moment to tell them about the signs of the end of the age. The disciples were all ears. “‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘when will these things happen?’” (v.7). What Jesus describes is not a pretty picture: warring nations, earthquakes, famines, pestilence, persecution of believers, betrayal by family members (do these things sound familiar?), even heavenly bodies would be shaken. It will be a time of terror and apprehension, of being so totally out of control that the only thing that will save us will be Jesus’ return.
Jesus is the reason and the hope that has enabled believers to stand firm throughout the ages in the face of extreme adversity. When all else fails—and Jesus has told us it will—we must stand up and lift up our heads, because our redemption is drawing near.
Isaiah 5:8-12,18-23; Psalm 25; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Tuesday, December 11
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (v.16)
Darlene Rose’s missionary assignment in Papua, New Guinea, was cut short when she was captured by the Japanese, separated from her husband (whom she never saw again), and imprisoned for four years in a concentration camp during World War II. Her story is about her loving relationship with Jesus that brought her great joy amidst deplorable, rat-infested living conditions, hunger that drove her to eat maggot-infested food, and the psychological terror of expecting to be executed at any moment.
Darlene sought the Lord’s help in prayer, moment by moment, and made herself available to do His work. One time, the Lord opened the way for her to lay the Plan of Salvation before the Japanese camp commander! Jesus had promised Darlene that he would never leave her or forsake her.
She ends her story with a heartfelt thank you to Jesus because he had kept his promise and she was drawn closer to him through her experience. Her story is an encouragement for us as we face life’s challenges. Being in Christ Jesus, we too can “be joyful always; pray continually; [and] give thanks in all circumstances.”
Isaiah 5:13-17, 24-25; Psalms 26, 28; Luke 21:29-38