Midweek Devotion 30/12/21

St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh

Midweek Devotion 30th December 2021

Led by Rev Douglas A O Nicol  

The Psalmist wrote: ‘Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in holy splendour; tremble before him, all the earth.’ (Psalm 96: 7-9)

Let us worship God.

Scripture Reading

The Gospel according to St. Luke, chapter 2, verses 36 to 40:

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting night and day. At that moment she came and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.

Reflection

Today’s reading from the Lectionary during this last week of 2021 remind us of the relentless march of time.

Earlier verses have detailed the way that even in very uncertain times Mary and Joseph followed the Jewish tradition as detailed in the Old Testament Book of Leviticus (chapter 12). The Law said that parents must present their new-born child to the priests in the Temple forty days after the baby’s birth. Jesus’ parents were poor people who could not afford to sacrifice a lamb, but other than that it was all routine procedure – at least until firstly Simeon and then Anna see the child and recognize in him their Messiah. The account of Simeon’s revelation is found in verses 25 to 35 of chapter 2 in the Gospel according to St. Luke.

Our passage today began with an account of Anna – an elderly widow who was a prophetess and who spent nearly all her time at worship at the Temple, longing to see the promised Messiah. When Mary and Joseph presented the infant Jesus at the Temple, Anna announced publicly that Jesus was the fulfilment of all of God’s promises, and she thanked God that she had been allowed to live long enough to see that day.

From her revelation the passage moves speedily yet significantly to the years that follow and an account of the move to Nazareth and the childhood years of Jesus. The Gospel writer may have given us only a brief account of these years, but they are positive ones that talk not only of the development of Jesus in strength and wisdom but also of the way that was evident to all that God’s favour was upon Him. These surely are vital years in the preparation of the one who is to be the Saviour of the world!

This week between Christmas and New Year is a reminds all of us of the relentless march of time. Our enjoyment of the celebration of Jesus’ birth at the first Christmas is now a fading memory, and soon a New Year will dawn with all its possibilities and with all its challenges. This week is as good as any, and better than most, for reflection, as we ask ourselves how we are faring in our resolve to follow the teaching and example of Jesus in the uncertain times of our early 21st Century. Questions such as: ‘Am I still living up to my dreams of years gone by?’ and ‘Is there anything new I should be seeking to be or do?’ are crucial ones at this time of moving forward in life.

As we move forward into 2022 may we find in these verses of Sydney Carter’s hymn our encouragement:

‘One more step along the world I go,
one more step along the world I go;
from the old things to the new
keep me travelling along with you:
And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
keep me travelling along with you.

Give me courage when the world is rough.
keep me loving though the world is tough;
leap and sing in all I do,
keep me travelling along with you:
And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
keep me travelling along with you.’

Prayer

Let us pray:

O God, we thank you that in the relentless march of time you have brought us to the close of one year and the beginning of another – 2022.

Through you, Father, are all things made new. At this time especially, we ask that you forgive our faults in the past and so cleanse our hearts that we may start again, refreshed and renewed to know your will and do your work.

As we stand on the threshold of a new year,
encourage us, O Father, by our successes of the past;
challenge us, O Christ, to face with fortitude what the new year may bring;
guide us, O Heavenly Spirit, by your eternal presence,
and give us strength to keep our resolutions for the days to come.

We resolve, O God,
To be loyal and true to those whom we love and who love us;
To be loyal to our friends, so that they may never feel distressed or let down by our actions;
To work with earnest endeavour, using to the full the talents which you have given to us;
To be reliable in our undertakings so that all may take our word as our bond;
To be temperate in word and action, and to resist temptation so that we may give
strength to others who may be tempted;
To live in full obedience to your will that in the doing of it we may find your peace;
To live that our lives may be worthy of Christ, your Son, to whom with you and the
Holy Spirit be all honour, glory and praise now and forever.   

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever,
Amen.

Benediction (Romans 15:13)

May God, who is the ground of hope,
fill you with all joy and peace
as you lead the life of faith
until, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
you overflow with hope.

And the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
be among you and remain with you.
Amen.

Organ Music

Felix Mendelssohn Prelude in G