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The Institute of Lutheran theology not only provides programs to train pastors and teachers, but it also provides educational and devotional resources for individuals and congregations. These resources are provided free of charge and made available through our web page. Please subscribe to and use any of these resources.

The Institute of Lutheran theology not only provides programs to train pastors and teachers, but it also provides educational and devotional resources for individuals and congregations. These resources are provided free of charge and made available through our web page. Please subscribe to and use any of these resources.

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Those in power accosted John, demanding he reveal his identity… as if he had been “hiding” something about himself.  Really…  what would a man who openly wore clothes made of camel’s hair and leather, ate grasshoppers sweetened with honey, and lived in the desert… what would such a man have to hide?  However, those in power are suspicious of those who are not easily categorizable, especially if they gain popularity with the public.  So those in power accosted John demanding he reveal his identity: “Who are you?” Each of us has a story we tell ourselves about ourselves—a personal narrative.  Bit-by-bit, over the years, we add pieces to this narrative until we can answer the question “Who are you?” satisfactorily… especially to ourselves.  This is the fundamental problem with our identity:  we can’t know ourselves from within ourselves.  We have no vantage point from which to look at ourselves.  This is the condition of our immanence:  we can’t transcend ourselves to see ourselves.  Any identity we give ourselves can never be a true identity.  The story we tell ourselves about ourselves—our personal narrative—will always be a myth, a falsehood, ever in danger of being exposed when it encounters the transcendent, the one who is beyond the imminent.  The transcendent confronts the imminent demanding, “Who are you?”  The coming of your Lord Jesus Christ covers your “I am not” with his great “I am” so that, during these days of your baptism, your spirit and your soul and your body are kept sound and blameless—not because they are your identity but because you have received them from him.  You are not, but Jesus Christ is.

Prayers from those who reject the “I am not,” and instead covet the claim, “I am!”

Heavenly Father, your Son Jesus Christ must increase while I must decrease.  Reveal to me the depths of my sin so that I am brought to nothing while Jesus becomes the one something in my life.  Lord, be merciful and hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, your Son Jesus Christ must increase while I must decrease.  Grant to me an answer to my cry from the depths of my nothingness and make that answer the life of Christ.  Lord, be merciful and hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, your Son Jesus Christ must increase while I must decrease.  Give me ears to hear the promise of my savior and Lord when he says to me, “Because I am, you shall be, too.”  Lord, be merciful and hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, your Son Jesus Christ must increase while I must decrease.  Take away my selfishness when I am confronted by my neighbors so that I can be of help to them in all their physical needs.  Lord, be merciful and hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, your Son Jesus Christ must increase while I must decrease.  Give my neighbors eyes and ears to hear of my troubles and come to aid me when troubles abound.  Lord, be merciful and hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, your Son Jesus Christ must increase while I must decrease.  Grant that the Institute of Lutheran Theology be content with the identity it receives from the Word of the Lord.  Lord, be merciful and hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, your Son Jesus Christ must increase while I must decrease.  During these days of my baptism, continue to pour your Word into my ears so that the Holy Spirit delivers Jesus Christ afresh each day to be my life.  Lord, be merciful and hear my prayer.

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