During Advent & Christmas, we are featuring devotionals written by clergy of the Greater NJ Annual Conference of the UMC. For this week, we are focused on reflections related to Simeon, based on the Gospel of Luke.
25 A man named Simeon was in Jerusalem. He was righteous and devout. He eagerly anticipated the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 Led by the Spirit, he went into the temple area. Meanwhile, Jesus’ parents brought the child to the temple so that they could do what was customary under the Law. 28 Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. He said,
29 “Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word,
30 because my eyes have seen your salvation.
31 You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.
32 It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and a glory for your people Israel.”
33 His father and mother were amazed by what was said about him. 34 Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “This boy is assigned to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that generates opposition 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your innermost being too.”
A new year brings a time to reflect on what’s behind and also to look to what’s ahead. Often people make resolutions for the new year. Each year for Epiphany, I invite my congregation to choose a star word, a word that acts like the star in the sky for the year ahead.
Why star words? Epiphany is the celebration of the arrival of the magi to Bethlehem where they knelt down to the baby Jesus and offered him their gifts. Intention has a place in this story. The star marked their intended destination. Their intention to see this new baby born into the world was the foundation of their journey. They came intending to worship him and offer him their gifts.
But Epiphany isn’t only about them intending to see Jesus or give their gifts to him. It’s also about God giving them a great gift, the greatest gift, to begin with. That means that more than being a story about their intentions, it’s a story about God’s intention for them.
Whatever they had done or didn’t do, God gives them the gift of encountering Jesus, God in the world, God made flesh. Epiphany shows God’s intention for all people, from whatever origin or destination, to see the Christ child and to believe in him. God gives the magi a gift, and God gives them a star to guide them to the gift. God works similarly for us.
By the Rev. Alison Van Buskirk Philip
For Pondering & Prayer
Practice: Choose a word of intention for the year ahead. If you’d like to be given a word, go here. Keep your word in a place where you can see it. Live with your word. Journal about it. Share it with a friend. Let it challenge or encourage you. Ponder it in your heart the way Mary pondered the angels’ words in her heart. Let your word remind you of God’s intention to know and guide you.
Prayer by the Rev. Amanda Rohrs:
Grant us the same patience and trust that Simeon had as he waited for the fulfillment of your promise. May we listen closely to your Spirit as it nudges us towards good news. Open our eyes so that we may see clearly your presence in our lives and in our world. Give us courage to lift our voices in thanksgiving and blessing for all we have seen and all you have done. We pray this in the name of Jesus, the one Simeon and we have been waiting for. Amen.