Archive for the ‘December 18’ Category

Devotion for December 18 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  The Seven Seals

Disturbing Imagery

DECEMBER 18, 2019


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 34:1-2, 8-35:10

Psalm 33 (Morning)

Psalms 85 and 91 (Evening)

Revelation 6:1-17


Isaiah 34 tells the destruction of Edom, a traditional foe of Judah.  Then, in Isaiah 35, we read of the return of exiles from Judah.  There is bad news for some, but it is good news for others.

The reading from Revelation contains part of a vision in progress.  To read the chapter in isolation is to miss what precedes and succeeds it.  The Lamb (Jesus), worthy to break the seals on the scroll, does so.  War, pestilence, and death dominate much of the world.  The martyrs wonder when God will avenge their deaths.  And nature itself seems to come apart.

The imagery, which is disturbing, draws heavily from the Hebrew Scriptures and recent (for the initial audience) events.  The eruption of Mount Vesuvius might have informed the chapter, for example.  And pestilence and death were contemporary in the Roman Empire.  Revolutions erupted in Roman Palestine from time to time, so violence was a recent memory.

How do we interpret disturbing recent events?  Often we seek to see divine wrath in them.  Sometimes we are correct; at other times we are imagining things or adding two and two, arriving at the sum of five.  Yet some timeless lessons persist.  Among them are:

  1. God is in charge, and
  2. Perpetual disobedience to God will not go unpunished.

Especially violent imagery might appeal most to those experiencing oppression, for such imagery tells them that God will avenge them.  That analysis applies to the readings from Isaiah and Revelation.  Yet there is more.  All we need to do to find it is to continue reading.  May we do so.







Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball


God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,








Posted October 7, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2019-2020, December 1, December 10, December 11, December 12, December 13, December 14, December 15, December 16, December 17, December 18, December 19, December 2, December 20, December 21, December 22, December 23, December 24: Christmas Eve, December 25: First Day of Christmas, December 26: Second Day of Christmas/St. Stephen, December 27: Third Day of Christmas/St. John the Evangelist, December 28: Fourth Day of Christmas/Holy Innocents, December 29: Fifth Day of Christmas, December 3, December 30: Sixth Day of Christmas, December 31: Seventh Day of Christmas/New Year's Eve, December 4, December 5, December 6, December 7, December 8, December 9, February 1, February 10, February 11, February 12, February 13, February 14, February 15, February 16, February 17, February 18, February 19, February 2, February 20, February 21, February 22, February 23, February 24, February 25, February 26, February 27, February 28, February 29, February 3, February 4, February 5, February 6, February 7, February 8, February 9, January 10, January 11, January 12, January 13, January 14, January 15, January 16, January 17, January 18, January 19, January 1: Eighth Day of Christmas/Holy Name of Jesus/New Year's Day, January 20, January 21, January 22, January 23, January 24, January 25, January 26, January 27, January 28, January 29, January 2: Ninth Day of Christmas, January 30, January 31, January 3: Tenth Day of Christmas, January 4: Eleventh Day of Christmas, January 5: Twelfth Day of Christmas, January 6: Epiphany, January 7, January 8, January 9, March 1, March 2, March 3, March 4, March 5, March 6, March 7, March 8, March 9, November 27, November 28, November 29, November 30

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A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Christmas   Leave a comment

Adoration of the Shepherds (1609), by Caravaggio

Active God of grace, we laud and magnify your wondrous Name.

Christmas Day is nearly upon us again.

This annual reminder of your gracious love

fills us with awe and wonder

as we consider the ultimate purpose of the Messiah.

May we therefore thank you with our



and deeds,

for your glory and the benefit of others.

In your Name we pray.






A Prayer for Those Suffering from Holiday Grief   Leave a comment

Christmas Tree

Image Source = DRO4


Loving God,

the annual celebration of your incarnation in the form of Jesus approaches.

This should be a happy and blessed occasion.

Yet many people grieve the absence of one or more friends or family members

whom distance,



or death separate from them.

Bestow upon those who grieve

the consolation of your Holy Spirit,

that they may rejoice in your love and mercy.

We pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

fully human and fully divine.  Amen.

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

December 7, 2009

O Blessed Mother   4 comments

Madonna and Child, St. John’s Anglican Church, Ashfield, New Wouth Wales, Australia

O Blessed Mother,

How did you feel when

You learned you were pregnant

Outside of wedlock?


O Blessed Mother,

How did you feel when

The anonymous, thronging crowds

Ignored you in your hour of need in Bethlehem?


O Blessed Mother,

How did you feel when

You experienced birth pangs,

As well as the stresses of parenthood?


O Blessed Mother,

How did you feel when

Your eldest son confused you,

Then seemed to reject you?


O Blessed Mother,

How did you feel when

You watched your eldest son die?


O Blessed Mother,

How did you feel when

You buried your eldest son?


O Blessed Mother,

How did you feel when

You discovered your resurrected son?


O Blessed Mother,

How did you feel when

You ascended and became

Queen of Heaven?


O Blessed Mother,

Strong and humble,

Faithful and human,

Intercede for us.


Kenneth Randolph Taylor

May 30, 1997

Advent Devotion for December 18   14 comments

Above: Mary and Child Jesus, by Pierre Mignard, 1640

There Are No Illegitimate Children

DECEMBER 18, 2019



The days are coming,

says the LORD,

when I shall make a righteous Branch spring from David’s line,

a king who will rule wisely,

maintaining justice and right in the land.

In his days Judah will be kept safe,

and Israel will live undisturbed.

This will be the name given to him:

The LORD our Righteousness.

Therefore the time is coming,

says the LORD,

when people will no longer swear “by the life of the LORD who brought the Israelites up from Egypt”; instead they will swear “by the life of the LORD who brought the descendants of the Israelites back from a northern land and from all the lands to which he had dispersed them’; and they will live on their own soil.


For he will rescue the needy who appeal for help,

the distressed who have no protector.

He will have pity on the poor and the needy,

and deliver the needy from death;

he will redeem them from oppression and violence

and their blood will be precious in his eyes.

May the king live long!

May gifts of gold from Sheba be given him.

May prayer be made for him continually;

blessings be his all the day long.

May there by grain in plenty throughout the land,

growing thickly over the heights of the hills;

may its crops flourish like Lebanon,

and the sheaves be plenteous as blades of grass.

Long may the king’s name endure,

may it remain for ever like the sun;

then all will pray to be blessed as he was;

all nations will tell of his happiness.


This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; before their marriage she found she was going to have a child through the Holy Spirit.  Being a man of principle, and at the same time wanting to save her from exposure, Joseph made up his mind to have the marriage contract quietly set aside.  He had resolved on this, when an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,

Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home with you to be your wife.  It is through the Holy Spirit that she has conceived.  She will bear a son; and you shall give him the name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

All this happened in order to fulfill what the Lord declared through the prophet:

A virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he shall be called Emmanuel,

a name which means

God is with us.

When he woke Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had directed him; he took Mary home to be his wife, but he had no intercourse with her until her son was born.  And he named the child Jesus.


Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The birth of Jesus was a great scandal, one which persisted for decades.  The question of his paternity was a matter of whisper campaigns until the end of his life, at least.  I admit freely that I have major doubts relative to the virgin birth, so I cannot say with intellectual honesty that I believe it.  Yet that matter is trivial, and let us not become caught up in trivia.

Human societies have labels for children conceived outside wedlock.  These are allegedly “illegitimate” people.  And the males are “bastards.”  This more, which has some well-founded roots in family structures and inheritance laws, helps explain the term “son of a gun,” also.  Do not misunderstand me; I do not support indiscriminate sexual contact and conception of children.  There are vital matters of morality and family order to consider.  Yet there are no illegitimate people, for all of us bear the image of our divine Father, regardless of which male contributed half of our DNA.

Neither should people resort to threatening the life of the mother when paternity is in question.  This is a current issue in certain traditional societies in contemporary times.  Barbarous behavior is not an appropriate answer to alleged sexual immorality; two wrongs do not make a right.

This is an unlikely origin story for a king, but Jesus was no ordinary monarch.  No, he was much, much more.



Third Week of Advent: Wednesday   7 comments

Above: “YHWH” in Hebrew

The One and Only



Isaiah 45:5-8, 18-25 (Revised English Bible):

I am the LORD, and there is none other;

apart from me there is no god.

Though you have not known me I shall strengthen you,

so that from east to west

all may know there is none besides me:

I am the LORD, and there is none other;

I make the light, I create the darkness;

author alike of well-being and woe,

I, the LORD, do all these things.

Rain righteousness, you heavens,

let the skies above pour it down,

let the earth open for it

that salvation may flourish

with righteousness growing beside it.

I, the LORD, have created this.

Thus says the LORD, the Creator of the heavens,

he who is God,

who made the earth and fashioned it

and by himself fixed it firmly,

who created it not as a formless waste

but as a place to be lived in:

I am the LORD, and there is no other.

I did not speak in secret, in realms of darkness;

I did not say to Jacob’s people,

Look for me in the formless waste.

I the LORD speak what is right, I declare what is just.

Gather together, come, draw near,

you survivors of the nations,

who in ignorance carry wooden idols in procession,

praying to a god that cannot save.

Come forward and urge your case, consult together:

who foretold this in days of old,

who stated it long ago?

Was it not I, the LORD?

There is no god but me,

none other than I, victorious and able to save.

From every corner of the earth

turn to me and be saved;

for I am God, there is none other.

By my life I have sworn,

I have given a promise of victory,

a promise that will not be broken;

to me every knee will bow,

to me every tongue will swear,


In the LORD alone

are victory and might.

All who defy him

will stand ashamed in his presence,

but all Israel’s descendants will be victorious

and will glory in the LORD.

Psalm 85:8-13 (Revised English Bible):

Let me hear the words of God the LORD:

he proclaims peace to his people and loyal servants;

let them not go back to foolish ways.

Deliverance is near to those who worship him,

so that glory may dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have come together;

justice and peace have embraced.

Faithfulness appears from earth

and justice looks down from heaven.

The LORD will grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its harvest.

Justice will go in front of him,

and peace on the path he treads.

Luke 7:18-23 (Revised English Bible):

When John [the Baptist] was informed of all this (Jesus working miracles] by his disciples, he summoned two of them and sent them to the Lord with this question:

Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect someone else?

The men made their way to Jesus and said,

John the Baptist has sent us to ask you, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect someone else?’

There and then he healed many sufferers from diseases, plagues, and evil spirits; and on many blind people he bestowed sight.  Then he gave them this answer:

Go and tell John what you have seen and heard:  the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers and made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the poor are brought good news–and happy is he who does not find me an obstacle to faith.

The Collect:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.


There is one deity:  God, whom Judaism and Christianity describe.  The God of the Bible is the only god.  Any statement to the contrary is false.

And Jesus is the incarnation of God.  John the Baptist, who identified him, sent emissaries with a question which reflected doubt, and received and answer.  The Judeo-Christian God demands social justice, sole adoration, and obedience to rules which exist for excellent reasons.  Freedom can exist only within rules, and God’s laws liberate us to become what we need to be.

I add one note of caution, however.  To attempt to establish a new, presumably divinely-sanctioned social order by force leads to injustice and theocracy.  New England Puritans of the colonial era hanged Quakers (Quakers!) in the name of God.  Today the leaders (whom I presume believe in their cause and perceive it as righteous–wrong though they are) of the Islamic Republic of Iran persecute dissidents.  And, over a thousand years ago, the Byzantine Empire engaged in Iconoclastic controversies, which entailed persecuting monks who protected sacred images.  Nobody can impose righteousness by force, and the effort is oxymoronic.

Rather, righteousness grows and spreads by consent, hopefully become a privileged concept.  The United States has never been a Christian nation, but it has been more Christian than it is today.  And it can become more Christian via the changing of minds.  Yet one must not mistake Christianity for reactionary, regressive politics, namely misogyny, racism, homophobia, and contentment with lip service for economic reform to help the poor.


Written on June 1, 2010