Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, First Sunday after Christmas Day, Year C
December 30, 2018
Lessons: 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26, Psalm 148, Colossians 3:12-17, Luke 2:41-52
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people realize that all God’s beloved have gifts and talents to bring to the table—especially children.
Key Scripture: … And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor. Luke 2:52
Children possess a special clarity and wisdom when it comes to matters of faith. They seem to understand at some deep and innate level that Jesus is for them and that they belong in God’s house—until we adults squelch this understanding right out of them with rules, regulations, and strictures. Sure, most of the time we don’t mean to throw water on the fires of faith; we seek good order and desire for children to take seriously that which we hold dear and sacred. Remember that old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”? Well, so are the doorways that lead out of our church buildings that may never be darkened again.
Over the years I have been a member of several congregations and have served several more. All of these congregations want to have vibrant youth and family ministries, but in some cases there has been a real disconnect. For example, I still remember the high school student who told me that she thought she knew how to pray until she started confirmation and was made to feel that she was doing it all wrong. And, I remember with great pain the high school youth group member who, upon being told by the property chair that the youth couldn’t paint the youth room a different color because it wouldn’t match the rest of the church’s color scheme, exclaimed, “Great! They say we’re full members of this congregation, but we’re not valued because we don’t have a lot of money to give!” There was also the teenager who was scolded by an elderly member for his piercings and “inappropriate” clothing choices.
Sure, there may have been logical explanations for these gaffes, but perception is reality. If children, youth, and their parents do not feel valued for who they are and for the unique gifts and talents they bring, they will quite likely move on to another house of worship or, unfortunately, away from organized religion altogether. We in the beloved community are responsible for nurturing the faith, gifts, and talents of the children in our midst.
We hear in today’s gospel lesson that even Jesus’ parents had trouble wrapping their heads around his behavior when it came to matters of faith. They “lose” him on the way home from Jerusalem, assuming that he’s somewhere with relatives in the large traveling cohort. When they finally find him studying in the temple after returning to Jerusalem and looking for three days, Mary says, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” (Frankly I wonder if this response has been redacted for “appropriate” piety on Mary’s behalf. I suspect she was more frantic and less reasoned in her word choice after three uncertain days of searching for her son.) Yes, even Jesus’ parents had trouble wrapping their heads around his faith!
Chances are the children in your congregation took part in Christmas Eve pageants, programs, and worship services. Please don’t stop there. Thank them, right down to the littlest lamb, for their partnership in ministry. Find ways to incorporate them into weekly worship roles. Encourage their questions, and don’t squelch their natural curiosity and love of God. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every child felt as comfortable in God’s house as Jesus did, comfortable and safe enough to say “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
As adults, let’s be good stewards of the faith of children and young people, doing everything possible to welcome, encourage, and engage them in the life of faith. We may just learn a thing or two in the process!
If this is a day for Lessons and Carols in your context, you can still involve the children fully in worship. Let them act out some of the readings. Pick simple poems or quotes for them to read. Invite them to collect the offering, bring the gifts forward, be greeters, speak the words of greeting or sending, or lead the creed or Lord’s Prayer. Have them move the wise men closer to the nativity set. Thank them for sharing their gifts and talents with the congregation.
If you incorporate a Generosity Pause (time of thanksgiving after receiving the offering) make this week’s pause a thank you for the children in your congregation and for the ways they serve and encourage others.
Consider ways to involve youth more fully in congregational decision-making. Do you have youth members of your council, vestry, or consistory? Are youth invited to serve on important task forces and committees such as property, evangelism, and ministerial search teams/call committees? When was the last time you held a focus group session to learn more about the interests, concerns, and perceptions of your youth members?
This week’s focus verse is 1 Samuel 2:26: Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and with the people.
Gather the children around the font and ask them if they remember the promises that were made on their behalf on the day they were baptized. Most will not remember. Read to them from the baptismal liturgy the promises their parents, sponsors, and congregation made. Remind them that God’s house is their house and that they should feel as comfortable being here as Jesus was in the temple or the young Samuel was serving God. Ask the children what gifts and talents they can bring to God in worship and service. Affirm and encourage them in their answers and assure them that God (and the congregation) values them and treasures their gifts and talents. Finish with a simple prayer of thanksgiving for the children, and be sure to include thanksgiving for the adults who bring them to worship faithfully.
Note: Does your congregation have a child protection policy in place? If so, are you adhering to it? If not, please consider putting one in place to ensure that your congregation is a safe space for children, youth, and vulnerable adults.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Every child of God has gifts and talents to share in the beloved community. This Sunday we give special thanks for the gift of the children in our midst. They bring us joy, they teach us to approach God with a sense of wonder and openness, and they love God and neighbor in ways we would do well to follow. Be sure and let the children know how much you treasure them and how glad you are that they are there. Affirm their gifts and hold them in prayer.
Stewardship at Home
This week consider writing a note to a young person in your congregation to thank them for faithful worship, for service in the congregation, or simply for something they have done at school (a sports or music or academic accomplishment). Children and young people need the prayers and encouragement of God’s faithful folk. Pray for the children in your life by name every day—that God would continue to nurture their faith so that they grow in health, wisdom, and favor.
Here’s a look back at our 2015 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/12/stewarding-and-growing-the-faith/
And here’s the 2012 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/12/let-all-creation-praise/
Photos: David Kutz, Dee Hyatt, and St. Jude’s Photos, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
Note: Reprint rights granted to congregations and other church organizations for local, nonprofit use. Just include this note: “Copyright (c) 2018, Rev. Sharron Blezard. Used by Permission.” Other uses, please inquire: firstname.lastname@example.org.