The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream
and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother,
flee to Egypt and stay there until I tell you.” Matthew 2:13
For decades and decades, my family gathered to continue our Christmas festivities on New Year’s Day. My dad’s Canadian family lovingly preserved this traditional gathering which always included a blessing. At the appointed time, we gathered before our eldest family member to request his or her intercession. He or she responded by asking God’s gifts of happiness, health and prosperity for those present and for all of our loved ones during the coming year.
For as long as I can remember, I experienced a sense of comforting peace while kneeling in the company of my extended and extensive family. Each time, I couldn’t help feeling protected somehow regardless of what life had in store for the next three hundred and sixty-four days. This was especially important to me the year my dad passed away and for many years thereafter. Perhaps this is the reason I was always careful to help my own sons to feel safe. Perhaps this is the reason I hold my grandchildren so close to my heart. Perhaps this is the reason I’m compelled to remind all who will listen that God is always nearby, around us and within us to keep us safe along the way.
Loving God, even Jesus had reason to fear from very early on in his life. Still, Mary and Joseph remained steadfast in their loving care for him. Help us to treasure and to nurture one another with equal devotion. Help us always to remember that you are at our sides in everything.
The child grew in size and strength,
filled with wisdom,
and the grace of God was upon him. Luke 2:40
As 2016 eases into its final days, I prepare to hang my 2017 Calendar. In the process, I wonder aloud what the coming year will bring. As I flip back through this year’s calendar, I give thanks for the many blessings which have come my way. Even the trauma and tragedy which touched a day here and a week there were accompanied by unexpected blessings. I’m impelled to acknowledge these past gifts and the ever-present love which surrounds me.
That love encourages an inner calm which I really cannot explain. I find myself engulfed by goodness. When life is trying, this invisible shield keeps me focused on the things to come. I consider Jesus who Luke tells us grew in strength and wisdom and had God’s grace upon him. Though I sometimes question my own strength and wisdom, I do feel the grace of God upon me and around me as well. Jesus himself has convinced me that this impression is accurate. His lessons regarding God’s love assure me in every circumstance that my loved ones and I will be fine in the end. Indeed, as Jesus tells it, God’s grace is upon us all.
Good and Gracious God, thank you for your presence among us. Your love enhances the best and worst of our days. It enriches our best efforts and softens our failures. You draw goodness even from our imperfections. In truth, your grace really is upon us all.