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Gospel centred sermons, based on the lectionary often in advance.

Dec 31, 2011

Focus reading Luke 2:22-40

Children can be a wonderful blessing and a real trial.

Children can confront us and they can comfort us.

They can support us and we can support them.

Children can give us hope for the future or they can cause us to despair!!

When they are young they are dependant on us, when they are older they can become independent. 

They can be perfect angels or rotten devils.

They can bring laughter and joy or tears and sadness.

And most Children bring all these things!! The good things and the bad things. The comfortable things and the uncomfortable things.

All of us know a little of the story of Helen Keller. A young woman who became blind and deaf as a child. In the normal course of events such a child would not be expected to achieve much in life, especially at the time that Keller was born. 

In a dramatisation of her life, before she was taught to understand language, she was shown as willful and aggressive. A terrible handful for her parents. Unmanageable - an apparently hopeless case. Yet this willful child who had caused such trial and suffering to her parents, as much through her disabilities as through her strong character, did come to understand and also went on to be a loved and brilliant writer. She not only brought joy to her parents but joy and inspiration to millions who have read her work or heard her story.

In a smaller way this is true of all children who have successful lives. They cause their parents pain as well as joy before going on to serve others through their own work or family life. I’m only beginning to learn this from personal experience - I am only five monthe, but I have observed it. I have also learnt something else - parents never stop being parents. When children become adults they still suffer with their children's pain and feel pride and joy at their success.

In this respect Jesus was no different to any other child. He caused Joseph and Mary both great pride and great pain. Joy and suffering was theirs.

That's what Simeon and Anna are looking forward to in today's reading. Simeon says of Jesus on the one hand that: he is “salvation” and “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” and “glory for the people of Israel” 

This was true - Jesus lived a life which was perfect - he did what God required. He not only told people about the presence and hope of God but as I said on Christmas day he was the presence and hope of God. Mary and Joseph hearing Simeon's words and knowing Simeon's story, would have probably felt enormous pride. Simeon was touched by the Spirit... Messiah...

More than this knowing Anna to be a prophet....

We know from this story that Mary & Joseph were trying to do the right thing by Jesus - sacrifice - dedication & purification. As parents all have hopes for children - they hoped for Jesus.

Their hope and their effort on his behalf was not to be disappointed. He turned out to be a light to the nations and the hope of the world. He turned out to be the promised one. In a way infinitely more significant than Helen Keller he has had a wonderful influence on Billions. And the Bible tells us that at the end of time, he will be the one to set all things right.

But as much as Jesus was a cause of pride for Mary - he was also a cause of terrible pain for her. Simeon knew this: Luke 2:34-35 (GNB)

“This child is chosen by God for the destruction and the salvation of many in Israel. He will be a sign from God which many people will speak against

and so reveal their secret thoughts. And sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your own heart.”

Even the best of Children cause their parents pain. When a child hurts himself or herself or is hurt by others and cries in pain - the Mother & Father also cry. 

I know the story of a mum here in Toowoomba - torn - could hardly stand her own pain even though she was not hurt.

Jesus was to cause pain by confronting sin and broken-ness. He was to cause pain by his death. Mary's heart was broken by sorrow like a sharp sword, by Jesus' death.

So where does all of this lead us? Well the Galatians reading tells us that all of us are children - children of God. We are Children because Jesus shares his life and death and new life with us. We are loved by God as God loved Jesus. 

All of us are also like Jesus in that we are Children of human parents. And yes we all have and do cause our parents, our children, our brothers and sisters, indeed all whom we love, pain. But we are also a cause of joy for them. Our being, our presence, the miracle of our life alone - that surely caused and causes or caused our parents joy. But also our achievements, from walking, to academic, sporting, social, community and work achievements- all of these bring or brought joy, or hope or meaning. Not just to them but to hundreds and hundreds, perhaps even thousands all around us.

Now we are not Jesus. We can't save the world. That is Jesus' job. But while we can't do what Jesus did and does, we can live lives that witness who we are. If as human children we can cause hope and joy not only for our parents us but also for others, then what can we do as God's Children! 

Then what must we do? It's simple - live the truth. You see what makes us children is not what we do but who we are related to. We are parents', children because we were born or adopted that way. We are God's children because God chose to give us a brother named Jesus who shared his life and Father with us. 

If that is true. If it is true what Anna and Simeon say about the baby Jesus. If it is true, as Paul says, that Jesus is our brother and we are God's Children - then this must affect our lives. If it is true anyway - then let's live that way. And yes we will cause God pain- when we do the wrong thing and when the wrong thing is done to us. But we will cause that pain, only because God loves us and cares for us. Cares enough in fact to cause Jesus to be born to loving human parents 2000 years ago.