What is it about children that give us pause from whatever we are involved in at any time of the day or in whatever situation we are in? When I see a child I get a glimpse of the future, a future that I may or may not be around to see. When our children come into the sanctuary from Sunday school and come up front with a visit with the Rector, or to sing a song for us, my heart is filled with joy and a renewed hope about the future. It renews my faith.
In our reading in Hebrews this morning, Jesus relates to us as family. The three verses that proceed create a background for us. “Since the One who saves and those who are saved have a common origin, Jesus doesn’t hesitate to treat them as family, saying, I’ll tell my good friends, my brothers and sisters, all I know about you; I’ll join them in worship and praise to you. Again, he puts himself in the same family circle when he says; even I live by placing my trust in God. And yet again, I’m here with the children God gave me” Hebrews 2:10-13, Message), or as in our NRSV translation, “Here am I and the children whom God has given me”. (Heb: 2:13, NRSV)
Jesus calls us family, brothers and sisters, and children of God. He took on flesh and blood for our sake in order to destroy the fear of death and to ultimately destroy death itself. As the Apostle Paul says on our behalf: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:55, KJV) The writer of Hebrews, all the apostles of the NT, the prophets and leaders of the First Testament (OT) were looking to the future, a future faith, a future kingdom, a future filled with health, hope, joy, and love. And, it’s about family, brothers, sisters, moms and dads, grandmothers and grandfathers, and oh yes…especially the children.
That’s the context of the story this morning when Joseph, Mary and Jesus enter into the temple to present their child to the Lord. They also brought two turtle doves or two pigeons as a sacrifice as was required by the law of the Hebrew faith. We are told that there was a man named Simeon, a very righteous and devoted man of faith, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him that he would not see death until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple and when the parents brought in Jesus, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God saying; “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”(Luke 2:25-32, NRSV). This amazed Mary and Joseph, and Simeon notices this and then he blesses them too. He addresses Mary about the future. He says, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:33-35)
He looks at this family and this child and Simeon immediately transcends space and time into a future setting. As does the prophet Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She never left the temple, but knew her calling was fasting and praying night and day. To her this space was holy ground, and these two saints, Anna and Simeon were God’s holy people, and they along with Joseph, Mary and Jesus were all part of God’s holy family. Anna also spoke about the child Jesus and the future promises of redemption.
Simeon and Anna were looking into the future with hope, excitement and joy. Their faith was strong. They were touched by the love of God revealed through the child Jesus. They were looking to the future. They were talking about us, you and me and all those that have gone before us since that day. We are not told when and if Anna and Simeon were around the next few years. But, if they were they would see Jesus on the family’s customary trips to Jerusalem every year. I’m sure they met a lot of the same people year after year. They were all part of the same church. Do you know the word church “Ecclesia” is a Greek word that merely means “called out ones”; more specifically called out to do a separate function or a community of people called out to perform certain functions or services.
Jesus has called us out to be part of the Church of Jesus Christ, called to be brothers and sisters in His family. Jesus says of us all here today, you and I are included. “Here am I and the children whom God has given me”. Jesus gives hope to all of us, old and young alike. When we bring our children to be baptized, to be dedicated to the Lord, and to receive the chrism of the Holy Spirit, the blessing of God is upon our children, and it gives hope to our community of faith. It binds us together, old and young and we get a glimpse of the future.
When we bring our children up to the front of the church for a short talk with Father Dave at announcement time, it’s not about what I say, but it’s about the children. It’s about their lives. They give us hope. We look to the future. We are connected to them in spirit and in truth. That’s the beauty of the church of Jesus Christ, “the called out ones to follow Jesus on this journey of faith”. This blessed hope, of Jesus coming into the temple, and we recognize Him in the midst of our church family, just as we recognize Jesus in our children, and we recognize Jesus in each other, and it gives us hope and assurance of the future.
Were connected with Anna, with Simeon because we they looked ahead they were looking at us, the projected church of Christ in the future, the kingdom of God, the City of God, as is talked about in Malachi and Isaiah, all these beautiful promises that point to the Messiah to come, became alive to them. They were awestricken, overwhelmed with joy and hope.
And, that’s how God wants us to live our lives, to be awe-stricken, and to take time to pause. And say, God is in this house, God is in this place. We see it in our children, and we see it in our children’s children. We project ahead to the City of God, the New Jerusalem, the City built on a hill, the heavenly Zion. That’s what we are looking at. We are projecting by faith the City of the living God, and the Lord, our Lord who surrounds us and keeps us, giving us a family identity.
Jesus is here this morning and He is saying, “Here am I and the children whom God has given me”.
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen