Advent Daily Devotionals 2017
Day 10 - December 12, 2017
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness a light has dawned.”
~New International Version
I was 3 years-old when Hurricane Hugo paid a visit to the state of South Carolina. I don’t remember much about the storm itself but I definitely remember sitting in the dark for a few days. My home county, Clarendon County, was one of the hardest hit areas inland. I do remember being frustrated because I wanted to play with my toys and watch TV but couldn’t do either because we had no power. We were in the dark. However, I remember my parents telling my sister and me, “Don’t worry. It won’t always be this way. The lights will be back on soon.” Like always, my parents were right.
Before Jesus Christ, our world was the same way in a sense. There was darkness everywhere. However, the birth of Jesus brought a light to this world in which everything pales in comparison to it. We must remember that we are made in the image and likeness of GOD. Therefore, we have his same qualities. We have been given our own light that we should let shine every day of our lives. Darkness cannot overtake light as darkness is only the absence of light. As long as we let our light shine, the darkness of this world will not be able to overtake us.
We thank you for your faithfulness and your kindness. Thank you for continually showing us that trouble doesn’t last always. Please help us to remember that we should let our light shine. Please show us the way so that we may show your glory.
In Jesus Name,
Dr. John Lesaine ‘07, Associate Professor of Sport Professions
Day 9 - December 11, 2017
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (NRSV Luke 1:72-75)
“That we … might serve him without fear” – this is an amazing promise that is easily overlooked in the midst of all of the good news in this passage. Think about it – fear of failure can keep us from trying new things or participating more in worship; fear of the unknown can trap us in a fear of death; fear of being wrong can keep us from speaking; fear of being judged can keep us from taking a stand; fear of being called a Bible thumper can keep us from witnessing to the Gospel; and fear of rejection can keep us from reaching out to others – to name just a few of the many fears that can make it hard for us to be everything God creates us to be.
Then, there is Jesus, our Lord and Savior – the fulfillment of all of God’s promises – who rescues us from all of our fears. He frees us to take chances and risk everything in order to be the people God creates us to be. He gives us the freedom to discover our God given gifts and discern how God wants us to use those gifts in service to the world as everything from store clerks, first responders, teachers, lawyers, mechanics and farmers to doctors - to name just a few.
Think about it – pray about it! Imagine the possibilities for a world where no one is afraid of being who God creates them to be and doing what God gifts them to do.
Freeing God, thank you for offering us freedom from fear. Help us to embrace this freedom and allow you to help us live our lives fearlessly for you and your world. Amen.
Pastor Joanie Holden, St Timothy Lutheran Church, Crystal River, Florida. Newberry Class of 2011 and Southern Seminary Class of 2015.
Day 8 - December 10, 2017
“In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God… And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. Isaiah 40:3, 5
When I was a child in church, I often heard these words: “Advent is a time of preparation.” Naturally, I would ask, “What are we preparing for?” I would get many different answers that were about Christmas, gifts, Jesus Christ, and many other answers that I would find acceptable. While I still didn’t know exactly why we were preparing, I knew that it required waiting. And I hated waiting.
For many, many years, God’s glory had been hidden from the Jewish people. In some ways, God’s people waited and waited to see God’s glory revealed to them in the fullest. After all, they were his chosen people and felt like they deserved that much. In many stories of the Old Testament, God would reveal himself a bit but never fully revealed himself to his people. Yet, things were about change. Throughout the prophets, God promised that he would eventually reveal himself to his people and return to them offering salvation. All this waiting would eventually pay off!
In Jesus, we see the glory of God finally being revealed to the people of this world and God’s promises being fulfilled. The greatest news of all is that God refused to allow humanity to exist in its current condition of sin and death. Here, we see one of the climatic moments in all of Scripture when God stepped into our world and took on flesh so that we could see God’s glory. Jesus came into our world to prepare and make a way for us to get to God.
Now, on the other side of the Jesus’ descent into our world, we are called to wait and prepare as well. In the wilderness of our hearts and the deserts of our souls, we are called to prepare the way and make straight his path. In this time of Advent, I want to invite us to prepare a way in our hearts and souls for the Lord so that we may see the full glory of God. Yet, maybe most importantly, that we are able to bring others to see the glory of God as well.
Day 7 - December 9, 2017
Based on Luke 1:46-56
And Mary[a] said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
56 And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
When I was a child, one of the things I loved to play with was a magnifying glass. It could make ant-sized creatures appear large and fascinating. It helped me observe things up close that I might have never noticed before. I believe the Advent season is a lot like a magnifying glass in that it invites us to see more closely how God has fulfilled his promises of a messiah through ordinary people like Mary and Joseph and how his coming into our world also helps us see up close things we often might not pay attention to.
After greeting Elizabeth, Mary praises God by saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.” When she says my soul magnifies the Lord, I believe she meant, “Let my life, my words and my actions be like a magnifying glass that helps others to see and discover the largeness of your mercy and grace.”
Mary goes on to say that with the coming of Jesus, God will bring down the powerful from their thrones. God will exalt the humble and lowly and will fill those who are hungry with good things and send the evil away empty. When we think of Jesus’ ministry and how he blessed the poor, how he fed the hungry, how he ministered to those at the margins of society and how he healed those who were broken in body, mind or spirit, then we see a glimpse of what God’s kingdom is all about.
Hopefully this Advent, God will help our lives, our words and our actions magnify his love and grace to our hurting world.
Thanks God for Mary’s magnifying love for you in bearing Jesus and being his mother. Let our lives also proclaim the vastness of your love in our world.
In Jesus’ Name,
Written by the Rev. Dr. Herman R. Yoos
Bishop of the South Carolina Synod, ELCA
Day 6 - December 8, 2017
Luke 1:39-45 King James Version (KJV)
39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
Let’s just try to imagine the magnitude of this visit with Elizabeth and Mary. Both are pregnant and both are carrying a miracle child. Elizabeth will give birth to John the Baptist and Mary will give birth to Jesus! The Angel Gabriel told Zacharias and Elizabeth that even in the womb that the child would be filled with the Holy Spirit. And, the baby leapt in the womb when he heard Mary’s voice, knowing that Jesus was in his presence.
It’s also important to know that there was no competition between Elizabeth and Mary, and we learned there wasn’t a competition between John the Baptist and Jesus. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the light, but that John was a witness to the light.
I hope that all of us will leap with joy this Christmas as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Lord and savior.
Thank you, Lord, for the lessons we learn through scripture, and for those people that you place in our path that will share these important lessons with us. Let’s count our Blessings, and thank God for people in our lives that witness the light of Jesus, and hope that we are prepared to see the light, feel the light, and share the light! AMEN
Director of Athletics
Day 5 - December 7, 2017
Luke 1:26-38 (NRSV)
6 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”[a] 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[c] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
I am constantly surprised by Mary’s reaction to the news from the angel Gabriel. She is told that, even though she is a virgin, she will have a Son. This son, she is told, will go on to be “the Son of the Most High,” reign on David’s throne, and his kingdom will have no end. Think about the weight of that statement: This angel has just told this young woman that she will give birth to the Messiah. I can’t overstate how tremendous this news must have been. Mary’s life, whatever she thought would come from it, has surely in an instant been entirely changed. Imagine knowing that you are a young woman from a hick town in the Roman Empire, and suddenly, you are now the Mother of the Messiah. I don’t know if I could take this news as calmly as Mary seems to have, given what I imagine to be the weight of that statement. Yet Mary simply responds with “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Advent, in the church year of those who observe it, is a time of hope, of expectation, of longing for Jesus to come into the world. More so than that, it is a time of preparation, in which we as the whole church of God prepare ourselves to hear the story once again of Jesus coming into the world. Mary, surely to this point had lived a life of such faith that, when confronted with the angel and the news which he bore, was ready in this moment to simply respond with faith.
This is our challenge in this season leading up to Christmas: Are we prepared? Are we ready to hear God telling us what God has planned for us, and to let it change the shape of our life? Are we prepared to hear the Good News in such a way that it is Good News: Because Jesus came into the world, and has come into our lives, we are tasked with living a life like Mary in faithful response to all God has done for us.
Will you pray with me?
God, you sent and continually send your Son into a broken world. As we prepare ourselves to once again hear the message of your saving work in the world, break into our hearts and prepare in us a heart and mind ready to receive you. Guide us in our devotion to you, and shape us to be your faithful servants. We ask all this in the name of the Most High, Amen.
Rev. James Henricks
Day 4 - December 6, 2017
BIBLE PASSAGE: But the angel said to him “Do not be afraid, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall call him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth for he will be great before the Lord and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb and he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God and he will go before him in spirit and power of Ellijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.
The angel said with the birth of John you will have gladness and joy and many will rejoice. The angel is talking of a new beginning, and this new beginning does not happen only at the time of a child’s birth, it happens every time we return to our commitment to live our life according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. At every such moment there is a reason for gladness and joy.
The Angel said with the “spirit and power of Elijah,” we will turn the hearts of fathers to their children. It is so easy and happens so often, that when life throws us an unexpected difficulty, we make it seem like it is nearly insurmountable, so rather than turn to God, we bail out and take the easy, less complicated way. But the angel pleads with us to stay the course; keep our promises and turn our hearts back to those who need us the most – our family, our children, our friends, and especially those with no one else to rely upon. Those with nothing, those with no support system.
And the Angel then asks us to turn the disobedient to the “wisdom of the just.” We are expected as children of God to do whatever we can, to correct the injustices of the day. We are not supposed to just walk past injustice, we are expected to do something. We are expected to make a difference. What other purpose is there to living one’s life? With the “spirit and power of Elijah” we are to be bold and courageous and help bring about empathy, mercy and selflessness. We have opportunities every day to make someone else’s life a little less burdensome. Will we be so caring to give the gift of love and compassion? Or will we let the moment pass without helping one who is suffering from depression, discrimination, injustice, homelessness or hunger.
If there was ever a season to start a new life of giving – it is now – it is today. I make my commitment today in the midst of this most wonderful season of Advent. As the angel said, our reason for being here is to “make as many as possible ready for the Lord, so we can pronounce to the Lord your people are prepared.” I promise to get myself as ready as I can be and bring as many to the finish line as possible.
And we will celebrate the moment with gladness and joy.
Maurice W. Scherrens
Day 3 - December 5, 2017
Isaiah 7:10-15English Standard Version (ESV)
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.
I don't know about you, but when I read this passage, just the 6 verses, I was immediately thinking, "Wow! What a faithful man, this Ahaz, to pass on a sign from God himself!?! This is cut and dry. A faithful man who gets the good news of Jesus Christ." But then I did the research. I read the histories and the rest of the scripture around the passage and realized that I had been fooled by the face value of these verses. This was just the trailer to a thriller film. The dust jacket on a mystery novel. Thank goodness that Google was there with references abounding to shed more light on the situation.
Now before I delve in, let's get this out of the way: would it be incredible for anyone of us to be so righteous as to refuse this gift? Yes, of course, and if we stopped the lesson at that, we wouldn't be wrong. Should we test God? Should we test Love? No. No we should not. But we do. Trust is hard. Faith is hard. Love is hard. But God is with us.
Back to our story, working around the military, you hear a lot of tall tales and sea stories, and often times, at the end of story, someone will respond without hesitation, "pics or it didn't happen." That means, prove it! We live in a time of immediate gratification. Plagiarism checks, fact checker, spell checker, Siri or Google or Alexa are going to tell us immediately if you're wrong or right. If you have a picture? Well then, we are more likely to believe you. A picture's worth a thousand words. So what did I find, researching this passage from Isaiah? What happened when I read the whole book and not just the back cover?
Get ready for some Game of Thrones drama here! King Ahaz's realm of Judah is being attacked by the kingdoms of Israel and Aram, who are mad because he will not join them in fighting Assyria. Oh wait, Assyria is also trying to conquer the entire region. Long story short: Everyone has threatened to attack Judah and its' capitol, Jerusalem. Judah is afraid. But God has promised to King Ahaz that He will protect Judah through this struggle. And here in this passage God offers Ahaz a sign of his strength and promise, proof of God's omnipotence, the pic to show that he is not lying. Faith and trust in God and His promise will save Ahaz and his people, and if Ahaz needs a sign, he can ask for anything he wants. Anything. God can and will do it to prove this to Ahaz. Seems straight forward, right? But in research we find that lurking outside this passage, in other scriptures and history textbooks, is the knowledge that Ahaz has already decided to disregard God's promise. He has already sent gold and silver from the house of the Lord to beg for mercy from the King of Assyria. Dun. Dun. Dunnnnnn.
Ahaz isn't a righteous man, standing resolute in his faith and dismissing the need for a sign. He's a hypocrite. He didn't trust God. He doesn't ask for a sign because he doesn't want the proof. The proof will be indisputable. Proof of God's power and promise will show that Ahaz turned his back on God. But God doesn't turn his back on Ahaz and he doesn't turn his back on us. Trust is hard. Faith is hard. Love is hard. But God is with us and he's going to prove it. Not only will he still protect Ahaz' kingdom of Judah through these warring times, but in verse 14 we hear the good news of the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. God is going to give Ahaz a sign anyway, a sign for the people, and all of the "House of David" to prove that they are not alone. God was with them. God is with them. God is with us. That's what Immanuel means- God is with us. Boom! You want proof? Pics or it didn't happen? God can beat that. He's giving them a miracle. A savior. A living sign and embodiment of Love.
So what did I learn from all of this? Truth is stranger than fiction. I'm so glad I researched this passage. Arming yourself with the correct information makes you a better person, a better neighbor, a better partner, a better friend. How often do we see a clip, a snippet, hear a quote, see a news headline, and think we know the whole story? Education is everything. Knowledge is power. God's Love is a gift that has nothing to do with us being righteous or deserving. We're weak but He loves us anyway. He gives us a second, and third and fifteenth chance. When all the wolves are at your door and you cry out for mercy, God is there. He would never abandon you. Even if you've doubted him. He gave you His promise and gave you a sign. Immanuel. God is with us.
Trust is hard. Faith is hard. Love is hard. But God is with us and He makes trust, and faith and love possible.
Elizabeth (Libby) Sherman daughter of Pastor Ernie and friend of the college
Day 2 - December 4, 2017
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” I sing this refrain with others in my Lutheran congregation several Sundays a month. That such ancient words are still sung today, albeit to a different tune, is nothing short of miraculous to me.
What are we asking when we petition the Divine to create in us a clean heart and to reorient our spirits? The season of Advent is the perfect time to ponder this question. As the nights grow longer and colder, we naturally turning inward—toward the warm light of candles and hearths. We are also called to turn toward our own hearts, to ask what kinds of quiet transformations we are being called to during winter’s hibernations.
A clean heart before God suggests to me a clear heart before others. A clear heart is willing to open itself. To those who may seem too different from us for any sort of connection to happen. To those who are so in need that drawing near makes us feel vulnerable. Even to those whom we love dearly but who frustrate us to no end. A clear heart is a heart that opens us to others in a gesture at once tender and courageous, allowing us to see the image of God in every person we encounter and stirring us to treat them with grace.
As we turn inward toward the soft glow of the season, warmed not only by the holiday lights but by the one called Emmanuel, the Light of the World, may we seek clear hearts that open us to stranger, neighbor, and loved ones alike.
Let us pray: O Holy One, as you create in us clean hearts, help us also to have clear hearts that we may see your many children through eyes of grace and mercy and love them as you have called us to do.
Krista E. Hughes
Director, Muller Center & Associate Professor of Religion
Day 1 - December 3, 2017
When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?”
“What are you looking for?” Of course the first words Jesus would speak in John’s Gospel would be a question. Not a parable, not a prediction, not a pronouncement. But a question. A query. And a quixotic one at that.
It was to two men who were following him that he posed the question. You or I, nervous about strangers pacing a few steps behind us, shadowing our movements, might have phrased it, “Why are you following me?” But Jesus was not nervous that these men following him, but he was curious about why they were following him.
And so he asked them, point blank, and they famously answered in Hebrew, “Rabbi.”
Now, we might miss the point here if we do not catch the translation. Rabbi means “teacher,” or “a teacher.” So, to Jesus’ question, “What are you looking for,” they answered (in English translation), “A teacher. We are looking for a teacher.” They were looking for someone to teach them, to lead and guide them, someone who could teach what needed to be known and could do what needed to be done in order to restore divine purpose and peace to the chaotic imperial terror in which they lived. In short, they were desperately hungry to follow a leader who had something nourishing to offer their famished souls, one who could fill the holes in their hearts with something holy, one who could vanquish the decrees of polemical gibberish with the declaration of godly justice.
To the extent that their circumstance in any way resonates with ours—to the extent that we might be looking for a teacher to guide us toward a godly life—the good news of this first day of the Advent season is that we who might be looking for a leader to follow might just find one. Or, more like it, be found by one. The stories that we will hear in these four sacred and mysterious weeks of Advent will invite us to prepare the way of the Lord, in part, by asking ourselves what we are looking for. And if we really are looking for a teacher worth following—or a God worth dedicating our lives to—let’s not be surprised to find ourselves found by the Lord who, all along, was looking for us.
Let us pray: Lord, we pray that as we look for a life made of moments of mirth in months that matter, that you will be our teacher. Guide us on this Advent journey so that as we faithfully look for you we may discover that we ourselves are found to be your blessed children. Amen.
Dr. Wayne Kannaday
Professor of Religion