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Third Sunday in Advent

The Epistle is our focus today, and our devotion comes from The Christian Year of Grace.

Scripture Readings

Zephaniah 3:14–20
Psalm 85
Philippians 4:4–7
Luke 7:18–35

Read the propers for today in Lutheran Service Builder.

Devotional Reading

How are we to guard against ourselves?

“Do not be anxious,” says St. Paul, “but in all things by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” In other words, he says, “If something happens in this life that causes much anxiety and grief, which cannot be avoided, simply turn to God with prayer and supplication and commend the matter to Him, for He cares for us. And do so with thanksgiving. Thank Him that you have a God who cares for you, and on whom you can cast all your cares like a child. He alone is the “very Helper in time of need” [Ps. 46:1], and He has promised to help and hear.”

How should our prayer be made so that it is profitable and salutary and heard?

St. Paul gives prayer four parts: the words, the thanksgiving, the problem, the supplication. Hence our prayer is prefigured in the incense of the Old Testament. As Psalm 141 [:2] says, “Lord, let my prayer be counted before You as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.”

What does burning incense involve?

Four things: a golden thurible, burning coals, incense or thyme, and smoke rising from the thurible.

What is the golden thurible?

The words of prayer, such as the Lord’s Prayer or a psalm or else a Christian collect. And as the thurible must be of gold, so the words of the prayer must be precious and come from the inmost heart.

What are burning coals?

The thanksgiving for the benefits that have been received, just as in the Old Testament there was a requirement that the priest alone take the fire and burning coals from the altar, and not make any strange fire, as Nadab and Abihu did, for which God punished them. Likewise, we should not base our prayer on our own godliness, works, and merits, but only on God’s goodness, grace, and mercy, with thanksgiving.

What is the incense or thyme?

The pressing need that we identify in prayer and bring before God. For as the incense is set on the fire so that it produces a stream of smoke, in the same way we too should identify those things that we wish to obtain from God by prayer and supplication.

What is the rising smoke?

The heartfelt supplication that we make to God the Father through Jesus Christ. For in the same way that the smoke ascends to heaven, our prayer, if made in faith, passes through to heaven and comes before God and obtains everything (Mark 11 [:24]).

Devotional reading is from The Christian Year of Grace, pages 31–32 © 2014 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.


Video is of “In Holy Conversation” from Three Preludes on Swedish Hymns © 2017 Concordia Publishing House.


Written by

Anna Johnson

Deaconess Anna Johnson is a marketing manager at Concordia Publishing House. After graduating from the deaconess program at Concordia University Chicago, she continued her studies at the University of Colorado—Denver in education and human development. She has worked as a church youth director and served a variety of other nonprofit organizations, such as the Lutheran Mission Society of Maryland. Anna loves playing video games and drinking a hot cup of tea almost as much as she loves her cat and her husband.


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