In lighting the candle, the candle lighter says: “He is a light to reveal God to the nations.”
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 42:6-9
6 “I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness.
I will take you by the hand and guard you,
and I will give you to my people, Israel,
as a symbol of my covenant with them.
And you will be a light to guide the nations.
7 You will open the eyes of the blind.
You will free the captives from prison,
releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.
8 “I am the Lord; that is my name!
I will not give my glory to anyone else,
nor share my praise with carved idols.
9 Everything I prophesied has come true,
and now I will prophesy again.
I will tell you the future before it happens.”
SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:28-33
28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him.
SOME THOUGHTS: When someone speaks of having an “epiphany” they are talking about something that has suddenly “come to light.” It was something that had previously been hidden from them. This day, Epiphany, always January 6, has as its central theme the visitation of the magi. In this case, an “epiphany” was the appearance of the manifestation of a divine being, Jesus Christ. The Light of God had come into the world, a Light to reveal God to all peoples. In one of our early entries in this Advent/Epiphany devotional, we made reference to the covenant God made with Abraham, specifically, that through him and his descendants all the nations of the world would be blessed. We find that prophecy fulfilled in the visit of the kings. For the Jews, this was an epiphany. People did not have to convert to Judaism to worship God. God’s deepest desire is to be in communion with the people he created. Our very first entry on November 27 began with God in communion with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. That was his plan. We broke that relationship due to our rebellion and determination to be “self-sufficient!” (We are all right, and it isn’t going well. Look at the world.) God then provided a way of redemption to make all things new, including us. As you live out this day, notice the people all around you and imagine what they would be like if they knew of God’s desire to be in communion with them. Imagine that for you as well. Start with the Sermon on the Mount tomorrow, it will help!
MUSIC: “Lord, Now Lettest Thou, Thy Servant Depart in Peace” Rachmaninoff
Robert Shaw and Festival Singers (YouTube)
Do not miss this! This may be one of the most beautiful sacred choral pieces ever written. The soloist is singing the words of Simeon in Russian, the Luke passage you just read. You can easily understand it just by looking at the text while he is singing. Listen very carefully at the end and you will hear the lowest basses you have ever heard!
- "In this sacred song, Christ Emmanuel presented in the Temple, Simeon saw the unbreakable link between Judaism and Christianity. The Jewish expression, “everything made has a crack in it so the sun can shine through” and the Priest said, “Holding Christ, now I see the revelation of the Lord and the glory of the people Israel .” - John Fletcher (YouTube comment, edited for grammar)
- “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” -Leonard Cohen
PRAYER: O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. — from The Book of Common Prayer 1928
POSTSCRIPT: Thank you all for being a part of these past forty-one days. I trust that the Scriptures have encouraged you in your walk with the Lord as we saw the connections between the Old and New Testaments. But most of all, I trust you have drawn closer to our great God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and that he has spoken through his words and communed with you day-by-day. Keep it up! — Dr. Daniel Sharp, 2016
P.S. We begin work on the Lenten devotionals shortly!
In lighting the candle, the candle lighter says:
“The next day there was a wedding.”
SCRIPTURE: Genesis 2:18-25
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” 19 So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. 20 He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him.
21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.
23 “At last!” the man exclaimed.
“This one is bone from my bone,
and flesh from my flesh!
She will be called ‘woman,’
because she was taken from ‘man.’”
24 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.
25 Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.
SCRIPTURE: John 2:1-12
2 The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. 3 The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”
5 But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, 8 he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.
9 When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. 10 “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”
11 This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
12 After the wedding he went to Capernaum for a few days with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples.
SOME THOUGHTS: Another of the themes associated with the time of Epiphany is Jesus’ turning water to wine at a wedding feast. Have you ever wondered why he chose that venue for his first public miracle? Nowhere does Jesus tell us why he chose that setting but there are some interesting things to notice. God the Father gave away the first bride, Eve, to the first groom, Adam. God established that a marriage is between a man and a woman, but there is so much more significance. The marriage ceremony is established before the community, witnesses, and makes the couple accountable. But marriage has additional significance and I think Jesus is pointing to a bigger picture. Throughout Scripture, marriage is a metaphor for the relationship of God with his covenant people, Israel, in the Old Testament and then with the Church in the New Testament. At the beginning, we are given an earthly model of a heavenly relationship yet to come between the Bride of Christ, the Church, and the Groom, even the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. It seems fitting that Jesus would begin his earthly public ministry by affirming the marriage of a man and a woman, a shadowing of the coming wedding of himself to his Bride, the Church. He chose that setting among the local community to do his first public miracle. His mother tells him they have run out of wine and part of his response is “My time has not yet come.” To our ears, that seems like a rather odd response. But I think something deeper is going on with the fact that it is wine. Jesus talks about his blood being poured out as the new covenant with his people (Luke 22:20). He is saying it is not yet my time. John also tells us that it was nearly time for the Jewish Passover, the event Jesus embraced at the end of his earthly ministry. In this account of changing the water to wine, he is telling his mother it’s not the time for his ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world. It is also not yet time to celebrate the ultimate wedding of the Bride, the Church, and the Groom, the Lamb of God. As the angel said to John in the Revelation (19:9), “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” The time will come and we’ll be there and we will not run out of the best wine you’ve ever tasted!
MUSIC: “Worthy Is the Lamb” from Messiah
Atlanta Symphony and Chamber Chorus, Robert Shaw (YouTube)
PRAYER: Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give me an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give me an upright heart which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow on me also, O Lord my God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you, at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. This we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
— adapted from Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 AD)
In lighting the candle, the candle lighter says: “He taught with real authority.”
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 78:1-4
1 O my people, listen to my instructions.
Open your ears to what I am saying,
2 for I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
3 stories we have heard and known,
stories our ancestors handed down to us.
4 We will not hide these truths from our children;
we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the Lord,
about his power and his mighty wonders.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 7:28-29
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.
SOME THOUGHTS: The phrase, “I will teach you hidden lessons from the past…stories our ancestors handed down to us” is a deceptively significant declaration. Throughout the Old Testament, the telling of the history of what God had done with, for, and to his people was prominent in the life of the nation. History told the people again and again who they were as God’s people. Where there is no history, the identity of a person or a people struggles. Great respect was afforded to those persons who spoke with authority in relaying these stories and parables. The speaker of parables mentioned here will be prophetically fulfilled in the coming Messiah.
Very gifted young men studied with rabbi’s daily, in fact, a gifted rabbi would have a dozen young men who followed as closely as possible in his footsteps in order to do everything just like the rabbi. Very, very few men by age thirty would have attained to the level as one who could speak with authority in interpreting and explaining the law. Note that when Jesus had finished speaking, the people recognized that this thirty-year-old was not just another follower of a wise rabbi. He spoke with authority-unlike anyone they had heard before. He spoke in parables and he spoke wisdom. This Sermon on the Mount is a commentary on the heart both then and now. May I suggest that when this Advent/Christmastide daily devotional ends in a couple of days, that you commit to working your way through Matthew 5-7 and Psalm 119 at the same time, reading the words of Jesus as a commentary on Psalm 119. Continue the pattern of spending time with the Lord in the Scriptures every day. It’s how we find the mind and heart of our great God, and most of all, commune with him. It is also the best and clearest way to find our personal identity as God created us.
MUSIC: As with gladness men of old. (YouTube)
PRAYER: Gracious heavenly Father, we love and adore you for the gift of your Son. We thank you for the written word and for revealing yourself to us in your glorious Son, Jesus the Christ. We praise you Jesus, for the words you spoke so wonderfully recorded by Matthew. Thank you for the wisdom and clarity of helping us to see our own hearts. Praise you Holy Spirit, our Teacher, and Guide as we read your words. Thank you for reminding us of your faithfulness to your people through the historical accounts of your people through the centuries. Help us to add our part this day to the story you are weaving through history. These things we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. — Dan Sharp
In lighting the candle, the candle lighter says: “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 2:7
The king proclaims the Lord’s decree:
“The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son,
Today I have become your Father.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 3:13-17
13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”
15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.
16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
SCRIPTURE: Romans 1:1-6
1 This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News. 2 God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. 3 The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, 4 and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.
6 And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ.
SOME THOUGHTS: As we approach Epiphany on January 6, we are mindful that one of the primary themes is that of Jesus’ baptism. Here again is a strong connection with the Messiah being in the lineage of King David. That was so important for the Jews to grasp this fulfillment of prophecy. You can see why John tried to talk Jesus out of being baptized. John was baptizing people for the repentance of their sins. John Piper points out other reasons as well. John’s baptism was establishing a group of people who identified with repentance rather than with their Jewish heritage. Some of the Pharisees were clinging to their Jewish heritage in attempting to make themselves acceptable to God. John’s baptism said you are acceptable to God only by admitting you are a sinner, repenting and being baptized as you prepare for the coming Messiah. Since Jesus was sinless and had nothing of which to repent, you can see why John tried to talk Jesus out of being baptized. So why did Jesus submit to having John baptize him? In another translation Jesus’ words are these: “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus was fulfilling righteousness for you and me since he had no sin and we had to be made righteous before the Father. His righteousness is imputed to us. Here is another absolute proof of the humanity of Jesus and of the necessity of God the Son taking on human flesh. The response from his father in heaven is a clear affirmation of what had taken place. “This is my dearly beloved Son, who brings me great joy.”
MUSIC: "Agnus Dei" by Samuel Barber
Choir of New College, Oxford, England (YouTube)
(Text: “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”)
PRAYER: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. How grateful we are for the baptism of your perfect Son whose righteousness before you is imputed to us sinners. As fallen people, we cannot truly comprehend the significance and glory of what our Savior has done. Lord Jesus, we don’t have a language that we can borrow to thank you dearest friend for your great mission to save this world and all that is in it. Holy Spirit, we praise you for the power and life you bring to us as we clumsily offer our words of gratitude and praise. We gladly kneel before you Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. — Dan Sharp
In lighting the candle, the candle lighter says: “I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.”
SCRIPTURE: Exodus 33:17-23
The Lord replied to Moses, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.”
Moses responded, “Then show me your glorious presence.”
The Lord replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” The Lord continued, “Look, stand near me on this rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.”
SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:68-73
68 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has visited and redeemed his people.
69 He has sent us a mighty Savior
from the royal line of his servant David,
70 just as he promised
through his holy prophets long ago.
71 Now we will be saved from our enemies
and from all who hate us.
72 He has been merciful to our ancestors
by remembering his sacred covenant—
73 the covenant he swore with an oath
to our ancestor Abraham.
SOME THOUGHTS: Moses had a very unique relationship with God. His conversations with God were rather straightforward and quite personal. God even said so! Israel’s God was like no other; he was real and personally involved in the lives of his children. God agreed to go with his people. Moses response was rather bold. “Then show me your glorious presence!” What is happening here is that God is showing his character of mercy and compassion to Moses, the Israelites, and to all. God mercifully accommodates Moses’ bold request to see God’s glory by granting him a view from the backside. It is the only way Moses could have survived. God was in the gentle process of revealing himself to his people. The old priest, Zechariah, in his words of praise, refers back to both the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants made by God in being merciful to his people. In Moses, we have a model of transparency before God. You will also notice that God honored that quality in Moses. “I look favorably on you and I know you by name.” Do you think that quality about God has changed? Go to him in transparent faith today. He knows your name and he is for you. Take courage.
MUSIC: “Child in a Manger”
Kings College, Cambridge (YouTube)
PRAYER: You, Lord, through your works have revealed the everlasting structure of the world. You, Lord, created the earth. You are faithful throughout all generations, righteous in your judgments, marvelous in strength and majesty, wise in creating and prudent in establishing what exists, good in all that is observed and faithful to those who trust in you, merciful and compassionate; forgive us our sins and our injustices, our transgressions and our shortcomings.
Give harmony and peace to us and to all who dwell on the earth, just as you did to our fathers when they reverently "called upon you in faith and trust," that we may be saved, while we render obedience to your almighty and most excellent name, and give harmony and peace to our rulers and governors on earth. - Clement of Rome, c.96 AD
In lighting the candle, the candle lighter says: “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant.”
SCRIPTURE: Genesis 17:9-13
9 Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. 10 This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. 11 You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 From generation to generation, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This applies not only to members of your family but also to the servants born in your household and the foreign-born servants whom you have purchased. 13 All must be circumcised. Your bodies will bear the mark of my everlasting covenant.
SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:21-24
21 Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.
22 Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the Law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. 23 The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.” 24 So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
SOME THOUGHTS: Mary and Joseph were given great responsibility in the raising of God’s Son. Talk about pressure! You have to wonder if he ever did anything wrong! Moreover, we see at every significant point, they were up to the task. It was Jewish law, as you just read, that on the eighth day after the birth of a boy child, he was to be circumcised and given his formal name. It is interesting that Mary was told she would become pregnant and bare the Son of God. But it was in Joseph’s dream that the angel told him the child’s name would be Jesus, meaning “God saves his people.” In Jewish culture, the naming carries great weight, as the meaning of the name is a reminder of the character and mission of the child. Naming a Jewish baby is not only a statement of what it is hoped he or she will be, but also where the child comes from. You can begin to see the significance of Jesus’ name. Could there be a better name for our Savior?
In addition, the circumcision of the male was an outward sign of the covenant made with Abraham. Mary and Joseph followed Jewish law at every point. Their son, Jesus, fulfilled every aspect of the law and the prophets. What does your name mean?
MUSIC: “At the Name of Jesus”
First Congregational Church Choir, Los Angeles (YouTube)
PRAYER: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' Amen.