Wednesday after Advent 4

Psalmody: Psalm 39:4–8

4 “O LORD, make me know my end and what
is the measure | of my days;*
         let me know how fleeting | I am!

5 Behold, you have made my days
a few | handbreadths,*
         and my lifetime is as nothing
         be- | fore you.

Surely all mankind stands as a | mere breath!*
          6 Surely a man goes about as a | shadow!

Surely for nothing they are in | turmoil;*
         man heaps up wealth and
         does not know who will | gather!

7 “And now, O Lord, for what | do I wait?*
         My hope | is in you.

8 Deliver me from all my trans- | gressions.*
         Do not make me the scorn | of the fool!

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 43:25–44:20

[Israel’s Only Savior]
25“I, I am he
         who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
         and I will not remember your sins.

26Put me in remembrance; let us argue together;
         set forth your case, that you may be proved right.

27Your first father sinned,
         and your mediators transgressed against me.

28Therefore I will profane the princes of the sanctuary,
         and deliver Jacob to utter destruction
         and Israel to reviling.

Israel the LORD’s Chosen
44:1“But now hear, O Jacob my servant,
         Israel whom I have chosen!

2Thus says the LORD who made you,
         who formed you from the womb and will help you:

Fear not, O Jacob my servant,
         Jeshurun whom I have chosen.

3For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
         and streams on the dry ground;

I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring,
         and my blessing on your descendants.

4They shall spring up among the grass
         like willows by flowing streams.

5This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’
         another will call on the name of Jacob,

and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’
         and name himself by the name of Israel.”

Besides Me There Is No God
6Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel
         and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:

“I am the first and I am the last;
         besides me there is no god.

7Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.
         Let him declare and set it before me,

since I appointed an ancient people.
         Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.

8Fear not, nor be afraid;
         have I not told you from of old and declared it?
         And you are my witnesses!

Is there a God besides me?
         There is no Rock; I know not any.”

The Folly of Idolatry
9All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. 10Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? 11Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

12The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint.

13The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house.

14He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it.

15Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it.

16Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!”

17And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

18They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. 19No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” 20He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

New Testament Reading: Revelation 11:1–19

The Two Witnesses
1Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, 2but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 3And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”

4These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. 7And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. 9For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 10and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. 11But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

14The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.

The Seventh Trumpet
15Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” 16And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17saying,

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
         who is and who was,

for you have taken your great power
         and begun to reign.

18The nations raged,
         but your wrath came,
         and the time for the dead to be judged,

and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
         and those who fear your name,
         both small and great,

and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”

19Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

Writing

The Church celebrates the triple advent (or “coming”) of Christ. First is the advent into flesh, which is despised and humble before the world, of which Zechariah 9[:9] says, “Behold, Your King comes to you, gentle and poor, sitting upon a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden,” [cf.] Matthew 21[:5]. The second is the spiritual advent, which happens daily into the minds of the righteous, since He is present constantly with the Church, hears her, helps and consoles her, concerning which Christ said, John 14[:18]: “I will not leave you orphans, but will come to you.” Again, [v. 23:] “If anyone loves Me, We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him.” The third advent of Christ is His glorious return to judgment, concerning which Isaiah 3[:14] says, “The Lord will come into judgment.” And Matthew 24[:30] says, “And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with much power and majesty.” It is useful always to consider these three advents of the Son of God—into flesh, the minds of the righteous, and for the last judgment—and to have them set forth in the Church for stirring up faith in minds, invocation, and the fear of God or repentance. St. Augustine says thus on Luke, “This time is called the Advent of the Lord for good reason: so that every believer will prepare himself and mend his ways, so that he may have strength worthily to celebrate the nativity of his God.”

    —Lucas Lossius

Prayer of the Day

O God, Your divine wisdom sets in order all things in heaven and on earth. Put away from us all things hurtful and give us those things that are beneficial for us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The Great “O” Antiphon

O Emmanuel, our king and our Lord, the anointed for the nations and their | Savior:*
         Come and save us, O | Lord our God.

What happened in Bethlehem was the fulfillment of that eternal decree of the heavenly Father. As soon as His Son became man, the unbearable burden of all humanity’s sin was laid upon Him. And so, as Christ, God’s sacrificial Lamb for the sins of the whole world, lay in a hard crib in the dark stable, the eyes of God looked into the future to see His Son already dying on the cross. Therefore, this atonement for sins, by which God’s offended holiness and righteousness were satisfied and men were reconciled to Him, was already as good as accomplished.

        — C.F.W. Walther

By Rev. Michael Mayer

Lutheran Pastor of two small Lutheran Churches in rural SW Ontario.