During Advent and 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 on Luke 2:1-7, the story of Jesus’ birth.
1In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. 2 This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. 3 Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. 4 Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. 5 He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.
Examen Prayer for a New Year
Notice God’s Presence: Take a moment to take a few deep breaths. Pay attention to what your body senses. Notice something beautiful around you. Rest in God’s presence.
Give Thanks: Take some time saying thank you to God for one or two blessings that you are aware of in this moment. Thank God for the gift of a new year.
Review of the Past Year: Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you reflect on the year that is behind you using whichever questions resonate:
· For what are you most thankful? For whom?
· Where did you experience God’s presence and blessing?
· Are there any situations where you experienced God’s absence?
· What have you learned and how have you grown over this year? In what ways have you changed?
· Is there anything you wish had gone differently or you wish you had done differently? Invite God’s wisdom to guide your understanding and processing of those things.
Confession: Consider where in the past year you turned away from God or from another human being in a way that is not what you aspire to. Lift up any areas where you need forgiveness or healing. In lifting them to God, you open yourself to God’s mercy and direction for the way ahead.
Looking Forward: As you look to the year ahead, what do you sense God inviting you to embrace? Are there relationships, possibilities, or dreams God on which God might be drawing you to focus more energy? What does God call you to do and be in the coming year? Feel free to write this invitation down.
By the Rev. Alison Van Buskirk Philip
For Pondering & Prayer
Close this time by praying a few sentences to God of what you take away, and/or repeat the first step of the examen prayer by breathing deeply, noticing how your body feels now, and being still in God’s presence.
Prayer: Holy God, hear all our prayers for the new year. Guide us. Be with us. Amen.