November 30
Owen Augustine

The night is far gone; the day is near.

 Let us then throw offthe works of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Romans 13:12

My grandparent’s old Indiana home was nestled in the woods. Not the middle-of-nowhere woods you’d find in the countryside but wooded enough where the sky above had but a sliver of the glow from the city lights. Whenever I visited, I was reminded of how dark true darkness could be. The kind of dark that penetrates your eyes, blankets your skin, makes you shuffle inch by inch on your way to the door. That leaves you feeling frightened, vulnerable, helpless. And we experience this darkness daily. Whether it be warfare, racial inequity, a tainted relationship or a loss, our lives are constantly encompassed by the shadows. At points we feel so lost and defeated that we simply cannot move forward. So, where do we turn? How are we to traverse through the works of darkness? For that, we look to the light. 

God is our armor of light, a light that never flickers or wanes or dies. A light that shines brighter the further we stray from its source. When we accept God as our true light, the “works of darkness” carry no merit, assert no jurisdiction over our lives. Like roaches to a bulb, they scatter and hide.

So then, with this reassurance, we are called to spread God’s grace, to don the armor of light and serve one another as a beacon for love, for kindness, and for compassion. Darkness and suffering will always exist; it’s a reality we must accept. However, by the love of God and by our acts of service through Him, the darkness can be kept at bay and the light will always win.

So, the next time you attend worship and see the eternal flame dancing at the altar, remember God’s undying light and the promise of protection and love through Him.  

God of deliverance, lead our lives with growth and understanding so that we may turn to you in the face of darkness and appreciate your acts of kindness and compassion though your children on Earth. Amen.


November 29
Ruth Hughes

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
 “May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls
    and security within your towers. Psalm 122:6-7

Psalm 122 describes the pilgrimage of God’s people back to Jerusalem after a generation living in exile in Babylon. It makes me reflect on the pilgrimage we are making in our return to in-person worship. When I enter our sanctuary, the color and light of the stained glass gives me a sense of tranquility and awe. Of course, there is peace within this stone structure. Yet the passage nudges me to reconsider: “Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.”

The Jerusalem that the psalmist writes about returning to was not idyllic. Researching the text, I found that Jerusalem, like the world we live in now, had a history of slavery, heavy taxes, extremes of poverty and wealth, and injustice. 

In “Our Jerusalem,” conflict is familiar. The pandemic heightened the inequities and disparities in our world. Our nation is at war (with ourselves) over culture and politics. We are accustomed to living with a constant simmer of division. Peace and prosperity for everyone seem like lofty and unattainable goals.

The passage reminds me we have work to do on our pilgrimage; to make a difference at Grace and the world beyond. Our Jerusalem extends beyond our stone walls, more than twenty blocks to Austin, Lawndale, Woodlawn, to rural Illinois and Indiana, and beyond the nation’s border.  While my world includes people and perspectives with whom I vehemently disagree, the passage nudges me and calls me to pray for all of God’s people and our combined justice, peace, and prosperity. 

God, guide us in our return to Jerusalem. Help us build a sanctuary at Grace that is welcoming to others and where we can start the real work of building a community of God that brings justice and peace to our world. Amen. 


November 28
Larry Garber

He shall judge between the nations
    and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation;
    neither shall they learn war any more.  Isaiah 2:4

When one reads this, an obvious response is OH MY. How can it be that there will no longer be weapons of war? How can it be that nations will not fight each other?  Obviously, universal peace is desirable – who would argue against such – but peace between nations?

Recent events such as the invasion of Ukraine suggest that world leaders are not in tune with this verse. Is this a result of not consulting with Church leaders and other learned individuals? I suggest not. The Russian Orthodox Church is highly supportive of war against Ukraine. Other Church leaders condemn it. How can it be that leaders within the same faith community are disagreeing? Are some leaders listening to God and others not? Only God can judge.

This verse provides an argument for pacifism which was utilized successfully by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Conscientious objectors say instead of war we should use dialogue and other non-violent means to arrive at solutions for our differences.  Critics suggest that dialog of this nature is unrealistic. In fact, they point out that appeasement before World War II did not prevent war. The fact that discussions between opponents is not always successful does not mean we should give up. The Camp David Accords, the Dayton Agreement, and the Good Friday Agreement are examples of agreements that led to peace after years of conflict. If only we could have agreements for peace before wars start.

Much is occurring locally in support of justice and peace. Many inside and outside of Grace are actively involved in our extended communities to aid the less fortunate and support justice and equality. This non-violent activism demonstrates our love for all people, just as Jesus showed His love to all.

I am reminded of the song Jesus loves the little children. The first verse states  “…all the children of the world, red, brown, yellow, black, and white, …” Maybe we should replace “the little children” with “all the people.” If we each adopted the philosophy that all are created equally, we might begin to experience a greater degree of peace. 

Oh Lord, may all seek your guidance as we attempt to resolve issues of conflict. May we continue to advocate for justice and peace for all irrespective of race, color, gender, or religion. Amen.

The First Sunday of Advent

Sunday, November 27

Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.  Matthew 24:42

Matthew urges us to keep awake. But why? Is it essential to our salvation that we not be sleeping when the Lord returns? We all know that sleep is healing, necessary for our day-to-day well-being. So why are told to stay awake?

This “awakeness” harkens me back to my teenage years when my father could not fall completely asleep until all of us were safely at home. It’s not that he sat awake waiting but that, knowing the dangers that exist in the world, he could not truly rest until we were under the protection of home. This is how God waits for us; not with fear but with anticipation.

The reality is, we do not know the moment of Jesus’ return will come, but Matthew points out the secret to living in this unknown: live the present moment well. Be aware of God in the here and now. Do His work now. Bring Advent light, anticipation, and joy, into each moment.

“Keeping awake” is an invitation to keep our eyes open, to recognize the signs of God’s presence in history and in our daily lives. It is an awareness of the needs of the world and an invitation to meet those needs as well as we are able, every moment, so people enveloped by a sense of darkness might find their way to the light.

Uncertainty about the when of Jesus’ coming should draw us into continuous expectation, prompt us to love others today and not tomorrow, forgive now and not later, face injustice wherever and whenever we encounter it, with justice. Every moment should be spent transforming the reality of this very moment — not just when we find time in our schedule – into God’s kingdom on earth.

Faithful God, who waits patiently for us to return to you, keep us awake to the needs of the world, that each day we live to your glory and the redemption of the world. Amen.

Advent is upon us!

Blessed Thanksgiving to all!

How does what God has done for us lead us to live in the this world?

That question is at the heart of these devotions. In Advent, we await the coming of Christmas as we await the return of Christ. In Advent, we hear comforting words of hope and hard words of judgment. In Advent, we see God doing a new thing. This new thing, the coming of Christ, changes everything. In him, we are saved. By him, we are called. Those who have been justified are called to enact justice. These pages are a testament to the many ways that the people of God at Grace Lutheran Church take seriously both the message and the mission.

I pray that these devotions will be a blessing in your prayer life this season. Each was composed by a layperson who is part of the Grace community. We often hear from the pastors (especially me!). This season, we lift up the voices of the laity.

Thanks are due to Mike Berg, who designed the imagery for these devotions; Brendha Klaus, for her valuable assistant with proofreading; and Julie Hinz, for shepherding this project from beginning to end. Thank you.

Come, Lord Jesus!

In hope,

Dave Lyle
Senior Pastor

Your daily devotions will be delivered to your email inbox from Sunday, November 27 through Sunday, December 25 (Christmas Day).