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2023 Advent Devotions

Greetings from Concordia University, St. Paul, where we celebrate that God calls each of us by name and we are His as we live, learn, and serve together as a university community (Isaiah 43:1b).

The season of Advent is such an important time in the life of the church. Meaning “coming,” Advent is set aside as a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus. First, in the miracle of God becoming man through Jesus Christ’s incarnation; second, in the promise of His second coming as the King of kings and Lord of lords on the Last Day.

During this season, through worshipping with others and spending time in God’s Word and prayer, we reflect on our sin and need for a Savior. As we do so, we read and hear of the good news that Jesus, God in the flesh, came to live, die, and rise for all the people of the world. We are forgiven and set free to serve and live as His people until He comes again.

These devotions, written by some of CSP’s faculty and staff, are intended to be a resource for your personal devotions as you journey through the season of Advent through Christmas and Epiphany. I pray that you are blessed and refreshed by time in reflection, renewal, and prayer throughout this holy season.

Brian L. Friedrich
Concordia University, St. Paul

Advent Devotions

  • By: Jane Wilke, B.A. ‘75, Director of Church Relations

    “Stir up your might and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!” Psalm 80:2-3

    “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest” opens the common table prayer. It is an invitation for Jesus to dwell among us, even in the most ordinary of circumstances. In Psalm 80:2, “come” is more of a plea, a prayer for restoration and peace. It is a heartfelt cry for God to dwell among his people in the most difficult of circumstances.

    “Come, Lord Jesus” is our prayer during Advent. Jesus—God’s own Son—is already among us. Sent by God the Father to be our saving grace, Jesus promises, “And behold, I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). It is a prayer that he will continue to dwell among us in both the ordinary and the difficult. “Come, Lord Jesus” to bless the gifts you’ve given us. “Come, Lord Jesus” to heal the hurting among us. “Come, Lord Jesus” to grant us your peace.

    “Come, Lord Jesus” also happens to be the last words in the Bible: “’Surely, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). It is our prayer of confidence, hope, and joyful expectation for his final return and ultimate restoration.

    “Come, Lord Jesus!”

    Prayer: Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

  • By: Rev. Dr. Reed Lessing, Professor of Theology
    The Edwin F. and Esther L. Laatsch Chair of Old Testament Studies

    “The glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”
    (Isaiah 40:5)

    We all suffer from some kind of blindness. Just because we witness a rainbow doesn’t mean we see its beauty. We can plant a garden and fail to see the splendor of its flowers. And we can attend church, sing Advent hymns, feel faithful and festive, and still fail to see Him. Him? That would be Jesus.

    Jesus. The glory of the LORD revealed in a human body. The doors to heaven’s throne room opened wide and God came to earth. Jesus!

    It wasn’t enough for shepherds to see angels. You’d think that angels would have been enough. The night sky filled with light. Stillness erupting in song! But that wasn’t enough. The shepherds had to see Jesus.

    It wasn’t enough for magi to see the star. Not that the star wasn’t spectacular. Not that the star wasn’t brilliant. But the star wasn’t enough. The magi had to see Jesus.

    If you can’t find the power to face your problems, it’s time to face Him. If you’re overwhelmed with shame and sadness, it’s time to take a look. If you need a Savior from sin, a Friend who loves at all times, and a Redeemer who restores and renews, it’s time to open your eyes and, with all the faithful, marvel at Isaiah’s promise—fulfilled in the little town of Bethlehem. “The glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

  • By: Rev. Dr. Samuel Deressa, Associate Professor of Theology and the Global South

    Psalm 126:1 (NIV):
    “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed.”

    As we enter the season of Advent, we anticipate the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior. This verse from Psalm 126 carries a special significance during this time, reminding us of the profound impact of God’s faithfulness and restoration. It points us to the ultimate fulfillment of our dreams through the coming of the Messiah.

    The opening verse of Psalm 126 is a poetic expression of joy and wonder that arises when God moves in a miraculous way. It speaks of the restored fortunes of Zion, a people who have witnessed a transformation that surpasses their wildest imagination. This verse not only depicts a historical event in the life of the Israelites, but also holds profound meaning for us today.

    The birth of Jesus brought a profound shift in the spiritual landscape of humanity. Just as Zion experienced a restoration of fortunes, the world experienced a historic turning point when Jesus entered the scene. Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus offers us the opportunity for restoration, redemption, and the realization of our deepest desires.

    The phrase “like those who dreamed” captures the awe and wonder that surrounded the birth of Jesus. The long-awaited promised Messiah had finally arrived. In Bethlehem’s stable, the dreams of generations were realized, and hope shone brightly in the form of a newborn child. The coming of Jesus was the fulfillment of centuries-old prophecies, bringing with it the restoration of God’s people.

    During Advent, we reflect on the significance of Christ’s birth and prepare our hearts to receive Him anew. It is a time of expectation, longing, and hope. Just as Zion’s fortunes were restored, so can our lives receive restoration in Jesus Christ. He brings healing for our brokenness, comfort for our sorrows, and peace for our troubled hearts.

    May this verse from Psalm 126 serve as a reminder of the incredible significance of Advent. Let us approach this season with expectant hearts, ready to welcome the restoration, redemption, and renewed dreams that come through the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. In Him, every dream is possible, and every longing finds fulfillment.

  • By: Kristi (Kuhl) Bauer, B.A. ‘13, LCMS Placement Coordinator

    Do you ever feel unqualified? Overwhelmed? Inadequate? Have you ever been called to do something that brought great fear? In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel appears to the Virgin Mary, an ordinary girl, with whom God had found favor. Gabriel proclaims that she will be the mother of Jesus, the world’s Savior. Troubled, perplexed, and afraid, Mary questions how this could be. She’s a virgin after all!

    What qualifications did Mary possess? None, really. Her ordinariness and human-ness made her the best possible mother of fully human and fully Divine Jesus. Mary responds to God’s favor with obedience, saying, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

    Mary’s response is one of great faith. A faith that says “God can do anything.” Do you limit God and what He can do? Do you question the possibility of certain things being beyond God’s reach? By sending His Son, Jesus, God bridged the gap of impossibility, allowing for our redemption through Jesus’ life, death for our sins, and resurrection, providing a path to eternal life and restoration.

    Though not a word-for-word translation, Mary’s response reminds me of many commissioning or installation services where church leaders, Sunday School teachers, or called workers respond “yes, with the help of God” when asked about fulfilling their call to servanthood. In what ways might God be calling you to serve? As we await the Savior who bridges the gap between God and humanity, let us approach our calls to servanthood with the assurance that God can accomplish anything.

    Prayer: Lord, God, as we prepare to joyfully receive Christ as our Redeemer and Savior, grant that we may be filled with confidence to respond “yes, with the help of God” and serve others more fully for the sake of Him who completed a good work in us. Amen.

  • By: Rev. Dr. Joshua Hollmann, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology

    I remember as a kid setting up our family Christmas nativity scene. I would position and
    reposition Mary and Joseph along with shepherds and sheep and wiseman, wanting to get the
    arrangement just right. Finally, Christmas day arrived and the baby Jesus appeared right in the
    middle of our family manger.

    Our Scripture readings for Christmas Day show us how God our Father arranged everything for
    the birth of his Son, Jesus Christ, the savior of the world.

    The prophet Isaiah looks forward to the shepherds, who on that first Christmas bring good news
    of great joy.

    Psalm 2 proclaims that Jesus is God’s only begotten Son born for everyone on Christmas.

    The opening words of Hebrews tells that while God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, he now speaks to us by his Son, the Word of God.

    The Gospel of John unfolds how God the Father created all things through the Word. This same
    Word of God – God from God and light from light – is born on Christmas and dwells among us
    so we receive in faith the right to become children of God.

    God our Father planned and ordered all things for our salvation in and through the Word of God
    made flesh, Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth.

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, on this holy and happy day, we give you thanks and praise for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, the Word of God, born for us. Order and direct our lives by the power of your Word that we would walk in the newness of life, through Jesus Christ, our light and our life. Amen.

  • By: Professor Shelly Schwalm, DCE, MFA, Assistant Professor of Christian Ministry and Director of the DCE (Director of Christian Education) Program

    On the board above my desk is a small etched metal ornament that reads: “Come see. Go tell.”

    In Matthew 2, the Magi from the East do just that. They journeyed long and far in following the star to find the King. When they arrived, there was utter joy as they “rejoiced exceedingly.”

    There was no major letdown at the end of a long anticipation as is sometimes the case. Jesus inspired full-participation worship that sent them to the floor in awe and honor.

    We see here, a pattern we see throughout the Scriptures—at the Transfiguration, the woman at the well, a healed man in the Gerasenes. They don’t stay there with this King.

    Having met and worshiped this foretold King of the Jews, they went home undoubtedly changed. Who could travel great distances following a star, fall in worship upon finding this King, and return home without a change in heart and a story to tell?

    This is our invitation, too. Drawn by the light of Christ, we come close and are moved and changed by this King, not to stay put and keep it to ourselves, but sent out to share that glow with others. “Come see. Go tell.”

    Prayer: Lord of the Nations, you draw us in by the light of Christ to worship and be changed. Send us out with the glow of your love for the world, that all may come to know Jesus as Savior and King. In His Name we pray, amen.