Monday, December 21, 2015

Let the Children Come – 27 December 2015 – First Sunday after Christmas

The readings for this week are liturgically suggestive as we encounter the child Samuel performing priestly functions at Shiloh and the young Jesus in the temple among the teachers. Indeed, the Septuagint uses the root word for liturgy to describe Samuel's ministry. Are there children at work in the liturgies of our churches or is this seen as an exclusively adult occupation?

The presence of children in the liturgy blesses the whole community by reminding us of the joy and pleasure that accompanies being received into the presence of the living God. . . .  All of us who are baptized into Christ Jesus can say with our Lord that we must be in our Father's house, especially our children. – Ben Sharpe

Luke 2:41-52

It can be slightly shocking to think of Jesus not paying heed to his parents, not letting them know where he was going, giving them reason for worry. But in his bond with the synagogue and the community there, we might find a way to consider how we welcome children into our worship.

[I]n a church that sees itself first as the gathered household of God, children are not merely the concern of their parents, but are the responsibility of all the baptized. Especially in churches that baptize small children, congregations have made solemn promises to be involved in their formation as Christian disciples. Parents need to be reminded that they have forfeited the right to shield their baptized children from a word of correction that comes from person sitting beside them in the pew! . . .  Jesus said to receive a child in his name was to receive him (cf. Matthew 18:5).

One still sees this modeled occasionally in small churches in the rural South and in African American churches: infants are passed among the eager hands of relatives and friends during worship. Crying babies are taken out and brought back into the sanctuary when they quiet down. Young children easily move from sitting among their immediate family to sitting with family friends. . . .

This same atmosphere of communal responsibility for children probably accounts for the young Jesus being left behind in Jerusalem. The expectation was that if Jesus was not with his parents, then he must be with friends or family who had also come up from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the Passover. – Ben Sharpe

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26

Several commentators note that the stories told in our readings today of the young Samuel and young Jesus portray a “natural” interaction of home and temple, of family and religious life. While it is easy to either bemoan the separation of church and home so visible today, or to nostalgically yearn for some (imagined) golden age of their unity, we can rightly ask about and explore the ways church and home interact to cultivate holy wisdom in persons of all ages. Where and how is this happening in your community? – Ron Anderson

Colossians 3:12-17

Especially at this harried time of year, this admonition to the Colossians can serve to help us all find our bearings again so that we can “let the peace of Christ rule” in our hearts.

Perhaps connected to the garment Hannah provided Samuel, this text speaks of putting on the garments Christ has given, so that the world may see “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” and concern for others; forgiveness, tolerance, love and the peace of Christ are to govern all actions. Lastly, be thankful for the salvation that has come through God in Christ. – Sara Webb Phillips

E. Byron (Ron) Anderson is the Ernest and Bernice Styberg Professor of Worship and the Director of the Nellie B. Ebersole Program in Music Ministry at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.

Sara Webb Phillips is a United Methodist minister serving North Springs UMC in Sandy Springs, Georgia.

Ben Sharpe is Rector of Christ Church, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Homily Service 40, no. 1 (2006): 73-84.

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