I Am with You
First Sunday After Christmas
SUNDAY, January 1
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being”
(vv. 1-3, NRSV).
During a sabbatical a few years ago, I set aside time for an extended retreat at a Jesuit spirituality center in south Louisiana. I started the retreat with a short list of requests I wanted God to answer by the time the retreat was over. The prayer, solitude, and presence of God I experienced there blessed me deeply, but I did not leave with answers to my questions. Instead, I sensed God saying, “Jeff, I don’t want you
to have the answers to your questions. I want you to have me. And do not worry, I am with you always.”
To begin our year, we too are reminded that Jesus is here with us, here from the very beginning.
Lord, gird our hearts this year with knowledge of your presence with us at all times. Deepen our awareness that you will never leave us or forsake us. May we embark on this new year with this awareness, irrespective of our circumstances, knowing that you are with us each step of the way. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: STRENGTH TO LET GO OF OLD GRUDGES
Children of God
MONDAY, January 2
“To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (v. 12, NRSV).
This is one of the most foundational truths (and graces) in our Christian life. Jesus is identified as God’s beloved (Luke 3:22). In Christ, what is true of Jesus is true of us. This is a source of great hope. I am prone to finding my identity in what I do and how it’s perceived by others. I may do a lot, but is love the source of my actions?
In my interviews for ordination with my conference ministerium, wise people reminded me that my pastoral identity is rooted in knowing myself as God’s beloved. Before ministry, there is resting in my belovedness as God’s child. This pattern is also demonstrated in the life of Christ. Before his public ministry began, we hear the Father’s proclamation in his baptism: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
Lord, today, in Christ, before I do anything for you, may I rest in knowing myself as your beloved child. AMEN.
Living in the Hope of His Return
TUESDAY, January 3
We live in what theologians call the “now but not yet” of the kingdom of God. God is with us, and he will come back to live with us. When he returns, he will do so in all his glory. My pastoral theology professor taught that by “glory” Scripture means “the true nature of the person.” When he comes back, he will return in all his true nature.
God’s nature is one of grace and truth. His nature brings us salvation and “trains us to renounce impiety and worldly passions…and live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly” (v. 12).
Our faith is a living faith, a faith that is lived and not merely believed. His Spirit and grace empower us to live righteously even as we wait for his glorious return, which itself is a hope that empowers us to keep living our faith.
Lord, as we wait with hope for your return, empower us through that hope to live our faith this day. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: A GRACE-FILLED HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
Our Hope Is Eternal
WEDNESDAY, January 4
“Having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (v. 7).
I serve as a chaplain at the primary women’s hospital for our health system, which includes a neonatal intensive care unit with more than 50 beds. Many families come through our doors with healthy babies and deliveries. But many parents come through our doors who have experienced a miscarriage or are about to.
So the primary context in which I see believers’ hope for eternal life lived out is in a hospital. For some, the only consolation they experience after a miscarriage or stillbirth is that in Christ, they will see their child again. This hope cannot be underestimated.
Our hope is that in Christ we will enjoy his presence and that of his redeemed people for eternity. While so much feels temporary in our lives today, may we rest in our eternal God who brings eternal hope.
Lord, as we live faithfully in this world, rejuvenate us with the hope that we will live eternally with you. AMEN.
He Lifts Us Up
THURSDAY, January 5
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us that two is better than one because if one falls the other will lift them up. We see a similar idea in our passage today. Verse 9 reminds us of God who “lifted up and carried” his people in the past, and he continues to do so today.
Some friends who are living outside the U.S. visited us for dinner recently. Where they live, they are unable to access gluten-free pizza for their nine-year-old. So we treated them to a pizza night. He loved it and couldn’t get enough, despite his mother’s warnings to stop. Soon afterward, he was passed out on our couch. When it was time to go, his mother gently lifted him to get him stirring again. He protested saying he was going to sleep on our couch, but eventually he was up and moving around.
Lord, so often we fall down, either from our own doing, the weight of our responsibilities, or our sin. Gently lift us up to be alive to you and your presence. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: COMMITTMENT TO OUR PROMISES
Overwhelmed with Joy
FRIDAY, JANUARY 6
“When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy” (v. 10).
In New Orleans and throughout Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, today is known as King’s Day, the start of the Mardi Gras season. During this time of the year between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday, King Cake is prepared and enjoyed. Inside of the King Cake is a small figurine of a baby, and if you happen to get the slice with the baby, you are responsible for providing the next King Cake. We avoid the baby!
That is the complete opposite of what the three kings or wise men
did in our story today. They eagerly sought out this baby king, and
when they found him, they were overwhelmed with joy!
May we too have the urgency and drive to seek out King Jesus and receive his daily welcome into our lives with joy.
Lord, today, give me eyes to see your presence in our midst. Bless us with the joy that comes from discovering you afresh this day. AMEN.
He Is Coming to Rule
SATURDAY, January 7
When a new president is inaugurated in the U.S., former presidents return to the Capitol to witness the event. At one inauguration a news station was filming the festivities, and a correspondent commented on a past president who had returned to the Capitol, “How great it is to see him back in Washington.”
When former presidents attend inaugurations, they return not to rule but to observe. When our Lord returns, however, he will return to rule. We see this kingdom inaugurated in Christ, and we live in the hope that he is coming back to restore his rule completely in righteousness and truth (v. 13).
Lord, we eagerly await your return to restore righteousness and truth.
Give us hope as we patiently go about extending your rule, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in our areas of influence. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: THAT GOD’S LIGHT WILL SHINE THROUGH US