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2 Introduction From Heaven Above is the theme for this Advent booklet. If it sounds a little like a hymn, you are right. Reformer Martin Luther wrote it to encourage his family to celebrate Christmas. Together with their children, Martin and Katie shared various parts in singing the song of angels and shepherds announcing the joyful good news: Christ our Lord is born for us! If we wish to train children, we must become children with them, Luther said. How delightful! Throughout this devotional you will sing along with stanzas from the hymn. In this period surrounding the 500 th anniversary of the Reformation, we remember that the Reformation is an occasion for song, trusting the Promise that comes down from heaven for us all, Jesus our Lord. He is the Gift that bears with us in the midst of life and death and brings us all into the light and life of the Father s blessing as his own children. Like children, therefore, we focus on the gifts this Advent brings. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17). This devotional booklet is all about gifts from heaven above: the gifts of hope, love, peace and life. The angels sing: Unwrap the gifts with joy! He will on you the gifts bestow Prepared by God for all below, That in his kingdom, bright and fair, You may with us his glory share. Michael Hoy, author 2

3 the gift of Hope The First Sunday of Advent Waiting I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope. Psalm 130:5 A dvent is a time of waiting. And we wait a lot. Beyond just the waiting for Christmas and family and maybe presents that accompany the celebration, we wait for much deeper things. We wait to see something meaningful in the midst of loneliness and poverty and sickness and death. We wait for an end to violence in our streets and abroad, and an end to the greed and inhumanity of our time. We wait for some sign of hope in our deepest despair. But we do not wait alone. The psalmist, who also waited, begins his psalm with these words from the heart: Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. He seems to know something of how we are all trapped in our own deep darkness. But he turns his attention to that which brings relief and comfort in the wait: the coming of the Lord and the promise of his forgiving word. In the midst of our waiting, our Lord comes! In the darkness of night which we, like the shepherds, know all too well, he came as a gift of hope. And in hope-filled faith we claim that this same Christ who came for us all will also come again to bear us home. Lord, we wait, but not without hope. Bear with us, and bear us up with your Word of promise! Amen. 3

4 W hen Monday, the First Week of Advent Watch for the Morning My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. Psalm 130:6 we are no longer under the burden of night and we experience the dawning of a new day, we are overwhelmed with the wonderful difference this makes. The psalmist, well aware of this immense joy on the horizon, cannot help but repeat the phrase more than those who watch for the morning. A dear friend of mine was fond of saying that Advent is adventure. Adventure might be a scary thing because it takes us into places that are not safe or known. But watching is part of that adventure. We watch what God will bring about for us. We watch even as we embrace with all our being his adventurous plan for a future that is full of promise and hope. We have reason to watch because our heart and soul are grounded in the Lord. We trust that our Lord watches over us. I am reminded of Jesus encounter with a man who found his own personal security in his own personal sense of righteousness as well as many possessions. But Jesus, looking at him, loved him. He called the man to confess what he lacked in the one thing that Jesus came to give him, even to be one of his followers (Mark 10:21). Join the adventure! Watch for the morning light that lifts up the soul! There is no safety in the darkness of our lives. But the Lord comes into our darkness to bring the morning light. Lord Jesus, watch over us all the days of our lives. Keep our eyes fixed on you as the prize of our being. We watch for the morning in which you came and we watch for your morning when you will come again. Amen. 4

5 the gift of Hope Tuesday, the First Week of Advent Redeemed O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities. Psalm 130:7-8 C oupons and gift cards are nice when you redeem them and cut down on your expenses. But redemption means something much more promising, especially when one considers the cost that is involved. Redeem in the Scriptures means to buy back. To buy back from what? To buy us back from the depth and death of our sins. That kind of redemption needs to be total, 100%. Nothing less will do. God comes to redeem us by sending his Son into our midst. Through his redemption we are his own. Our Lord Jesus has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, delivered and freed me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with silver and gold but with his holy and precious blood and with his innocent sufferings and death, in order that I may be his, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as he is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity. This great gift of hope has Christ as its foundation. We are redeemed not by our own merit, but by his! Let us sing: This is the Christ, our God Most High, Who bears your sad and bitter cry; He will himself your Savior be From all your sins to set you free. Lord, thank you for your merciful redemption, the gift that exceeds all our hopes! Amen. 5

6 Wednesday, the First Week of Advent Our Salvation For in this hope we were saved. Romans 8:24 A nother one of the gifts that comes to us through hope is the gift of salvation. From St. Paul s perspective in Romans 8, salvation is defined by the word freedom. But notice how it is that St. Paul writes in this context: we were saved. Not, in hope I was saved (though that is also true), but in hope we were saved. Often we are much too busy looking out only for ourselves. And we may tend to reduce salvation to this same microscopic version of promising hope, and miss the big picture. The big picture sees not only that we have been groaning in the midst of our pains and struggles, but that the whole creation has been groaning under this same weight. As people of Advent stirred up through the Spirit of Christ, we share in the pain of others. In times such as ours, when we often see the visible signs of the whole creation struggling under the enslavement of sin, we have faith and hope that God has other plans in mind. Indeed, in sending the gift of hope in Jesus Christ, we are set free through Christ to set all free in the name of Christ. There is always the struggle. But hope in Christ trusts where all of this is leading for all: to freedom. As the old spiritual goes, Deep in my soul, I do believe that we shall overcome someday. Lord, save us from the threatening dangers of our sins, and help us embrace your song of freedom and salvation for all. Amen. 6

7 the gift of Hope H ope, Thursday, the First Week of Advent Through the Wrapping Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? Romans 8:24 while a present gift, always points to a future we have not yet experienced. Hope helps children to picture the presents that start to find their way under the Christmas tree. They cannot see through the wrappings, but they still know there are presents there. Hope is like that. Hope does not see the final day, but trusts and moves toward this future that is already promised in the past, in the coming of Jesus among us, in his life and in his death and resurrection. Thomas said that he would not believe until he could place his hands in the side and hands of his crucified Lord. We ought not have disdain for Thomas unbelief, but see how we, like Thomas, long for the hope that death is finally defeated. For Thomas, Christmas comes in the presence of his Lord. The gospel story concludes with these words from Jesus: Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe. The resurrection is a hope that we look forward to as Christmas all over again. Like children, hope lets us know even without seeing. Lord, in you we hope with expectation. Do not let us be clouded only by what we see, but trust that even in the darkest of nights you are the gift present for us now. Amen. 7

8 Daily Devotions for Advent Based on Martin Luther s Beloved Hymn By Michael Hoy I n this time surrounding the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, this beloved hymn by Martin Luther provides the theme for these daily devotions for Advent. Theology professor Michael Hoy unwraps each week a different gift that comes from heaven above through the birth of Christ. Reflections reveal the benefits of the divine gifts of hope, love, peace and life that were delivered to us in a holy Child wrapped in swaddling clothes. This book, along with many other for the Parish products, is available on and By Michael Hoy. Design by Lindsay Galvin. Cover image: Shutterstock for the Parish, 1564 Fencorp Dr., Fenton, MO All rights reserved. Printed in the USA. HA2

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