Since we are reaching the end of such an extraordinary, challenging year this seems like a good opportunity to reflect together, to engage in what is called an examen, a spiritual practice that helps us see God in our ordinary lives.
Inspired by today’s gospel passage, how do we see, as Simeon and Anna saw, the God who comes to be with us and for us through all of life: the ups and down, hopes and fears, successes and disappointments, accomplishments to savor and mistakes to regret; all of it. How do we recognize the ways that God is with us, for us and within us…not just some of the time, but all of the time, even in 2020?
As we stand at the threshold of a new year, eager to turn the page on 2020, and to welcome 2021, we are well served to make a proper goodbye to the year that is concluding and in so doing, to leave this year in peace.
Here are the questions for your reflection:
Call to mind where you were and who you were with on January 1st. See the details of the place or places you spent your day. What did you do last New Year’s Day? How were you feeling about the year ahead?
Think back to this past January and February. What do you remember about those winter months? Where were you? Who were you with? What stands out about that time? Perhaps, if you were part of this community then, you remember my candidating weekend and start as your pastor? How were you feeling about the beginning of a new chapter as a church?
And, if you were part of this community in those months, remember how you felt when you learned that Vicki Dangelmayer had died, and then Christi Powell was placed on Hospice and died… Remember other losses of those winter months… During that sad time, where did you feel comfort and grace?
Remember when you first realized that the Coronavirus was a major threat. How did you feel? What did you think would happen? What changes did you need to make? Remember our first worship service on Zoom. How did you feel? Where did you find strength in the early days of the pandemic?
Consider those times that you did not respond to the challenges of this year in the best way. Do you know why you fell short? What can you learn from those times that you spoke or acted in ways that missed the mark? If there is someone with whom you need to make amends, consider how you can do this. For those times you fell short, ask for God’s forgiveness. Allow God’s forgiveness to wash over you.
As the year unfolded, what helped you navigate the challenges of the coronavirus? Were there certain people, places, or activities that made a difference? Who showed you love and care when you needed it? What new things did you learn to do? How were you adaptive and creative? What more did you learn about yourself? What more did you learn about the people closest to you?
What are you grateful for from the year that is ending? What blessings did you receive? How did you show God’s love to others?
How were you surprised by grace? By love? By joy?
How can you end 2020 at peace with God, with others and with yourself?
How do you see, as Simeon and Anna saw, the God who comes to be with you and for you through all of life: the ups and down, hopes and fears, successes and disappointments, accomplishments to savor and mistakes to regret; all of it?
God is with you, for you and within you…not just some of the time, but all of the time, even in 2020. Amen.