The Devotional Practice
This devotional is designed as a rough outline for the development of a personal devotional practice and begins on page 6. With this outline you will find at least five readings for each day during Advent. The readings are presented in the following format: Date, Psalter (Morning and Evening), Old Testament Reading, Epistle Reading, and Gospel Reading. I have used the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) for the Scripture passages. Each passage is followed by a brief comment, statement, or question that is meant to provoke or elicit a response from you, the reader. I suggest that you begin each reading with a prayer, calling on God to open your eyes and show you what he wants you to see. Then, take time to reflect upon the readings and close with a prayer asking God for guidance throughout the day. The way in which you use this will depend upon how your day is structured. I suggest reading the Morning Psalm(s) with one of the other readings for the day during the morning hours, reserving the Evening Psalm(s) and other readings for the evening hours. Some of you may need to read all of a particular day’s readings at one time. You may want to limit you readings to the Psalms and the Gospel Readings or the Epistle and Gospel Readings. These details are not nearly as important as is the regular reading of the passages and taking time to reflect upon them. It is my hope that through this sort of devotional practice that we will truly become a people of the Word.
Advent marks the beginning of the Christian year. It is a time in which we celebrate the promises of the Old Testament having been fulfilled by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Advent is a time in which we experience Jesus today, coming to us (as individuals, families, and churches) in a new and powerful way. It is also a time in which we lay claim to the promises of the New Testament that tell us that Jesus will return to the earth again in glory bringing with him “a new heaven and a new earth.” (RSV) In this way, Advent is multidimensional and multifaceted. It is a liturgical experience in anticipation. The readings below are part of a two year lectionary cycle. The brief comments that accompany each reading are meant to be reflective of the Advent Season and devotional in nature. It is my hope that they will heighten our spiritual walk together through Advent.
The witness of the Word of God precedes us and the Word of God chooses us.
The lectionary is not a holy injunction but it is a map that lays out one course for reading the Bible. The lectionary used here is a two year cycle of daily readings. Use of these readings allows you to cover the entire New Testament and the great narrative cycles and many passages from the prophets and writings in two years. The advantages to this discipline is that it (1) allows you to read the Bible over and over again and presses you to read those passages you might not read otherwise, (2) has you read passages that you will probably never hear preached on, and (3) means that you will not be reading alone for whenever you turn to this study you can be assured that there are people all over the world reading, studying and praying over the same passage.
When studying the lectionary readings you will find a variety of study aids readily available to you (many of them on the internet). You will need to pick the resources you use according to what you are trying to accomplish.
The Psalter â€“ (My approach in these posts)
I am using the psalms as a devotional tool and trying to examine at greater length the psalms presentation of God (the theology of the psalms) and my understanding of that presentation in a Christian context. I have found J. Clinton McCann, Jr.’s approach to the psalms most helpful, “that the psalms anticipate Jesus’ bold presentation of God’s claim upon the whole world and that Jesus embodied the psalter’s articulation of God’s will for justice, righteousness, and peace among all peoples and all nations.” I believe that this reasonably states many of my assumptions when I come to the psalms.
At times I will refer to different books in the psalms. The NRSV and NIV editors suggest that the doxologies in Psalms 41:13, 72:19, 89:52, and 106: 48 divide the Psalter into five books Psalms 1-41 as Book 1, Psalms 42-72 as Book 2, Psalms 73-89 as Book 3, Psalms 90-106 as Book 4, and Psalms 107-150 as Book 5. William G. Braude found in the Midrash Tehillim the following statement, “As Moses gave five books of laws to Israel, so David gave five books of Psalms to Israel.” This division of the psalms is one that I have worked with in seminary and one that seems to creep into these postings.
The Old Testament Readings â€“ (My approach in these posts)
I am using the Old Testament as a devotional tool and trying to examine at greater length the Old Testament’s presentation of God (its theology) and my understanding of that presentation in a Christian context. I believe that the Old Testament anticipates Jesus as the Messiah and that Jesus embodies God’s claim upon the whole world and “God’s will for justice, righteousness, and peace among all peoples and all nations.” (J. Clinton McCann, Jr.) I believe that this reasonably states many of my assumptions when I come to the Old Testament.
The Epistle and Gospel Readings â€“ (My approach in these posts)
I am using the Epistle Readings as a devotional tool and trying to examine at greater length the New Testament’s presentation of God (its theology) and my understanding of that presentation as a Christian. I believe that the New Testament proclaims Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah. Jesus embodies “God’s claim upon the whole world and God’s will for justice, righteousness, and peace among all peoples and all nations.” (J. Clinton McCann, Jr.) The New Testament proclaims the sovereignty, mercy, and love of God for humanity (and all creation) expressed in the life, death, resurrection, and promised return of Jesus the Christ. I also believe that the New Testament supports a Trinitarian understanding of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). This reasonably states many of my assumptions when I come to the New Testament.