January 2 Devotional (2021)

January 2, 2021
Christmastide

Today’s Readings: Proverbs 1:1-7; James 3:13-18; Midday Reading by John Philip Newell


Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy, which will come
to all the people; for unto you is born this day in the city of
David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.   
 Luke 2:10, 11

The Invitatory

A spotless Virgin has brought forth God clothed in flesh: 

Let us all worship Him who came to save us!

Opening Prayer

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.† [1]

🕇 Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Alleluia!

The Hymn

“From heaven above to earth I come”

By Martin Luther, 1483-1546

Lyrics

  1. From heaven above to earth I come

To bear good news to every home;

Glad tidings of great joy I bring,

Whereof I now will say and sing:

  1. To you this night is born a child

Of Mary, chosen virgin mild;

This little child, of lowly birth,

Shall be the joy of all the earth. 

  1. This is the Christ, our God and Lord,

Who in all need shall aid afford;

He will Himself your Savior be

From all your sins to set you free.

  1. 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.

  1. These are the tokens ye shall mark:

The swaddling-clothes and manger dark;

There ye shall find the Infant laid

By whom the heavens and earth were made. [2]

The Small Verse

     I put my trust in your mercy;* 

my heart is joyful because of your saving help.

Psalm 13:5

Morning Reading: Proverbs 1:1-7

Grow in wisdom and knowledge

1 The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

2 To know wisdom and instruction,

to understand words of insight,

3 to receive instruction in wise dealing,

in righteousness, justice, and equity;

4 to give prudence to the simple,

knowledge and discretion to the youth—

5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning,

and the one who understands obtain guidance,

6 to understand a proverb and a saying,

the words of the wise and their riddles.

7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Morning Lesson

Don’t be a know-it-all

“Solomon, the third king of Israel, son of the great King David, reigned during Israel’s golden age. When God said He would give [Solomon] whatever he wanted, Solomon asked for an understanding mind (1 Kgs 3:5-14). God was pleased with this request. He not only made Solomon wise but also gave him great riches and power and an era of peace. Solomon built the glorious temple in Jerusalem (1 Kgs 6) and wrote most of the book of Proverbs.” [3]

“One of the most annoying types of people is a know-it-all – a person who has a dogmatic opinion about everything, is closed to anything new, resents discipline, and refuses to learn. Solomon calls this kind of person a fool. Don’t be a know-it-all. Instead, be open to the advice of others, especially those who know you well and can give valuable insight and counsel. Learn how to learn from others. Remember, only God knows it all.” [4]

[5]

Morning Prayer

May Your graciousness, O LORD my God, be upon me. Prosper the work of my hands. Prosper my handiwork. Amen.

(based on Psalm 90:17)

The Blessing

May God, who in the Word made flesh joined heaven to earth and earth to heaven, give us his peace and favor. Amen. [6]


A Prayer inspired by Vedanayagam Samuel Azariah, Bishop in South India, who the Anglican Church remembers on January 2nd

Emmanuel, God with us, making your home in every culture and community on earth: We thank you for raising up your servant Samuel Azariah as the first indigenous bishop in India. Grant that we may be strengthened by his witness to your love without concern for class or caste, and by his labors for the unity of the Church in India, that people of many languages and cultures might with one voice give you glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.


The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory,
the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

The Invitatory

A spotless Virgin has brought forth God clothed in flesh: 

Let us all worship Him who came to save us!

The Small Verse

     The angel of the LORD encompasses those who fear him,* 

and he will deliver them.

Psalm 34:7
“Winter Evening” 
By Armand Cabrera 
(source)

Midday Reading

By John Philip Newell

      Whichever way we turn, O God, there is Your face 

in the light of the moon and patterns of stars, 

in sacred mountain rifts and ancient groves, 

in mighty seas and creatures of the deep. 

      Whichever way we turn, O God, there is Your face 

n the light of eyes we love, 

in the salt of tears we have tasted, 

in weathered countenances east and west, 

in the soft skin glow of the child everywhere. 

      Whichever way we turn, O God, there is Your face, 

there is Your face 

among us. [7]

Midday Prayer 

O God, you make me glad with the yearly remembrance of the glorious birth of your Son my Lord: Give me this day such blessing through my worship of you, that the week to come may be spent in your favor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Behold, the dwelling of God is with mankind. He will dwell
with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will
be with them, and be their God.    
Revelation 21:3

The Invitatory

A spotless Virgin has brought forth God clothed in flesh: 

Let us all worship Him who came to save us!

The Small Verse 

     Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the nations,* 

that we may give thanks to your holy Name and glory in your praise.

Psalm 106:47
“Wisdom” 
By Arina Petrova 
(source)

Evening Reading: James 3:13-18

The wisdom from above

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Evening Lesson 

True wisdom

On tonight’s reading:

Tonight’s reading comes from a section of James which can be called “The Power of the Tongue” (3:1-18). [8] In verse 1, he warned, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” James explained (v. 5) that the tongue “… is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!”

In our passage tonight, James expressed a leeriness regarding Christians counseling one another, “for what is offered as wisdom can be based on pride and other sinful passions. Self-centered faith will manifest itself in self-centered works, in this case ‘helping’ others. True wisdom comes from God and proves itself by action (v. 13).” [9]

“People are naturally desirous of the reputation of possessing an understanding superior to that of others.” [10] Verses 13-18 “show the difference between men’s pretending to be wise, and their being really so. He who thinks well, or he who talks well, is not wise in the sense of the Scripture, if he does not live and act well. True wisdom may be know by the meekness of the spirit and temper. Those who live in malice, envy, and contention, live in confusion; and are liable to be provoked and hurried to any evil work. Such wisdom comes not down from above, but springs up from earthly principles, acts on earthly motives, and is intent on serving earthly purposes.” [11]

“Wisdom (Barn Owl)” 
By Angela Bawden 
(source)

About the Book of James:

The author of this book identified himself as “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ ” (1:1). “Early Church tradition ascribes this book to James, the ‘brother’ or kinsman of our Lord and first bishop of Jerusalem, known as James the Just.” [12]

The book was written around AD 55-60. (James the Just was martyred in AD 62.) “Some consider [this] letter the first New Testament book, written after the martyrdom of Stephen and the dispersion of Christians from Jerusalem (Acts 8:1).” [13]

The major theme of this book, which has many parallels to the Sermon on the Mount, is the harmony of faith and works. “James does not teach we are saved by works, but he does teach that a dead faith, one without works, does not save.” [14]

The Anglican Homily, “Of the True and Lively Faith,” explains this in depth (excerpted) [15]:

A Dead Faith.

There is one faith, which in Scripture is called a dead faith, which brings forth no good works, but is idle, barren, and unfruitful. And this faith, by the Holy Apostle Saint James, is compared to the faith of devils, which believe God to be true and just, and tremble for fear, yet they do nothing well, but all evil (James 2.17, 19). And such a manner of faith have the wicked and naughty Christian people, which confess God, (as St. Paul saith) in their mouth, but deny him in their deeds, being abominable, and without the right faith, and good works as evidence (Titus 1.16). And this faith is a persuasion and belief in man’s heart, whereby he knows that there is a God, and agrees unto all truth of God’s most holy word, contained in the holy Scripture. So that it consisteth only in believing in the word of God, that it is true. And this is not properly called faith. But as he that readeth Christ’s Commentaries, believing the same to be true, has thereby a knowledge of Christ’s life, and notable acts, because he believed the history of Christ: yet it is not properly said that he believeth in Christ, of whom he looks for no help nor benefit. Even so, he that believeth that all that is spoken of God in the Bible is true, and yet lives so ungodly, that he cannot look to enjoy the promises and benefits of God: although it may be said, that such a man has a faith and belief to the words of God, yet it is not properly said that he believes in God, or has such a faith and trust in God, whereby he may surely look for grace, mercy, and everlasting life at God’s hand, but rather for indignation and punishment, according to the merits of his wicked life. For as it is written in a book, entitled to be of Didymus Alexandrinus, Forasmuch as faith without works is dead, it is not now faith, as a dead man, is not a man.

Jesus casts out the demons, Gospel of Matthew (illustration by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bibel in Bildern, Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld, 1852-60) (source)

A Lively Faith.

This dead faith therefore is not the sure and substantial faith, which saves sinners. Another faith there is in Scripture, which is not (as the aforesaid faith) idle, unfruitful, and dead, but works by charity (as St. Paul declared, Galatians 5.6) Which as the other vain faith is called a dead faith, so may this be called a quick or lively faith. And this is not only the common belief of the Articles of our faith, but it is also a true trust and confidence of the mercy of God through or Lord Iesus Christ, and a steadfast hope of all good things to be received at God’s hand: and that although we, through infirmity or temptation of our ghostly enemy, do fall from him by sin, yet if we returned again unto him by true repentance, that he will forgive, and forget our offences for his Son’s sake our Saviour Jesus Christ, and will make us inheritors with him of his everlasting Kingdom, and that in the meantime until that kingdom come, he will be our protector and defender in all perils and dangers, whatever happens: and that though sometimes he does send us sharp adversity, yet that evermore he will be a loving Father to us, correcting us for our sin, but not withdrawing his mercy finally from us, if we trust in him, and commit ourselves wholly to him, hang only upon him, and call upon him, ready to obey and serve him. This is the true, lively, and unfeigned Christian faith, and is not in the mouth and outward profession only: but it lives, and stirs inwardly, in the heart. And this faith is not without hope and trust in God, nor without the love of God and of our neighbours, nor without the fear of God, nor without the desire to hear God’s word, and to follow the same in eschewing evil, and doing gladly all good works.

This faith (as Saint Paul describes it) is the sure ground and foundation of the benefits which we ought to look for, and trust to receive of God, a certificate and sure looking for them, although they yet sensibly appear not unto us. And after he says, he that comes to God, must believe, both that he is, and that he is a merciful rewarder of well doers. And nothing commends good men unto God, so much as this assured faith and trust in him (Hebrews 11.1, 6).

Thus, the book of James can be considered “an early polemic against invisible religion,” that is, a faith that is not truly lived out in one’s life; and “against antinomianism, the teaching that moral behavior is irrelevant to salvation. James is clear:… grace does not nullify personal responsibility.” [16]

Vespers Prayer 

Lord God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ, triumphed over the powers of death and prepared for us our place in the new Jerusalem: Grant that I, who have this day given thanks for his resurrection, may praise you in the City of which he is the light, and where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.† [17]

The Concluding Prayers of the Church

O Lord, my God, accept the fervent prayers of all of us your people; in the multitude of your mercies, look with compassion upon all of us who turn to you for help; for you are gracious, O lover of souls, and to you we give glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.† [18]


Devotionals compiled/written by S.P. Rogers

Citations:

[1] Tickle, P. (2006). January. In The divine hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime (Kindle ed., vol. 2, p. 486). New York, NY: Image Books.

[2] Luther, M. (n.d.). “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come”. Retrieved December 29, 2020, from https://www.german-way.com/history-and-culture/german-language/german-christmas-carols/from-heaven-above-winkworth/

[3] Tyndale House Publishers. (2012). Proverbs. In Chronological life application study Bible (p. 631). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub.

[4] Ibid. 3, P. 632

[5] IMAGE: Tyndale House Publishers. (2012). 1 Kings. In Chronological life application study Bible (p. 607). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub.

[6] The Episcopal Church. (2018). Seasonal Blessings: Christmas. In The Book of Occasional Services (PDF ed., p. 9). Then Episcopal Church. Retrieved November December 15, 2020, from https://episcopalchurch.org/files/lm_book_of_occasional_services_2018.pdf

[7] The Northumbria Community. (2015). Daily Prayer: December 24th. In Celtic Daily Prayer (Kindle ed., p. 23188-23200). London: HarperCollins.

[8] Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (2008). James. In The Orthodox study Bible (p. 1704). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[9] Ibid. 8, P. 1707-1708

[10] Benson, J. (n.d.). Benson Commentary: James 3. Retrieved December 31, 2020, from https://biblehub.com/commentaries/benson/james/3.htm

[11] Henry, M. (n.d.). Matthew Henry’s Commentary: James 3. Retrieved December 31, 2020, from https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mhc/james/3.htm

[12] Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (2008). James. In The Orthodox study Bible (p. 1704). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[13] Ibid. 12

[14] Ibid. 12

[15] Cranmer, T. (n.d.). Homily 1.4 – Of The True and Lively Faith. Retrieved December 31, 2020, from https://forums.anglican.net/threads/homily-1-4-of-the-true-and-lively-faith.1964/

[16] Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (2008). James. In The Orthodox study Bible (p. 1704). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[17] Tickle, P. (2006). January. In The divine hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime (Kindle ed., vol. 2, p. 488). New York, NY: Image Books.
[18] Tickle, P. (2006). January. In The divine hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime (Kindle ed., vol. 2, p. 496). New York, NY: Image Books.

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