MONDAY, 12/26
Read Luke 2:22-24
In an effort to make sure we all have the right timeline, today’s passage took place between Jesus’ birth and the visit of the Magi.  In the days following Jesus’ birth, all was well.  Within a few months’ time, however, the Holy Family would be fleeing to Egypt, but for now, they are settling into the routine of family life.  
Joseph and Mary take Jesus to the Temple to fulfill their obligation to the Law.  Every first-born male was consecrated to the Lord at the Temple.  This was a symbolic act of giving the child to God as a sacrifice.  The practice followed the story of Abraham and Isaac when Abraham was called by God to offer his only son.  What distinguished the practice from a sacrifice was that the child wasn’t killed; instead, he was redeemed.   The parents would make an offering of two doves to “buy back” their child from the Lord.  You might very well be wondering why they participated in this strange practice, but it was meant to remind the people of God’s redemption and His saving the first-born males in Egypt.  
There is something special about the idea of recognizing God’s redeeming power over our lives, even from the very beginning.  This is one reason why Methodists practice infant baptism.  It is a gift of God’s grace.  Baptism testifies that God is the One who extends His saving love to us, and it calls the community to participate in making His love known.  
I think it’s fitting in this verse to consider several things.  The first is claiming the reality of God’s saving love for us.  It is simply to celebrate and enjoy it.  We need do nothing to earn it; it is a love that is given.  The second thing to consider is our response to His love.  The response in light of God’s grace toward us is to offer ourselves to Him–to consecrate ourselves to Him and His purposes.  We give ourselves over because we want to know this Jesus who gave so selflessly that we might be redeemed through Him. Like the Apostle Paul in Philippians, we say we want  to know Jesus and participate with Him in His life, even in the hardships that come.  It is worth it to be caught up in a new life with Him at the center.  
I wonder what it looks like to offer ourselves to the Lord in this way.  
Praying Together:
“God, I come to You today to celebrate Your love that compelled You to redeem Your people.  You are One who loves and desires to show grace and mercy.  You are good, and I want to know You.  Show me how to live a life with You in Your fullness.  I offer myself to You.  Reveal what it looks like for my life to be filled with You and lived for Your purposes.  Amen.”
TUESDAY, 12/27
Read Luke 2:25.
Here we are introduced to a man named Simeon.  Luke tells us just a few things about him–three things, to be precise.  Luke says that Simeon was righteous and devout, that he was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and that the Holy Spirit was on him.  Let’s take a look at what Luke means by these.  
Sometimes we get tripped up when we hear of the Bible describing someone as righteous.  We think of passages like Romans 3:10 that read, “There is no one who is righteous, not even one.”  So what does Luke mean when he says Simeon was righteous?  Simeon was not perfect, as without sin.  He was, however, in right relationship with the Lord, which is what righteousness means.  He pursued the Lord and walked with Him.  He was growing in likeness to the Lord, or what we call holiness.  This means that as Simeon sought the Lord, his desires and hopes began to align more and more with God’s desires and hopes.  This is what happens when you are growing in love for God.  Righteousness is merely a by-product of the work God does in us as we seek a greater life in and with Him.  
Luke says that Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel.  For as long as anyone could remember, Israel, God’s people, had been under another nation’s thumb.  For generations, they had not known what it meant to be free from the rule of another.  The people longed for a day when God would break the chains of their captors and that He would take His place as their king.  The people yearned for this, but many had given up on the dream.  Most of us have experienced the death of our hopes, and it is a tragic thing indeed.  Simeon, on the other hand, continued to hope.  He believed with all his heart that God would accomplish what He had promised to do.  His hope persevered through the disappointments and lingering hardships.  That says something about him and also calls us to consider the state of our hope.  Have our hopes dwindled in some way?  I wonder how we can ask the Lord to renew our hope.
Luke also says that the Holy Spirit was on Simeon.  In the following verses, we will see the Holy Spirit speak to Simeon and direct him.  There are only a few people in the Bible who are said to have the Spirit before Jesus’ resurrection.  When these people were given the Holy Spirit, it was for a specific purpose rather than a promise of our new life in Jesus.  This seems to be the case for Simeon, as he will, through the Spirit’s power, offer a blessing for Jesus.  
As we put all of this together, I wonder which part of Simeon’s life speaks to you.  Perhaps you feel inspired to pursue the Lord more diligently.  Maybe it is to ask the Lord to renew and strengthen your hope in Him.  It could even be that you would walk in step with the Holy Spirit that God has given you.  May we learn from great examples like Simeon.  
Praying Together:
“Lord, I am thankful for faithful witnesses like Simeon who offer me a picture of what I can grow toward.  I pray that You would make me righteous and that You would strengthen my hope in You so that it would never fall away.  I pray that the Spirit would consume my life.  May all of this be done for Your glory.  Amen.”  
Read Luke 2:26-32.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s WayPoint, the Holy Spirit both speaks to and directs Simeon.  The Spirit reveals to Simeon that he would see the Lord, God’s promise to restore His people, in his lifetime.  We also see the Spirit guide Simeon to Jesus.  Both of these movements of the Spirit in Simeon’s life are amazing and not nearly as common as we would like.
It’s my experience that most Christians don’t often experience the Spirit’s power in their life all that often.  It’s possible that the Spirit is doing great things in our lives, but that we’re largely unaware of when it happens.  We want a greater awareness of the Spirit’s movement in our lives. So how does that happen?  
Jesus speaks to this in John 3 when He compares the Spirit’s movement to the wind, saying essentially that no one knows where it comes from or where it is going, but we know that it blows.  We know the Spirit moves, but there is an unpredictability to the Spirit’s movement.  In other words, we cannot make the Spirit move.  Our job is to, as Paul says, “keep in step with the Spirit.”  As we grow closer to the Lord and nurture our life in the Lord, we gain greater fellowship with the Holy Spirit.  We sense His presence and power at work within us.  With a greater awareness of the Spirit, we learn to follow the Spirit’s movement.  To sum it up, we know that we cannot make the Spirit bend to our wishes, but we can nurture our life with God so as to expand our awareness of the Spirit in our lives.  We then are able to follow Him.  
It’s also worth noting in this passage what Simeon says about the reach of Jesus.  In his blessing over Jesus, Simeon says that Jesus will be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel.”  This would be news to some as God’s people envisioned the Savior to be largely for them.  Though God’s covenant with His people stated clearly that God would bless them so that they may be a blessing to the world, Israel often forgot that part.  They anticipated God’s blessing for them and often perceived the world as an enemy.  Here, in Simeon’s blessing, we are reminded that God’s aim was always to bless the world through His special relationship with His people.  
This is a good reminder for the church.  Yes, we have experienced God’s grace.  Yes, God has made Himself known to us in ways many in the world have yet to experience.  This is a gift and a responsibility.  We aren’t only to enjoy this blessing for ourselves, but we are also called to extend that blessing to the world.  God has blessed you so that you can bless others.  God wants to reach others through what He has done in your life.  
I wonder how you can share God’s blessing with others in your life.  
Sending Prayer:
“Father, I celebrate Your grace and Your heart that desires to bless.  I know I have experienced Your blessing.  I am thankful for all that You have done for me.  Show me how I can bless others by sharing what You have done for me.  I want others to know You as I know You.  Amen.”
Read Luke 2:33-35.
We see in these verses that Simeon’s blessing over Jesus contains elements of hope that He will serve as a light to the world, but there are also these troubling words: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that many will be spoken against so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed,” he said.  
I can only imagine that Simeon’s words would have stirred a mixed reaction from Joseph and Mary.  Jesus would be a light to those far from God and the glory of those who were near, yet He would also cause many to stumble.  
He ends with these words that would have likely haunted the new parents: “And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.”  Jesus will lay the hearts of Israel’s leaders bare, and they will strike back at Him with the sword.  Any parent knows that when the sword hits your child, it hits you, too.  While we can speak so often about Jesus’ death that it doesn’t cause much of a reaction in our hearts, think about it from Joseph and Mary’s perspective.  They were told this child, a tiny baby–their baby–would suffer and they with Him.  There is a costliness to Jesus’ suffering not only to Him but also to those who loved Him.  We cannot lose sight of that.  
We see here–even at the very beginning of His earthly life–that Jesus’ purpose is clear: He was born to die.  Jesus was presented to God, and while His life was bought back from God for a time, soon the “sword” would find Him.  There on the cross, He would become our offering and in so doing, would bring redemption to all of God’s children.   
I wonder how Joseph and Mary felt when Simeon warned of the sword piercing their Son and their own hearts.
Praying Together:
“Jesus, You came to give Your life for us so that we could live through You.  You did not consider Yourself too good to face the sword, even though it was meant for us.  You took our punishment so that we might be freed.  I am thankful for Your love and courage which propelled You toward the cross.  Amen.”
FRIDAY, 12/30
Read Luke 2:36-37.
There are only a handful of prophetesses in the Bible.  Anna was one of them. Prophets and prophetesses are said to have come a little closer to God, just as God had come a little closer to them, so that God could share a vision of the future in a way only they could understand it. Just like Simeon, Anna had been waiting a long time before the prophecy she carried with her would be fulfilled.   
It would be her life’s work–praying, fasting, worshiping day and night at the temple in preparation for the arrival of the Christ child.   Married only seven years when she was very young, we are led to believe that she had been a widow for most of her life and that she had no children. Marriage and motherhood are what usually defined a woman’s value back then. We are led to believe that neither of the two were options for her. And yet what she had to say carried a value more precious than gold to all who would hear her. For she carried a longed for and much-needed message of Hope.
Jesus’s birth is just the beginning of a life that would inspire world-wide change. What message of Hope do you carry with you into the New Year? In what ways can you inspire others with your understanding of the message of Hope?
Praying Together:
“Lord, You have given me an opportunity to catch my breath, for the New Year offers a new chance to see the world differently.  I can see my responsibility as a disciple redefined as I look to serve You by serving others in new ways. I can see that telling my faith story, just as the prophets told theirs, is important so that others can benefit from my experience living by my faith.  Guide me, Lord.  Show me the way I can love others as I have been loved by You. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”
Read Luke 2:38.
Can you imagine the excitement Anna must have felt to see that the Christ child right in front of her?  This is the moment she had been waiting for. How must it have felt to know that the prophecy with which you were entrusted was about to be revealed? Though her heart may have been racing, she approached Mary and Joseph confidently. Anna knew what she was about to tell them could be surprising, but we know that Mary already knew that she was called to conceive, carry, and give birth to this child for a higher purpose!
Mary and Joseph have a responsibility to take the baby to the Temple in Jerusalem 40 days after His birth to complete Mary’s purification ritual after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the first-born in obedience to the law of Moses.  So they must have been surprised to be approached by both Simeon and Anna, each with a prophecy to share. Anna began speaking to the young couple, giving “thanks to God and speaking about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Mary and Joseph were faithful, listening to God and His messengers. She heard Simeon’s and Anna’s messages, both given to them by God.  Tuning out the rest of the world to listen to what God is saying is a challenging task, one that takes discipline, practice, and a devout faith. How do you prepare yourself to be in God’s presence, to hear God’s voice, or to see God work in other people’s lives?
Praying Together:
“Gracious God, I am listening. Muffle the sounds that distract me.  Clear my mind of thoughts that can take up too much space so that I may be focused on You.  Allow me grace as I keep shifting my focus back to You after constant interruptions. Help me to make room in my life for scripture. I want to hear Your voice.  I want to know Your presence.  I want to see You at work in other people’s lives and in the world. Please walk with me so that I can be an example for others.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Read Luke 2:39-40.
After Mary and Joseph had completed all that the Law of Moses required of them, they returned to Nazareth. They became focused on being good Jewish parents with the help of their local community. I can only imagine the trust in God they must have had to allow Jesus to be a child and play well with others.  Did she worry about the bumps and bruises boys normally get while playing?  What would it be like for her as a mom raising a “messiah”? What must it have been like to lose your twelve-year-old child for 3 days only to find Him preaching and teaching in the temple courts?
Luckily, their community had not heard about the chorus of angels visiting shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth.  They could hardly have heard about the prophecies or of the new star that led the wise men to visit them on that night. The only people in their community to know about the divinity of Jesus were His parents. The thought of Jesus being a prophecy fulfilled would never cross the minds of the locals.  Mary kept his secret to save His life, just as any mom would do. She would have to allow Him the space to grow up in the Jewish culture and teach Him (with the assistance of others) the scriptures and prophecies of old.  
Mary would learn a great deal from Him as He grew. Whether she knew it or not, I bet she would grow even closer to the God who called her to follow Him and bear His Son.  The children in our community are often the reflection of God. They have insights into how to love others, regardless of who these others are. Through their eyes, we can see hope, joy, and peace in ways we, as adults, may not be able to see. How can we learn to see God and others through the eyes of our children? How can we learn to see others the way God sees them?
Praying Together:
“Omniscient God, show me how to see the world and its people the way You created them to be.  Then open my eyes to see the difference between what You intended and how the world and its people have moved away from that intention.  Though I have work to do to repair the world in the midst of darkness and brokenness due to sin, give me the strength and courage to love people where they are without trying to change them.  Love for You and Your children are what you expect most from us. Let love lead us as we shine the light into darkness and to heal our brokenness through Your grace and mercy.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”