Image: Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham, . . . the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. Matthew 1:1, 16
In this devotional we consider Matthew’s genealogical history of Jesus, as we focus on His ancestor Abraham. When God called Abraham, at first it seemed that the Lord was promising only the physical Promised Land. But then the Lord said that Abraham would be the father of many nations, all who would share his faith in an eternal promised land. By the grace of God, that gracious promise is ours through our Baptism into Christ, who leads us through this temporary land into a better country. Come quickly, Jesus Son of Abraham.
OPENING REFLECTION Genesis 12:3; Romans 4:22, 24; John 8:56
The Lord promised Abram, “I will bless those who bless you, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Paul reminds us that Abraham’s faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” “It will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus.” Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced that he would see My day. He saw it and was glad.”
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PSALM 105:1–11, 42–45; antiphon: v. 42
This psalm rejoices that God kept His promise to give Abraham the land—and that He remembers His everlasting covenants. He remembered His holy promise, and Abraham, His servant.
Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; tell of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He uttered, O offspring of Abraham, His servant, children of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth.
He remembers His covenant forever, the word that He commanded, for a thousand generations, which He confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.” For He remembered his holy promise, and Abraham, His servant. So He brought His people out with joy, His chosen ones with singing. And He gave them the lands of the nations, and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil, that they might keep His statutes and observe His laws. Praise the Lord! He remembered His holy promise, and Abraham, His servant.
GREAT O ANTIPHON
This Great O Antiphon looks beyond earthly kingdoms to eternal salvation. O King of the nations, the ruler they long for, the cornerstone uniting all people. Prayer: Come and save us all, whom You formed out of clay.
HYMN “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” LSB 357
O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, Shall come to thee O Israel!
O come, Desire of nations, bind In one the hearts of all mankind; Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, And be Thyself our King of Peace. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, Shall come to thee O Israel!
O Abram’s son the nations’ King, To Thee the faithful tribute bring. Our sins forgiv’n eternally, A better land in heav’n we see. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, Shall come to thee O Israel!
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FIRST READING The Lord promises then-Abram that through him all the nations of the world will be blessed. A reading from Genesis, chapter 12.
The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” 4 So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. 6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
SECOND READING People who share the faith of Abraham are only exiles on the earth; we seek a better country. A reading from Hebrews, chapter 11.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith Abraham, even though he was past age– and Sarah herself was barren– was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. 13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country– a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
THIRD READING Faithful Abraham rejoiced to see the day when his promised son appeared in human history. A reading from John, chapter 8.
The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” 49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” 54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” 57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” 58 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
RESPONSORY Based on Genesis 12:7; Hebrews 11:8, 16; John 8:58
To your offspring I will give this land. We desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go. We desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Before Abraham was, I am. We desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.
On this second mid-week of Advent we continue to review the genealogy of Jesus Christ Son of God and Son of man. The Gospel of Matthew records that Jesus Christ is a descendant of king David. Matthew then continues to record back in time to a man called Abraham. Now Matthew stops in time and gives us a snapshot of Abraham and Sarah’s family which spans from their son Isaac and continues to his son Jacob and to one of his twelve sons, specifically Judah (Mt 1:1–2). Now on a side note at the writing of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ family tree goes back some two thousand years—andthat is an incredible source of detailed history. This is an important piece of information because for those who came to understand it, the promise wasn’t about getting a country, a plot of land like the nation we live in now.
No, the promise is about being a member of the family of the eternal Jesus—the Messiah, the Christ—believing He is the “Way, Truth, Life” is what matters. And Matthew documents this family line because this genealogy is important for all people to hear and know. In hearing about Abraham and his descendants, people have ancient information to believe in Jesus Christ. Truth that tells us about Jesus, the greater Son God promised to Abraham. The promise of a better country, an inheritance of life eternal. The account of Abraham’s faith is encouragement for you and me. Why? Because it shows the benefits of believing and trusting God above all things!
What is so important for us to learn about this family is extremely important for our lives today. The bibles tells us that when God makes a plan, it will happen. Even the though the Lord starts out with something small—And because the Lord does it!—it will grow into something extraordinary. So when the Lord calls to Abram to pack up, leave his home town and go to a land far away, God calls Abram to trust Him above all things. Never mind Abram that you and your wife are senior citizens. God says, I will give you a child and through this child your family will increase tremendously, your descendants will increase into a great nation. The Lord God said there will be so many, that your descendants will be as many as the stars in the sky. All the evidence seemed that this would not be possible. But all things are possible with God. Abram believed God’s Word, and the Lord said he was righteous for trusting.
Believing God, is what made Abraham special. Did he live up to this title? Well, the bible tells us these facts about Abraham. While on their nomadic journey to the promised land they stopped in Egypt, twice. On each occasion there was a different king. Abraham was so cowardly that he claimed Sarah as his sister because he was afraid to defend her honor. Well into their years of journeying, Sarah was unsuccessful in getting pregnant so she convinced Abraham to take a second wife. We learn that trying to second guess God’s plans only ends up in disaster. So Abraham fathered a child outside of God’s plan.
What we are to understand from their lives is the importance to be patient for God to carry out His plans in His time frame. We also learn about the sinful nature. The father of many nations also passed on to his descendants a legacy of lies and lust, deceit and adultery. Father Abraham was really no one special. He was just another sinner, like his ultimate father Adam. Patriarchs who would pass on the same legacy, a heritage of hard hearts and sinful actions, right on down to the next generation of children. In Jesus’ day, the people of Israel considered being a descendant of Abraham an honor and a special privilege before God. What they didn’t accept was the reality that they were individuals who sinned against God and for that reason needed a Savior.
We also are children of Abraham because we cannot be saved by our lineage, our obedience, or the good things we do. Like Abraham, we’ve failed again and again, fallen into the same sins repeatedly. What we also share with Abraham is God’s gift of faith. Yes we are sinners and like Abraham we can say I believe You Lord. Paul writes “Abraham fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Rom 4:21). Abraham’s life is a lesson for all believers in humility. The promise that God made to Abraham is fulfilled each time a child is marked by the sign of the cross their forehead and heart and baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God’s promise continues when we approach this altar and hold out our hands to receive Christ Body and reach out to receive the cup of Salvation of Christ’s blood, fulfilling Christ’s promise to forgive your sins and “be with you to the very end of the age!” (Matthew 28:20).
The promise God made to Abraham has been kept, because all the promises of God find their yes in Christ. God called us like God called Abraham, and we have received His promises by faith. So don’t live with anxiety over your uncertain future. Remember God’s promise to you, He is with you every moment of each day. Let go of your fears and doubts. You have nothing to fear in this life because God has given you life eternal in Christ. God keeps His promise to you as God the Holy Spirit lives in you to sanctify you and keep you in the true faith. He protects you even when all around you are things that would drive anybody to despair. But the Christian confidence is that God has made us sons and daughters of Abraham by faith in Jesus. And like Abraham we look forward to a better country, the heavenly one, the land of promise. So we are bold to claim Abraham as our father, not because of something special about him, but rather that, like him, we believe the precious promises of God. In the name of Jesus! Amen!!!
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Let us pray. Lord Jesus, guide and protect clergy and lay leaders of Your Church. Enable them to lift people’s hearts and minds to look beyond global pandemics, natural disasters, and political upheavals to see the eternal Kingdom, which You have graciously opened to all people who trust in You for life and health and peace. Bless those who till the soil, manage farms, transport supplies, and distribute food and clothing where they are needed. Son of David, hear our prayer.
Almighty Lord, give wisdom and courage to those who lead governments, command armed forces, and maintain order in society. Give them hearts to seek peace so that warfare with neighbor states and civil strife within them give way to prosperity, health, and cooperation. Increase our faith to depend on Your eternal promises of the better country that awaits us by grace. Son of Abraham, hear our prayer.
Jesus, Light of the world, open the hearts of all who are burdened by their scandals and other past sins. Surround them with faithful people to tell them about Your coming in human history to give Yourself for them. Protect and guide all law enforcement personnel, first responders, health care workers, and counselors. Help them balance justice, mercy, and compassionate care so that many may have their lives repaired and hope restored. Son of man, hear our prayer.
Gracious Lord, cared for by Your adopted human father, Joseph, remember people like him, those who have been forgotten, whether dispossessed, incarcerated, or isolated for any reason. Remember not their sins and iniquities but give them a sense of Your abiding presence. Nurture in us all a love for Your will so that we obediently do whatever You ask. Son of Joseph, hear our prayer.
Servant Savior, born in a stable to a lowly Virgin, remind us again that You turn the world’s ways upside down. Give strength to the weak, lift up the downtrodden, provide hope for the despairing, announce peace to the distraught, and proclaim eternal forgiveness to all burdened by their sin. Son of Mary, hear our prayer.
COLLECT FOR TODAY
Lord Jesus, You promised Your ancestor Abraham that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed. Strengthen the faith we share with him in Your gracious promises. Grant that during our sojourn on this earth we ever look toward the better country You have prepared for us. Son of God the Father, hear our prayer.
LUTHER’S EVENING PRAYER
I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.
LORD’S PRAYER Matthew 6:9–13
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
BENEDICAMUS AND BENEDICTION
Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.
The almighty and merciful Lord, the Father, the t Son, and the Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you. Amen.