Devotions for December 26, 2016 – January 1, 2017
Monday, December 26, 2016 – Jesus Circumcision
“After eight days passed, it was time to circumcise the child” (Luke 2:21).
At fifty years-old, Connor isn’t the likeliest candidate for a tattoo. Connor has one, though. It contains his wedding date and the birthdays of his children and grandchildren. Connor has had his body marked for life to commemorate events that have transformed his life. He is a different man than he might have been and his tattoo bears testimony to this truth. This is not unlike Jesus circumcision and Christian baptism.
Circumcision is a mark of God’s covenant with the Jewish people. The identity of the Jewish people is shown by circumcision. There are times when the act of circumcision is an act of defiance, rebellion and resistance. It is always a mark of faith.
As followers of Jesus, we too have been marked. At our baptism, the pastor made the sign of the cross on our forehead and proclaimed, “Child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. Other people may not be able to see that mark, but we know it is there and we are different people because of it. Others see evidence of it in our words and actions.
Lord, you have marked us as your own and gathered us into your family. Having been set apart, empower us to become involved and to impact the lives of those around us. Amen.
Tuesday, December 27, 2016 – Jesus Circumcision
“’Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord” (Luke 2:23).
Larimore and Winona Johnson gathered at the baptismal font with their two month old son, Jaden, sponsors and pastor. They watched as the pastor poured water over Jaden’s head and baptized him in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Suddenly the couple realized that Jaden was no longer theirs. He was the Lord’s—a child of God. Jaden was God’s gift to them to parent, to raise and also to nurture his faith and relationship with God.
Mary and Joseph took the newborn Jesus to the temple for Jesus circumcision and redemption. Jesus was their first born, as such the couple understood that the baby was to be dedicated to God. They were still Jesus’ parent, but they were to bring him up in the faith and to help him walk in God’s presence.
Circumcision, sacrifice and baptism have been used for millennia to dedicate children to the Lord and to remind parents that they have a precious gift. In reality, though, God claims all children—everyone—as God’s own. How wonderful it would be if we would treat others as we do our children—with love, respect and encourage them in their faith and their lives.
Lord, we are yours. That doesn’t make us special, but it does make us part of a community that is inclusive. Enable us to walk with your children in love, peace, forgiveness and service. Amen.
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
“Simeon, this man was righteous and devout … and the Holy Spirit rested on him” (Luke 2:25).
Some people, when we meet them, impress us. We might be amazed by the breadth of their love, or the depth of their commitment as followers of Jesus. The strength of their faith in the face of trials or tragedies or their attitudes of gratitude might set them apart. Simeon was such a man. He was righteous—living in a right relationship with God and with others. Simeon was also devout—he practiced spiritual disciplines that nurtured his relationships with God. Simeon’s righteousness and devotion were a cut above the norm. They were enough to set him apart from others.
Simeon also had the Holy Spirit. In that sense, Simeon was a prototype. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Spirit comes and goes. It wasn’t until Jesus’ baptism that the Holy Spirit descended and stayed. On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit also descended and stayed with the disciples and those of the early church. We could say that Simeon had received the Holy Spirit before Jesus.
For followers of Jesus, Simeon can be a role model. Being devout and righteous, and having God’s presence in our lives are certainly marks of faith. They are also essential as we proclaim the good news and share God’s love and grace. We may not impress others with our righteousness or devotion, but their presence in our lives does help us to touch the lives of those around us.
Holy Spirit, move within us so that our lives bear the marks of your work and others may see you in us. Amen.
Thursday, December 29, 2016
“For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all people” (Luke 2:30-31).
Binh was stopped at a busy intersection, when he saw an accident. A car tried to run a red light and plowed into another car. At first, Binh couldn’t believe what had happened. Once he saw the two smashed cars, Binh got out of his car and rushed to help. Later Binh was detained by the police and asked to give a statement of what he saw.
Simeon saw something that others couldn’t see. In the small child that he held he saw God’s salvation. He couldn’t contain his wonder and excitement at what he saw. Simeon shouted it out for all to hear.
As followers of Jesus, that is all we can do. We have seen God’s salvation and we have experienced God love, grace and forgiveness. Recounting what has happened to us, we share what we have seen and heard. Arguments are fruitless, nor do we need to discuss theological trivialities. We simply tell our story and invite others to see what God is doing in their lives.
Precious Lord, we have seen you at work in our lives and in our world. Use our words, as we tell what we have seen, to touch the lives of others. Amen.
Friday, December 30, 2016
“To be a sign that is opposed” (Luke 2:34).
It is hard to understand, why Jesus encountered such resistance to his ministry and teaching. He lived love, included those who were marginalized, met the needs of the sick, dying, blind, lame and hungry. He taught people how to live in God’s kingdom. Jesus also opposed self-centeredness, bigotry, harsh judgments of others and the wrong use of power.
It’s hard to understand until we see it in our own lives. We often fight the call to forgive, and resist opportunities to love. Shielding our eyes from our own selfishness, we refuse to admit our bigotry and confess our judgmental attitude toward others. More rebellious to the guidance of the Holy Spirit than we want to be we are also not as willing to change as we need to be.
The Lord does not shrink back from opposition, though, even when it includes a cross. Through God’s people, the Holy Spirit continues to proclaim the good news and spread God’s love and grace abundantly in the lives of others. God’s kingdom will come and God’s will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Lord, we confess that we are hard-hearted and stiff-necked people. We do not like to be told what to do and we don’t like being told we need to change. We are your people, though. Don’t give up on us. Amen.
Saturday, December 31, 2016
“She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day” (Luke 2:37).
Through the centuries, Christians have lived their lives of faith in different ways. In the early church, it was enough to confess that “Jesus is Lord,” and to follow Jesus’ teachings on love and forgiveness. Later creeds were developed and what a person believed was emphasized. For the past few decades the idea of living out our faith in our daily lives has been stressed.
Simeon and Anna remind us that there is another important aspect to our lives as followers of Jesus. We are invited to be devout and pious. This is not a self-righteous, judgmental piety. It is a piety of worship, prayer, fasting, thanksgiving, study and sacrifice. Simeon and Anna were people who were involved in the life of the temple. They opened themselves up to experience God’s grace, mercy and love in a personal manner. Simeon and Anna’s piety and devotion enabled them to see what God was doing and to proclaim the coming of the savior.
As followers of Jesus, we are invited to nurture our faith through various spiritual disciplines, opening ourselves up to the work of the Spirit through prayer, meditation, study and fellowship, strengthen our faith, empower our service and open our eyes to see God power and presence.
Ever present God, in our busy lives enable us to pause so that we can spend time in your presence, be assured of your love and forgiveness and be reenergized for service. Amen.
Sunday, January 1, 2017
“At that time she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).
Anna had lived a long time and they had not been easy years. The Romans occupied Israel and oppressed its people. Hunger, poverty, sickness and death were rampant. The future was unknown, but it contained little hope. Into such a setting, Anna began to praise God and tell others about Jesus and the hope that could be found in him.
We begin a New Year with uncertain times. There is the constant threat of terrorism. Gun violence continues to plague the United States and is on the rise. Racism is more blatant and diversity less accepted. Hate crimes are on the rise. The economy is poised for the rich to grow richer and the poor to become poorer. Though denied by some, global warming is changing our environment, creating chaos and threatening our way of life.
We enter into the New Year like Anna. We praise God and speak about the person of Jesus proclaiming the hope that is in him. In a warring world, Jesus is our peace. In a world that judges and punishes, Jesus loves and forgives. Jesus empowers us to share and to serve, and in doing so, to overcome the selfishness and self-centeredness that surrounds us. In a world that seems so lost, we can share the invitation that Jesus has given us, “Come and follow me.”
Almighty God, you have given us a new year. We rejoice that we enter it with you and we give you thanks for what you have done and for what you will do. Amen.