Daily Scripture and Prayer
December 1, 2020-January 6, 2020
This ‘month’ our scripture and prayer resource will continue through the season of Christmas, Dec. 24-Jan.6. The first part of the month we will continue our walk through the Gospel of John. We’ll pause that journey on Dec. 20 through the Feast of Epiphany on Jan. 6, consider verses that arise from the week before and the actual season of Christmas. After Epiphany, our January devotions will resume our work in John. You might want to hang on to this set of devotions so that you can look back to refresh where we are in John when we pick up the text again on January 7.
December 1: John 12:34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus has just shocked his hearers by declaring the wild inclusivity of God. John’s community, on the other side of the resurrection, hears in this an allusion to the amazing news that the cross draws all people to God. The crowd does not have that perspective. They are interpreting what he said through the lens of their own expectations. ‘Law’ here refers to scripture in general. The scripture has taught them that the Messiah, in the line of David, will never die out, so none of this makes sense to them.
Dear God, sometimes we are like the misunderstanding crowd, stuck in the way we’ve always thought about things to such a degree that we miss new wonders that you offer us every day. Help us today to see and hear your clearly so that we do not run away from your truth or our calling. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 2: John 12:35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. Remember that in John ‘light’ refers to consciousness, illumination and enlightenment. ‘Darkness’ refers to ignorance (usually willful), unawareness and moral and psychological obtuseness. Jesus is Light. He warns here that to refuse the Light is to become the darkness. ‘Walk’ means to make progress in the journey of the spiritual life.
Dear God, the darker days of winter can remind us that we live in dark times in which many reject your Light and choose to love the ways of the Dark. Help us to focus on you so clearly that your light will show us your way and shine from us to all around. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 3: John 12:36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. The word ‘believe’ means to trust in, to place one’s full confidence in something or someone. ‘Children of light’ means to become light shedders because you carry the Light within, like one’s own DNA. Why did he hide? Perhaps so they could ponder. Perhaps so they could look inside for the Light he had already placed within them. Perhaps he just seemed hidden because they could not yet ‘see.’ This verse ends Jesus’ public teaching in John.
Dear God, sometimes you seem hidden from us just because we are not looking for you. Open our eyes today to your truth and presence so that we may display that truth in all we do. Fill us so completely that none could ever doubt that you are our parent and have molded us in your ways. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 4: John 12: 37-38 37Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him. 38This was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” From these verses onward, Jesus’ teaching is private with his disciples. Remember that ‘signs’ in John are what the other gospels call miracles. They are signs to John because they always point directly to Jesus’ identity. ‘Believe’ means to trust. The Isaiah passage is 53:1. These and tomorrow’s verses are odd. Apparently John is explaining to his community why so many people just don’t get it.
Dear God, again and again we see your signs. Again and again we see pointers to exactly who you are. We often fail to comprehend as well. Perhaps there is a purpose in that too, just like John was searching for in his friends. Perhaps even our slowness can be used in some way for the good. So forgive where we are slow and, by that grace, make our love swift to serve. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 5: John 12:39-41 39And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said, 40“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.” 41Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him. The Hebrew scriptures teach that God is the only actor in the world. Whatever happens, God does it, either actively or passively by permission. By the time John writes, people are beginning to wrestle with that understanding. Why in the world would God do that? No clue. The 16th century reformers saw this as foreknowledge of how people would respond to the call of Christ and used verses like this to come up with the idea of predestination.
Dear God, sometimes when we try to hold your power and people’s rejection together, we can’t figure it out either. We must leave that to you. As for us, help us to live this day aware of your glorious presence and humbled by your saving love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 6: John 12:42-43 42Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God. In verses 37-43, John is giving us his commentary on Jesus’ ministry. He cannot understand how his own people rejected him. His only conclusion could be that it was part of the plan. Still, He cannot resist this bitter assessment. The language is quite strong and seems filled with resentment. This is more understandable when you remember that his community has only recently been expelled from the synagogue. The word ‘glory’, doxan, primarily means the honor bestowed by the good opinion of others. When applied to God, the word additionally refers to the kind of shimmering radiance of God’s true self that people see and worship.
Dear God, O how many times our fear has stopped us from declaring our faith and living its precepts! Help us today not to believe in secret, but rather, to trust you in the open so that others may be strengthened by our faith. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 7: John 12:44-45 44Then Jesus cried aloud: “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. These verses begin a new section that summarizes Jesus’ main teaching and include the theological issues with which his audience must wrestle in order to make a decision for Christ. The first, obviously, is the incarnation. People must come to trust that Jesus makes God known in human flesh, not as a mask or mirror, but because he is God embodied. When we see him we see God and we see what humanity was intended to become, and can now become, in Christ. ‘Cried aloud’ is a formal word for proclamation. This particular word for ‘see’ means to see clearly, or sometimes when used by Paul in Romans, to see dearly.
Dear God, you are our God. We are so grateful that you sent Jesus to show us your face of love and point us toward lives of wholeness and righteousness. Help us today to see and love you ‘dearly’ in return. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 8: John 12:46 I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. Jesus returns to the imagery of light that is so prominent in John’s gospel. Jesus is the presence of God that allows people to wake up in a broken world and see clearly. Jesus is all true enlightenment, consciousness and illumination. ‘Darkness’ is spiritual and moral blindness and ignorance. Jesus makes light possible for those who will accept what he actually reveals.
Dear God, we know that to trust the Light means that we must daily submit to the change you want to bring about in us, and through us, to our families and community. Transformation is never easy. It requires an embrace of the light that shows us all of our flaws. Yet, you see no flaws, only opportunities for growth. Thank you! Strengthen us today so that we may embrace your transforming love and show the world who you really are. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 9: John 12:47 I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. The word ‘judge’ is a legal term that means to condemn or to pronounce sentence. The word for ‘hear’ refers to physical hearing. ‘Keep’ means to guard or regard. By implication, it means to obey. The word ‘save’ means to restore, make whole, put back together. The word, rhema, to which Jesus refers is the big picture of his teaching…that God is love and Jesus is the perfect embodiment of all that that means in human life and community.
Dear God, how wonderful it is to hear that you do not pronounce a harsh sentence on us when we are stubborn or reject your ways! Thank you for reminding us that all you want is our wholeness. Help us today to remember where that wholeness is to be found so that we do not stray from it. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 10: John 12:48-50 48The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, 49for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. 50And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.” It is the word itself that serves as judge for humans’ lives. In the end our lives themselves will testify to our faith and obedience or the lack thereof.
Dear God, help us to live our days so that when we meet you face to face, when your Word welcomes us into your presence, we may smile as your word is said and sung because we recognize it so clearly, even in ourselves. Thank you God for daily transforming us according to your word. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 11: John 13:1 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. Chapter 13 introduces what scholars call the Book of Glory. Jesus’ glory begins in the upper room in John’s gospel. There is some wonderful theological subtly here. In the synoptics the Last Supper is on the first day of Passover and institutes the Lord’s Supper. In John, it is before Passover, on the day the lambs are slain. The word ‘knew’ is one of the words often translated as ‘see.’ It means to see, perceive, be sure of or to understand. The ‘hour’ refers to his death. The word ‘depart’ is interesting. It means to go from one realm or sphere to another. These words make clear that Jesus’ death was an act of love. The word ‘end’ means the point aimed at, and implies fulfillment of a goal.
Dear God, Jesus is our Passover lamb, the one who assures us of safety and freedom. How can we thank you enough for a love so great that it never rests, or withholds anything, in order to take us to the goal you have for our lives? Help us today to praise you in all things, because you are in all things, taking us, in love and through love, to the life for which you created us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 12: John 13:2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. Here the ‘devil’ refers to the organized principle of evil and confusion. It is that power that can take over the human heart and cause us to think that evil is good and good evil. The word ‘put’ is strong. It means to strike or to throw with power. The Greek is a bit confusing. It is not clear if the idea to betray has been put in the devil’s heart, or Judas’. In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter because evil once conceived will find a way to be expressed. John finds it especially poignant that the betrayal happens at the intimate fellowship meal. Perhaps it is not so strange really, because the struggle between good and evil, love and betrayal, often happens first with those closest to us.
Dear God, we know how to betray you and to decide that evil is good, or necessary, if it seems to serve our vision or maintain our power. We know how to reject you, even as we claim fellowship with you. We know how to harm others by our selfish choices. Judas is not as far from us as we might wish. Help us today to live with integrity, to sort the evil from the good, and cling always to our devotion to you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 13: John 13:3-4 And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. The word for ‘knowing’ is the same used in verse 1. ‘All things’ means absolute governance. This authority is the foundation for everything that will come and all that has gone before. ‘Took off’ is the same word John uses for Jesus laying down his life. When he takes off his robe, he lays down his life as they have known it and puts on another life, the life of a slave who serves them. This is utterly astounding. The perfect embodiment of God chooses to serve rather than to rule from external power, for actually, in the kingdom, it is service that is power.
Dear God, help us to model our lives today on Jesus’ humble service. Give us courage to take off all other roles or masks so that we may meet the needs of others in your name. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 14: John 13:5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. In the synoptics the bread and cup reveal Jesus’ nature as cosmic host and giver of freedom. In John, the sacramental action is the footwashing. In it, Jesus is revealed as the one who will lay aside all heavenly privilege to serve and repair broken humanity. The word ‘wash’, nipto, means to wash a part of the body. There is another word for general washing and yet another for ritual washing. ‘Feet’ has a double meaning. The washing of feet was important for health in the ancient world and it could only be done by the lowliest member of a household. The early Christians also saw the feet as the part of the body through which the Spirit entered or exited. They were connected to Mother Earth, through which Spirit energy flowed. Hence, soles became linked to souls by Augustine. The wiping is linked to Jesus’ anointing.
Dear God, when we read this story, we cannot help but think of the many parts of our lives that need to be cleaned up. Thank you for showing us that you are ready, willing and able to do that for us, no matter how unpleasant. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 15: John 13:6-7 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter is beyond scandalized by Jesus taking on the role of a slave for him. It is a bridge too far. Remember that he is still longing for a powerful Messiah who will restore worldly power and autonomy to Israel. Jesus realizes that he has no idea what is really happening.
Dear God, sometimes we want you to be different, too. We would like a magic wand kind of God who, if we just learn the right thing to say, will hop to do our bidding. We want you to win everything for us, just as we see fit. We cringe at your humility because we really want a powerful robot that we can control. It is not so. It will never be so. Thanks to you, it can never be so. Help us today, to look closely at you, to understand power and love more like you do, so that we will not try to get in the way of what you are doing in, with and for us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 16: John 13:8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” In John, this is the key to salvation. ‘You will never’ is a powerful oath. ‘Have no share’ means not to share a new home with. It denotes powerful intimacy and fellowship. What Jesus is telling Peter is that if he will not accept this powerful act of hospitality and grace from him, that Peter will never be able to participate fully in the life that Jesus offers. To remove oneself from the lavish grace God offers, ultimately, removes one from God altogether. It is all grace and if we can’t grasp that we will never truly be at home.
Dear God, oh my! It is all grace and if we do not grasp that we will never be at home. Help us, Lord, to receive your grace, not only for our own sakes, but so that we can share it with integrity with those around us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 17: John 13:9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Peter is ready to allow Jesus to wash him. He still, however, does not understand. He thinks that this is some kind of ritual to which he must submit. He has not fully grasped what is really happening here.
Dear God, like Peter, sometimes our need for grace overwhelms us. We want you to fix us up in a flash. And sometimes we think there can be a quick fix, or even a treasured ritual, that we can perform that will take care of everything in a moment. When we think that way, we too may miss what you are doing for us, because all we see is our need. Even that can blind us. Help us today to both know our need and recognize who you are and how you meet it. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 18: John 13:10-11 10Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” Scholars think that this verse was a later addition to help people understand the power of baptism. The feet exception is symbolic for keeping the channel open for Spirit. ‘Entirely clean’ means free from all impurity, without blemish. ‘Was to betray’ in Greek is literally ‘was betraying him’. Betrayal begins when it is conceived. Betrayal makes one dirty in a moral sense.
Dear God, had we been in that room that night, what role would we have played? Would we have been Peter, slow to understand and desiring a quick fix? Would we have been the silent majority, struck dumb by love and yet saying nothing? Would we have been Judas, so certain we were right, and our expectations were best, that we would be willing to kill love itself in order to shore up our perspective? It depends on the night. Help us today to embrace the embrace you offer, in just the way you offer it. Protect us from trying to remake you to suit ourselves and the horrible betrayals to which that inevitably leads. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 19: John 13:12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? What had he done? Two things. First, he revealed the true nature of God’s self-giving love. Second, he created a community of love by sharing love in a profound and intimate way. It is a community of equality in which all are served, even the betrayer. It is the act of accepting Jesus’ love (washing) that creates the community for which God longs. This is the heart of salvation for John. (Put a bookmark here and we will return to the story on January 7th.)
Dear God, help us today to ponder the question Jesus put to his friends and ask ourselves what Jesus has done for us. Help us today to remember all of the grace and aid that has come our way, so that we may understand more clearly who you are and who you make us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 20: Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. Isaiah of Jerusalem was an 8th century BCE prophet who decried the moral laxity of the people of Judah after the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians. His prophecy is found in chapters 1-40 of the book that bears his name. He believed that Judah was only morally better than Israel by degree. He further believed that the nation would have to be held accountable by God for their faithlessness. Still, he saw some hope, believing that a faithful remnant of the people would remain. It is to this faithful remnant that God will send a mighty Messiah to lead them in the reform they needed. The ‘darkness’ refers both to the oppression of the morally lax people in power and the lack of awareness of their corrupted state. The ‘light’ is the coming Messiah who will reveal everything clearly.
Dear God, sometimes we feel that we have walked in darkness too long to even recognize light when it comes, if it comes. In those times, deluded as they are, we long from the depths of our souls for someone to come to help us, to lead us, and to rescue us. As the days of Advent draw to a close, we remember again with gratitude that you meet all of our longings in Jesus, who always comes just at the right time. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 21: Isaiah 9:3 You have multiplied the nation you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. In this chapter, the prophet is exulting in what God is doing in the birth of a new Prince of Peace. Joy and bounty are marks of Messiah’s reign.
Dear God, the day of rejoicing is very near. Even as we wait with humble expectation for your coming near at Christmas, we can already feel the joy because you are born in us again and again and again. Thank you! In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 22: Isaiah 9:4 For the yoke of their burden and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. The work God will do with the coming Messiah will include the removing of every vestige of oppression of the powerful over the powerless.
Dear God, you have come, and you continue to come to us in so many ways. We look forward to the fullness of your coming and the final redemption of the world from violence, greed and oppression. We continue our work for you, knowing that you will complete it at the right time. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 23: Isaiah 9:5 For the boots of the trampling warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. The word ‘rolled’ means to roll or whirl or to drive away. It is used in the Psalms for rolling oneself up in God. So all the old warring ways will be rolled up in God and destroyed. They will become fuel for the purifying fire that will cleanse the nation and restore right relationship with God. The word ‘blood’ is a very important word in Hebrew. It refers to wholesale bloodshed and slaughter by violence. Blood is considered the source of life in Hebrew. To slaughter is to both lose life and rob God. Messiah will put an end to that robbery and useless loss of life AND people will learn from what they have gone through in order not to fall into those old traps again.
Dear God, as we look forward with joyful expectation to your arrival on Christmas, we know that your coming was not an instant solution. Rather, you started us on a path, one where you lead to completeness. We thank you that you promise an end to violence and grief. While you continue that work in the macro, may we receive it in the micro, becoming people of peace in our homes and communities. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 24: Isaiah 9:6 For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. There is a word in Hebrew that we do not translate in this translation. Here we say, ‘he is named.’ In Hebrew the word is ‘called’, and it means proclaimed, powerfully announced, declared in such a way that things change simply due to the declaration. The root for the word ‘wonderful’ means a miraculous thing that is accomplished in real life. The root for ‘counselor’ means to advise, admonish, direct, resolve, plan or purpose in consultation with another person. The word ‘eternal’ means without end. ‘Peace’ here is shalom. It indicates more than a cessation of violence. It means wholeness in every possible way.
Dear God, on this day of wonders, songs of grace and memories of special Christmas Eves fill our hearts and minds. It is a day of peace, a night of wonders where miracles happen before our very eyes and in our deepest souls. We thank you for your love that is born anew this evening. We thank you for your miracles, your counsel, your power and your peace. May we be transformed by you more and more each breath we take and each carol we sing. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 25: Titus 3:4-7 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus was a close traveling companion of Paul’s and was probably with him when he wrote his letter to the Galatians. Paul is writing this letter to him to encourage him to keep going in the presence
of intense opposition in the church he is trying to establish, probably in Crete. They were having particular difficulty with the Jews within the movement who continue to struggle both with a full understanding of incarnation and a sense of superiority from their heritage as God’s chosen people. They are confused, as well, about the role of their good works. Here Paul urges Titus to remind them of who Jesus is and that that knowledge requires a way of life that is consistent with Jesus and his values as a response to salvation and not a method to achieve status or righteousness. ‘Loving kindness’ can also be translated as forbearance, or gentleness. It is the opposite of severity.
Dear God, the tree is trimmed. The manger is full. Our hearts are brimming with gratitude because you came, and because you continue to come, bringing good news to the world and salvation to our lives. Help us today, to pause in the merriment, to remember the powerful saving love behind all of our celebrating. Joy to the world! The Lord has come! In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 26: Hebrews 1:1-4 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, who he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. The word ‘spoke’ in the first verse is interesting. It refers to animal cries as well as spoken words. It is even used of the speech of silence. It is the wild speech of God that is made understandable finally in Jesus. The word ‘reflection’ can be translated, and I prefer it here, radiance. ‘Imprint’ refers to an exact replica. We might think of it today as a fingerprint, unique and unmistakable.
Dear God, during these holy twelve days of Christmas, teach us the lessons of incarnation. What a miracle that Jesus is your exact imprint and that you have chosen to place your mark on us as well. Help us more and more to reflect your glory in the choices we make each day. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 27: Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvations, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” The later chapters of Isaiah are written by one or more other prophets who lived in a different moment in time. They shared some of Isaiah of Jerusalem’s theology but also saw Messiah’s role differently. It is in the later chapters that we see the notion of a suffering servant enter Israel’s Messianic hope. This was never as popular as the mighty Messiah imagery but, for us as Christians, it is the seed of our understanding of the cross. Here the prophet is longing for a time of complete wholeness that will inevitable come when Messiah rules human hearts and community.
Dear God, how beautiful you are! How great your news is! How beautiful the peace that you bring into our hearts feels. Thank you so much for continuing to come to rule our hearts and show us the ways of peace. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 28: Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and a bride adorns herself with her jewels. There is nothing like the joy of being in Messiah’s presence and wearing the clothes of wholeness for ourselves and all the world to see.
Dear God, the culture we live in is done with Christmas, but we, your church, are just beginning! Help us in these holy twelve days not to move too quickly past the joy of celebrating your coming to live human life with us. Today let us deck ourselves with joy and righteousness so that we can continue in joy and thanksgiving! In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 29: Isaiah 62: 10-11 Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones, lift up an ensign over the peoples. The Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to daughter Zion, “See, your salvation comes; his reward is with him. And his recompense before him.” Here the prophet urges the people to prepare the way for others to experience what is surely coming. The fact that Messiah is on the way is, in the hoping and preparing, a reality in itself.
Dear God, help us to proclaim your salvation anywhere and everywhere you lead. Help us to remind a weary world that they is hope and that that hope has a face and a name: Jesus. Give us courage. Make us strong. Fill us with joy that overflows and changes lives for the better. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 30: Galatians 4:4-5 But when the fulness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. Paul is having trouble with the Galatian church. They are fighting and want to find a way to combine grace with works so that they ‘feel more saved.’ So once again, Paul is calling them back to the fundamentals of what God did in Jesus. The word ‘redeem’ means to buy back from bondage, usually to a destructive force or even mind set. Adoption is a huge concept in the scripture. The rules regarding adoption were profound indeed. When one was adopted that bond could never be broken. Natural children could be disinherited but adoptive children could never be.
Dear God, sometimes we put right back on the chains that you came to remove. We wonder if your love is real. We wonder if it is real for us. We secretly feel that you could reject us or that maybe our ‘adoption’ didn’t take. Help us today to pause and claim again the truth of our faith: In Christ you have set us free from every bondage. You have chosen us for your own and nothing can ever change that. Alleluia! In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
December 31: Galatians 4:6-7 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So, you are no longer a slave but a child and if a child then also an heir, through God. A child both has the status of the Father but also displays the values of the family. A child has access to everything that the father has forever.
Dear God, we are your children. On this New Year’s Eve, many of your children are still suffering. Many are not sad to say good-bye to what has been a hard and disheartening year. Help us to remember that, because we belong to you, we are not slaves to our circumstances. Help us to reflect back with joy and thanksgiving on the graces you brought in hard times so that we may face the new year with confident expectation. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
January 1: Psalm 98:1 O sing to the Lord a new song for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory. The book of Psalms in our family prayer book and hymnal. These poems were used in worship and memorized for private devotion. This psalm was written to celebrate God’s goodness and to worship God with all of life.
Dear God, as we continue our Christmas celebration, we look forward to the new things 2021 will bring to our lives and world. Please heal our divisions. Bring hope to the grieving and lost. Help our governmental transition and bless our leaders. May the Christ Light shine in every corner and crevice. We offer ourselves to you and ask that you use us as you see fit to proclaim your glory and love your people. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
January 2: Jeremiah 31:8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. Jeremiah, often called the weeping prophet because of his battles with depression and personal tragedy, served as a prophet in Jerusalem for 40 years before and after the fall to Babylon. He grieves at the consequences of the people’s sin and cannot imagine how they will survive as a people. And yet he trusts that God will be good to God’s promise even when the way does not seem clear and the people are scattered and divided. God is in the restoration business and can bring them out of bondage to their real homes again.
Dear God, you are in the restoration business. You gather up the broken and the broken hearted and bring them into the fullness of your promise. We thank you for home, our physical dwelling places, and the home we have in our hearts with you. That inner home can never be lost, because in you we have been found. Help us to rejoice in the family of God, in all its bright diversity, and see your hand at work bringing your children home. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
January 3: Jeremiah 31:9 With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first born. Here Jeremiah reminds the faithful remnant that God is still their shepherd. Even in unimaginable crisis, God will be faithful and lead them into the ways of righteousness and safety.
Dear God, sometimes we feel like we are lost, like powers beyond our control have too much influence on our lives. Our loved ones suffer. Our bodies creak and rattle. Our communities and nation struggle. Our church seems to wane in energy and numbers. Help us to remember that all the power of Babylon did not stop your shepherding love. For that
matter, not even the power of death could stop it. We thank you that we are safe in your care and we can rely on your promises for all eternity. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
January 4: Jeremiah 31:10 Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.” In this verse we see that Jeremiah’s words of hope are not aimed only at individuals in trouble or despair. They are words addressed to nations as well. God is faithful to redeem even when nations are caught up in turmoil or oppression.
Dear God, today we pray for our country. We ask that you lead, heal, direct and gather us into the fold of your love and justice. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
January 5: Jeremiah 31:16-17 Thus says the Lord: Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work, says the Lord: they shall come back from the land of the enemy; there is hope for your future, says the Lord: your children shall come back to their own country. Here Jeremiah encourages the people not to sink into profound and prolonged grief. There is hope for them and God will find a way to give them a longed-for future.
Dear God, on this last evening of Christmas, our trees are dropping their needles on the carpet and we feel a little saggy too. There is a sense of letdown. Christmas was strange this year and we may not quite feel like it actually ‘happened.’ We are a little weepy ourselves sometimes. Help us to claim the promise you gave to Jeremiah, that tears should be dried, that our work will not be for nothing, that our children will somehow return, and that there is solid hope for the future for those who trust in you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
January 6: Isaiah 60: 1-3 Arise, shine: for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. In these verses the prophet gives a vision of the glorified Zion, that is, what the world will look like when God puts things right again. It is a vision for enlightenment and righteousness for the whole cosmos.
Dear God, on this Feast Day of the Epiphany, we remember the journey of the Magi as they sought wisdom by following their star to the young Jesus. We know their path was fraught with danger and that entrenched power lashed out with violence. In this holy season that is dedicated to awakenings and revelations, help us to follow the ‘stars’ you send to us, come what may, that we may arrive at the wisdom you have for us as well. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.