Practices of Godly Parents
"And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him." (Luke 2:40)
December 31, 2017
I thank God that in this church we have children. One of my memorable visits to another church was in Florida. I sat toward the back of the church. I saw a congregation of folks with lots of white hair. I don't remember seeing a single child, teenager or young adult in that congregation. The absence of children in any congregation leaves so much to be desired. For children, not to be present in a worship service creates an odd feeling about the worship experience.
In this church, some of my most cherished experiences have been the presence of children in our worship services. Over the last 40-plus years that I have been blessed by Almighty God to pastor here, I have some wonderful and lasting experiences of our children in worship.
I want to share some of those experiences. Let me start with the joy of dedicating new-born babies. Many of you have brought your babies for me to bless them. I have enjoyed the personal experience of seeing you come here to the altar with your new-born child in your arms; then I feel a real challenge each and every time in making a smooth and non-crying transition from your arms to my arms at the moment I dedicate your child.
Believe me this is a very special time in the life of a family and in the life of the congregation. The Bible teaches that children are gifts from God. The Psalmist says children are a "heritage" from the Lord and a "reward" (Psalm 127:3).
Then my experience of dedicating and baptizing my children and grandchildren, and the children of this church have been a blessed experience for me. I have a framed photo in our home where I can see myself standing in the baptismal pool with my granddaughter next to me just before I immersed her into the water. That picture will always be part of my experience. Similarly, I have that picture of my grand boys and your children in my mind.
Also, the experience of engaging the youth in the "Passing of the Peace" Sunday after Sunday here in worship. There is nothing like it. I love it. They love it. They know how to do it. They wait for it. They are loud and joyous with saying it. I will remember this and their faces and expressions for all my born days.
These are religious practices that you as parents and congregation have helped to cultivate within this congregation. We have made these rich and rewarding experiences for our youth and us.
I believe these religious practices are very important. In today's Scripture, God established a law for parents who have children. God's law was for parents to bring their firstborn male child to the temple after a certain period of time. There they were to dedicate their child to God. Also, they were to bring a pair of doves or two young pigeons. All Jewish parents were required to follow God's law.
Joseph and Mary obeyed God's law and brought their firstborn son, Jesus, to the temple and Simeon blessed them. Also, they sacrificed to God the required pigeons.
Also, during their visit, they heard two elderly people inside the temple say some wonderful things about their newborn son. Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss[c] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel."
33 The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." (Luke 2:28-35)
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
I hope you use this opportunity that our children are in our presence here in the church to speak well of those that deserve it. And some of them are wonderful children. What you think and say to them is important to them. The world's greatest cellist, Pablo Casals, once said: "The child must know that he is a miracle; that since the beginning of the world there hasn't been, and until the end of the world there will not be another child like him."
The other elderly person who met Joseph and Mary in the temple was a prophet named Anna. Anna was an icon of the temple. She apparently lived there. Her words to Joseph and Mary were:
"She gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem."
So, Joseph and Mary did what God required by law. As a result, they were blessed. They heard some wonderful things about their son; they heard these wonderful things from two beautiful old people. They were blessed from doing what was the parents were required to do in that day. Also, they were blessed because their son grew and became strong; and he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him."
All parents probably want their children to do well and to excel in things that matter to them. Parents are required to do their religious practices with their children. You do your part. God will do his part. That's your best way forward to help your child to have a blessed life. You have more to do with your children's success than you may think you do. What Joseph and Mary did in sticking to the religious practices in their time paid off and it can pay off for you getting your children off the best start in life. Amen.