Monthly Archives: December2018

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Luke 2:21-38 – Jesus is presented in the Temple

Although Christmas is past for another year, Luke’s nativity story has a little further to go. So we invite you to take some time today and enjoy the final segment of Luke’s story (see below). This passage includes the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and the moving fulfilment of a promise revealed to Simeon. We hope you’ll join us again for the Lent Devotion, starting Wednesday March 6, when we will pick up the Gospel of Luke once more. In the meantime, Christmas blessings from all of us at Walton and best wishes for the New Year.

Salvation - Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

From the outset of his life, Jesus was fulfilling God’s promises and purpose. In today’s reading we see Jesus completing the prophecy made to Simeon, and bringing Simeon peace and comfort. Even as a baby, this passage demonstrates the palpable sense of power that radiated from the majesty of God in human form. Moreover, Simeon’s immediate response was to acknowledge the saving love of God, given to us through Jesus. That love endures to this day and as we head into 2019, let us give thanks for the salvation we receive from God and his light to guide our days.

Saving God, deliver us, we pray. Save us from the troubles and worries of our days, with the comfort and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Save us from our faults and shortcomings, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Renew and strengthen our acceptance of Your love for us, so that our relationship with You grows stronger and brighter in 2019. Amen.

Luke 2:21-38 – Jesus is presented in the Temple

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

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 seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer 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.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2019.



Luke 2:20 – The shepherds praise God

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Glory - Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

Merry Christmas! Wherever you are, may today be a joyful celebration of the birth of Jesus. Like the shepherds, we have so many reasons to glorify and praise God. Today, whether your day is hectic or quiet, take a moment to yourself and praise God. Praise God for the wonder of his love for us. Praise God for seeing the dents and smudges in our lives – all the ways we fall short – and wanting a relationship with us anyway. Praise God for his power and majesty which means that nothing is impossible with God. Hallelujah! Praise be to God.

Exalted God, we worship and praise You. On this day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, nurture our gratitude for the depth of Your love for us. Help us to draw closer to You and reach out for Your peace in our lives. Reassure us that You are with us always. Amen.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2019.



Luke 2:19 – Mary reflects on events

But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

Peace - Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

Amidst the glorious voice of the angels and the joyful energy of the shepherds, we now read of a quiet, reflective Mary, storing away memories and trying to understand the events of this night. There is a sense in this short verse of how overwhelming this was for Mary – a young mother, who had just given birth to her first child, visited by shepherds sharing tales of more angels and proclaiming a saviour. And as Mary ponders these things, perhaps there is a growing awareness of all that her child is destined for. As she treasures these memories, the reading hints at both Mary’s tender love for her baby, as well as the gradual realization of the immensity of what lies ahead. Throughout all this is a persistent feeling of gratitude for God’s love for the world and the way in which God treasures each one of us.

Breathtaking God, on the eve of our celebration of the birth of Your son, Jesus, quiet our lives for a moment that we might treasure and give thanks for Your love for us. You tenderly embrace us, watching over us each day, and keeping us as close to Your loving kindness as we will let You. Open our hearts to accept You more fully, with joy and gratitude. Amen.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2019.



Luke 2:15-18 – The shepherds visit Mary, Joseph and Jesus

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.

amazed - Advent Devotion - Walton United Church

In this passage we read of the first evangelists! The shepherds, making known what they had been told, sharing the wondrous promises made by the angel. We don’t have a lot of detail about their visit, but it is clear that the events of that night had a deep impact on the shepherds which was shared with everyone they spoke to – “all who heard it were amazed.” ‘Amazed’ is something of an understatement in many regards – for the shepherds and those they spoke to, as well as for us. How do we fully grasp the magnitude of what God has done for us through the birth of Jesus? The immensity of another person dying for us should stun and overwhelm us! So as we approach the celebration and exuberance of Christmas Day, perhaps pause for a moment today to reflect on the amazing meaning of Jesus’ birth. All this is for you!

Awe-inspiring God, we cannot fully comprehend the depth of Your love for us. Help us give thanks and praise to You anyway. For all our efforts, we cannot fully reflect Your love for us either. Help us try anyway. Inspire us to recognize the magnitude of Your care and compassion, of Your overwhelming desire to know and love us. Amen.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2019.



Luke 2:13-14 – The angels praise and glorify God

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!”

Peace - Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

This Christmas, the angels’ promise of peace is one of the most appealing and elusive being made. We desperately need and crave peace. And not just peace for our world, but also peace for our lives. Our need for peace is firstly, and most obviously, the desire to see an end to conflict and violence, rage and aggression. But this need is also a need for reassurance that all is well, and our lives, and the world, are in balance. This second form of peace comes when we are at ease with our circumstances. This doesn’t however mean peace will only be achieved when we have solved every issue we face. Rather, we reach this peace when we (to borrow an old phrase), ‘let go and let God.’ We can have peace, even just for a few moments in a day, when we give our problems and worries over to God and rest in the assurance that his vision is bigger than ours, his power rises above ours, and that nothing is impossible with God.

Sovereign God, our lives and our world both crave peace. Help us, we pray. Be with those who work towards an end to conflict and a reconciling of all Your children. Strengthen and guide them in their efforts for peace. Guide us also each day to recognise the conflict in our lives and to let go of the expectations and wants that feed our discontent. Help us release our worries to Your loving concern and rest in the assurance of Your love. Amen.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2019.



Luke 2:8-12 – The angels announce Jesus’ birth to the shepherds

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

Joy - Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

This passage is full of contrasting images – the squalid earthiness of the shepherds stands out against the dazzling “glory of the Lord” illuminating the angels; the sense of immediate terror and fear emphasizes the reassuring promise of “good news of great joy.” These contrasts affirm the magnificence and magnitude of God’s gift to the world: “a Saviour, who is the Messiah the Lord.” This is cause for exuberant joy, lifting our hearts up to the heavens, singing perhaps till our lungs ache. The contrasts also highlight the gracious nature of our faith – dazzling glory is offered to all of us, no matter our circumstances; and the joy of God’s love can permeate every life – alongside, and supporting us through, fearful and despairing times. This joy is not dependent on transient bursts of happiness or even a steady beat of contentment. This joy – that we are loved and blessed and forgiven – can persist through our toughest days, whenever we remember to accept it.

Wondrous God, You love us fully and completely, and that is cause for great rejoicing. Let us praise and worship You with unencumbered hearts. Help us to throw off the bands of inadequacy this world would have us wear. Wash away our uncertainty and despair, and renew in us a spirit of joyful gratitude. Amen.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2019.



Luke 2:1-7 – The birth of Jesus

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.

He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Comfort - Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

The Bible passages are now taking us into very familiar territory, as we read the beginning of the second chapter of Luke, well-loved and much-used at Christmas Eve services. Rather than taking this familiarity for granted (which is so easy to do), let it bring you comfort. Sit with the passage and enjoy the well-known phrases. This is a story that was, is and will be read across the ages; our faith connected into a legacy of interwoven threads of all those who have lived before us. Take comfort also in the humility and simplicity of the narrative. This most momentous event expressed in two short sentences. And let that simplicity reassure you over these last few days of Advent. Wherever you are, it is enough. In God’s eyes and through God’s love, you are enough.

Soothing God, slow our rushing and our worries, that in a quiet moment we can feel Your peace. Bring us the comfort of knowing Your love endures across the years, is there for us now, and will cherish us always. Help us to see ourselves as you see us: tenderly loved and treasured children of God. Amen..

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2019.



Luke 1:76-80 – Zechariah foretells the ministry of John the Baptist

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

Light - Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

Light is a recurring theme in the Bible, and speaks of hope and possibility, given to us all, but especially “those who sit in darkness.” The static, shrinking tone of this image evokes feelings of resignation and despair, of giving up and pulling away from possibility, and ultimately of accepting a life based in fear and ‘less’. God’s abundant love however wants to shine into our hearts and dispel this darkness. This light will guide our feet, to follow the path of Jesus – will show us how to live – into the way of peace. Where we have patches of darkness in our own lives, remember that God is with us, tenderly caring for us, bringing us back to the light – be that gently, just as the light of dawn slowly creeps across the sky, or sudden and blazing like sunshine breaking through the clouds.

Caring God, You never leave us and never give up on us. Thank You for staying with us as we sit in darkness, and for tenderly coaxing us into the light. Thank You for Your abundant love and mercy that invites us to a life of peace and possibility. Open our hearts to receive Your eternal compassion and understanding. Amen.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2019.



Luke 1:67-75 – Zechariah foretells God saving his people

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.

Ponder - Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

When Zechariah spoke of being “saved from our enemies,” those listening to him would have thought of only one thing: Rome. The Roman occupation of Israel had been oppressing Israel for the best part of seventy years and was greatly resented and feared. Zechariah’s words offered hope that this enemy will be overthrown, that Israel will be freed, and perhaps most importantly, that God was still keeping his promise to love and care for his people. God is still keeping that promise to us today, even though our enemies do not take the form of an external military power. Throughout our world today, we are challenged by unhealthy behaviours, damaging thoughts and feelings, and perhaps most insidious of all, our limiting beliefs. God is here to rescue us from all of these, if we only trust in his promise to us – to love and care for us, as children of God.

Redeeming God, rescue us. Save us from the temptations of the world around us that dazzle but do not deliver. Save us from the damaging thoughts we let loose in our minds, that create walls, that foster resentment, or that spread unworthiness; anything that limits how we love each other or appreciate Your love for us. Save us from ourselves. Amen.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2019.


Luke 1:65-66 – Neighbours wonder at the birth of John the Baptist

Fear came over all their neighbours, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

Ponder - Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

To ponder means to think deeply about something or even to meditate, and so in this passage Luke is encouraging us to recognize the momentous nature of the birth of John the Baptist. This was not just a baby born unexpectedly, but rather the birth is clearly identified as the work of God, evoking awe and even fear. Luke uses the word “ponder” three times in his gospel, and all of them occur in his retelling of the nativity. In doing so, Luke is emphasizing the immensity of the story he is sharing with us. It’s a welcome reminder, because there’s a risk that due to our familiarity with these events, we lose sight of the magnitude of God’s love that is abundantly given for each one of us.

Supreme God, Your ways are astounding and Your love is eternal. Your power extends beyond our comprehension. Open our minds to see Your immense and faithful love in our lives and all around us. May we ponder Your goodness to us and meditate on the path You call us to. Inspire us to be beacons of love in the world. Amen.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2019.