Daily Devotion for December 31, 2011
Seventh Day of Christmas
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on 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, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Blessed are you, O Lord my God, King of the universe, who removes sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eyelids. I thank you for all that you have done while I was asleep, watching over me and all your children while we slept unaware, and I pray that my thoughts and acts this day may show forth my love and thanks for you and all you have done for me.
Help me through your Holy Spirit, that I may remember what you have taught me in the Bible and it may show forth in my every deed. Let me not wander into the hands of sin, nor into the hands of pride or perversity, not into the hands of temptation, nor into the hands of shame, but steer my inclinations towards goodness and charity this morning and all the day. In the name of Christ I pray.
Prayer for the Holy Spirit's Guidance
Send your Holy Spirit to deepen my worship life.
Open my heart to the gifts and cultures which surround my church.
Open my heart to the people who are different from me.
In Jesus' name, I pray.
Now the God of patience and consolation grant us to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That we may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
Look down from heaven and see,
And visit this vine
And the vineyard which Your right hand has planted,
And the branch that You made strong for Yourself.
Luke 2:33-40 (ESV)
Jesus Presented at the Temple 
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
Notes on the Scripture
Simeon's statement is somewhat hard to follow; it is not a quote from an ancient prophet, but his own prophecy of what will become of Joseph and Mary's child. He is "appointed for the rising and fall of many", simply meaning, that many people who follow Christ will become prominent and many, both followers and opponents of Christ, will suffer. In a deeper sense, of course, Christ will cause the rise of many because he will bring eternal salvation to them, and the fall of many, because it is Christ who will stand as our judge in the final day.
The "sign that will be opposed" could be many things, but most probably refers to the cross, the instrument of Christ's death. And truly, many people would oppose it — indeed, even today in parts of the world, the sign of Christ can be the cause of persecution and death. He tells Mary that a sword will pierce her soul "also"; Mary was not (that we know) persecuted in the flesh, but we must assume that she grieved terribly over the public execution of her oldest son; so while many would physically die by the sword (i.e. by violence) Mary, also, would suffer in her soul from the violence.
We know almost nothing about Christ's childhood; from the time Joseph returns from Egypt to live in Nazareth, to the time of Christ's baptism at age 30, there is nothing we know other than a single incident (which we will read in a few days) at the temple when he was 12. But that single incident, and Luke's summary statement at the end of today's lesson, indicate that Jesus was a good son.