Series: Christmas Presence
Message: Regifting the Presence
Preacher: J. Murdock
Reflection: J. Murdock
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Beyond: Vanessa Alarcon
Live Purpose: Don Pate
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Luke 2:22-38 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: An eighty-four year old woman woke up one morning with a game plan that likely read the same as it always did. We learn about her a bit as Luke breaks down the story of her love and her losses across her life. She has lived a lot of her life alone and from the story we hear that she dedicated herself to telling the story of God as it will present itself in the future; a prophet of the Lord. In order to stay in tune with the movement of the Spirit, Anna would regularly fast and pray at the temple where she felt closest to the Lord. But on this day, something was new and different and hit her unexpectedly in a way that caused her to concentrate her efforts on being ready for some catalytic moment in time that was soon to come. The Bible doesn’t say whether or not she knew what had happened, but she was keenly aware of when it happened. That’s the funny thing about God’s timing; we aren’t always sure of the whole story, but when the epiphany arrives, we know that we are now part of it.
This Daily Walk entry is a heavy one for me to write because it represents the end of something powerful. Much like leaning over the edge of a cliff, there is a change in perspective that wasn’t apparent when we began this journey so many miles ago. What began as an endeavor to bring people along for a walk closer to Christ has turned into so much more than anyone could have bargained for. Churches across the world have tuned into this celebration of God through the books of the Bible and are turning their habits into a spiritual experience to break down the Word into daily devotionals. I can’t tell you how many times someone has told our authors who write the Daily Walk entries that their words have given them hope in a time of utter darkness and despair. Right in the nick of time, these words have come into the lives of people who were primed to allow God into their hearts. No one could have predicted how we would be a part of your lives, but the call that came to Japhet and the rest of the Global Resource Collective (GRC) team was to simply put the plan into action so that God could work out the rest.
And He did!
It’s daunting to stand at the edge of a cliff, knowing that there is nothing else in front of us. Somehow gravity feels that much stronger as you peer over the edge of a chasm despite knowing it’s all pulling at the same strength no matter where you are standing. The reality is, while we sometimes reach the edge of a cliff, whether you can see it from you’re standing or not, there is solid ground ahead.
No one knows what’s next for the Daily Walk. For now we feel as though it is time to take a sabbatical so we can fast and pray for something that seems to be coming in the future. We may never know what it is that God does, but we will be here waiting at the temples we find ourselves in for the time in which the Spirit moves again. We are certain that this isn’t the end of the story, but merely the closing of a chapter. Just like the calendar that is in its final days in this year, we are soon to be met with another one. But for now, we depart in peace according to your Word. Until we meet again . . .
Peace be with you.
Recalibrate: What is next for you and your relationship with God as 2019 ends and 2020 begins? What have you learned from this year that you will take into the next to grow your spirituality and faith in the Lord?
Respond: Pray that God will be ever-present in your life in the coming year in ways that you never imagined this year.
Remember: “Anna walked up to them and burst forth with a great chorus of praise to God for the child” (Luke 2:38, ICB).
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, where he focuses on youth and young adult ministry.
Several years ago a four-year-old held my face in his hands and asked me if I was one hundred years old. (Working with four-year-olds will do that to you, but not in my case.) In truth, it is the opposite. While I can’t tell if I look one hundred today or not, I know in my heart that I have found wisdom in the wonder of Jesus, and in writing for children in the Daily Walk. Anna was in her eighties when Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the temple. Anna was there, ready, to see her Savior King. She burst forth with praise to God for the child. My prayer for you and I is that we will be found in the temple ready, bursting forth with joy, thanking God for our Savior King.
I love going on an adventure. How about you? There is nothing better than going on an adventure that God has planned for us. We can be sure that wherever we go and whatever we do, we are not alone. Jesus’ Spirit is with us. He will lead us through whatever comes our way, good and bad. Both Simeon and Anna let God lead them in their everyday adventure and they met Jesus! Know that Jesus is in our everyday lives. He will always lead us home to His heart. His heart is where true love lives. Let’s adventure there and live love along the way.
If you read on past the verses we studied this week, you come to a great story about Jesus being back at the temple. Spoiler alert: Jesus was found at the temple with teachers learning more about the Scriptures after having been lost for three days! But Jesus knew He was at His Father’s house. If you don’t already have a church you attend, I’d encourage you to go this weekend. If Jesus spent time at the temple to learn from teachers of the Bible, why couldn’t we? That would be my challenge for you today. We can read our Bibles on our own, we can pray on our own, but we can also study with others about the Bible. Trust me, you will learn so much more! I encourage you to follow Jesus’ example.
The Nativity story closes with Simeon ready to retire and die, Mary and Joseph eventually return to Nazareth and Anna talks to anyone who would listen about what she had seen. We have no idea how long that old saint lived after that fateful day when she’d seen the Child. What we do know is that no one could shut her up. She spent her remaining days looking for anyone who would be receptive to the great news. Every morning she thanked God that He had sustained her to that moment and then set out to find anyone who’d give an old lady the time of day for the most preposterous claim she could muster. As I said, we have no idea how long she lived after that episode but one thing is guaranteed—she died with a smile on her face. I really believe that.
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Vanessa Alarcon is a licensed clinical social worker who focuses on addiction treatment in Denver, Colorado. She also serves as the Faith Engagement Pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado.
Don Pate is “retired” in Tennessee after decades of teaching and pastoring but is still active in speaking and creating for the Kingdom.