TITLE: Jesus' Mom & Dad
SERMON IN A SENTENCE: God calls us to follow the model that Mary and
Joseph established when they faithfully took Jesus to the temple.
SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:41-52
"Now every year (Jesus') parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover."
That tells us something about Joseph and Mary -- something important. Jewish law required men to make these pilgrimages, but there was no requirement for Mary and the kids to go along.
Those of you who have children know that it is one thing when the man of the family goes on a business trip -- and it is a very different thing when the whole family goes along. When Dad goes away by himself, he gets to enjoy lots of peace and quiet -- grown-up time -- a beer with the guys. At home, things are a little more relaxed with Dad's heavy hand absent.
But when you travel with the whole family, there are lots of things to take along -- not just a suitcase and a laptop, but also toys and snacks and a host of other things. Sometimes the car is quiet and everything is peaceful. Then one of the children says, "Hey, keep your hands to yourself!" "I want to play with that! You had your turn!" "I have to go to the bathroom!" "Are we there yet?"
That isn't to say that traveling with the family is bad, but that it is different. It takes energy to shepherd a family through two weeks on the road -- and money -- and patience.
Luke says, "Now every year (Jesus') parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover." That was quite a trip. If you look at a map of Israel, Nazareth is just a few inches from Jerusalem. But those few inches translate into eighty miles each direction. And they had to walk! I suppose that they had a donkey, and Mary could ride partway, but that was no bargain either. When you are walking, riding a donkey looks like
fun -- but it doesn't take many hours on a donkey's back to make walking look good!
A trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem would take three or four days each way -- a solid week on the road and then another week in Jerusalem. No mini-van -- no CDs -- no Gameboys -- no McDonalds -- no Happy Meals – no motels.
But there was fun too. Men would walk together and talk about crops – or livestock -- or the price of wheat. Women would get better acquainted with other women. Children would play together as they walked along the road. And then there was the excitement of visiting the big city – and the splendor of the temple.
So "every year (Jesus') parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover." They went because they loved God. They wanted their children to love God too, so they went as a family. They visited the temple. They made their sacrifices. They paid their homage.
I am confident that God chose Mary and Joseph to be Mom and Dad to Jesus, in part, because they were the kind of people who would make this journey every year. God wanted Jesus to grow up with parents who loved God. Like every child, Jesus had lots to learn -- and God wanted him to learn it from Godly parents.
The truth is that God wants all of us to grow up with Godly parents. God wants all of us to learn our lessons from Moms and Dads who take us to church -- who insure that we get to Sunday school and youth group – who read Bible stories to us in the evening and have prayers with us at bedtime. Some of us were blessed to be raised by parents like that.
It makes a difference! Godly parents -- not the rigid, unbending kind who are sometimes characterized as Godly -- but parents who truly love God -- and who truly love their children -- parents who lead by Godly example -- parents who take the time to teach their children about God's love and their responsibilities to God. Parents like that put a foundation under their children that is rock-solid. Children who grow up in that kind of
home have a quiet strength that stays with them throughout life. They not only know who God is, but they also know who they are -- and that helps them when life gets tough.
There is nothing that you give your children that will help them more than to be a parent who loves God -- and who teaches your children about God -- and who takes your children to church. It isn't easy to earn a child's respect and gratitude, but that is a good way to do it. Love God, and teach your children to love God too! Chances are that they will appreciate that even as teenagers -- and that is the toughest time for children to appreciate their parents. But with every passing year, they will understand even better the gift that you have given them.
So "every year, (Jesus') parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover." Every year!
If you ever wondered how Jesus got to be such a strong man -- a man who could stand up to his toughest critics without flinching -- a man who could march ahead on a tough road without wavering -- a man who would change the world -- if you wondered how Jesus got to be that kind of man, this is at least part of the answer. Because "every year, (Jesus') parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover." Every year! And they took Jesus with them.
Children who grow up steeped in faith -- raised by Godly parents who lead by example -- children like that grow up strong. They grow up steady. They grow up able to absorb lots of shock and keep on going.
Every (person) who ever came into this world was sent into this world by God to do some special task. Every (person) is, as it has been put, a "dream of God". That task need not be a task which is great as the world uses the word great. It may be to care for a child, to make someone else happy, to teach someone's mind, to cure someone's body, to bring sunshine into the lives of others across a counter or in an office, to make a home.
* * * * * * * * * *
As important as your obligation as a doctor, a lawyer or a business leader will be, you are a human being first, and those human connections with spouses, with children, with friends are the most important investments you will ever make. At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend or a
parent. Our success as a society depends not on what happens in the White House
but on what happens inside your house.
-- Barbara Bush,
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A young couple was talking about their theory of child raising. They thought it quite important not to prejudice their children with regard to religion. When their children were grown, they would make their own decisions about religion.
Their host made no comment, but instead simply invited the couple to see his garden. He then led them to a vacant lot next door -- a plot of ground overgrown with weeds. The couple seemed confused, and asked what he was planning to do with his "garden."
He said, "Oh, I don't plan to do anything with it. I am letting it determine what it wants to be."
I am confident that God chose Mary and Joseph to serve as Jesus' parents, because God knew that they would raise Jesus to be strong in the faith. God knew that Mary and Joseph would take Jesus to the temple every year -- that they would take him to the synagogue every week -- that they would teach him the great Bible stories and have prayer with him every day.
Jesus needed parents like that so that he could grow up strong -- so that he could do the work that God had sent him to do -- so that he could face his critics without flinching -- so that he could keep going when the going got tough.
Could God have done it without Mary and Joseph? Sure. But God didn't! Throughout history, God has chosen particular men and women to do a particular work -- in Christian circles we call it a vocation – a calling. Sometimes the calling is huge. For instance, God called Paul to travel the world as the first great Christian missionary.
But more often the calling is modest. I believe that every one of us has a calling of some sort -- a responsibility given by God that will not be accomplished unless we accomplish it. God called Mary and Joseph to be Mom and Dad to the boy Jesus, and they did a great job. For one thing, "Every year, they "went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover."
Every year, they took Jesus to the temple. Every week, they took him to the synagogue. Every day, they had prayer with him.
And that had its effect. Jesus was strong. His life changed the world. That was, in part, because he was the Son of God. It was also, in part, because he was the son of Mary and Joseph -- because Mary and Joseph did what God called them to do -- raised Jesus to be strong in the faith.
I know that there are people here today who have parents like that -- parents who love God -- parents who love you -- parents who helped you to grow up strong and confident. If you have parents like that, thank God for them every day.
But I also know that there are people here today who can only wish that they had parents like that -- people whose parents failed to lead by example -- parents who failed to bring you up in the faith -- parents who failed to help you to develop the inner strength that comes from knowing that you are a child of God -- perhaps even parents who failed to love you.
If that happens to be your situation -- if you are disappointed in your parents -- let me offer this counsel. Your parents are human just as we are all human -- and that means two things.
-- First, it means that they were created in the image of God – intended to be wonderful.
-- But second, it also means that, like all of us, they made both good and bad choices. Try to understand both the good and the bad of their lives, and to love them for what was good -- and to forgive them for what was not.
And then -- and this is especially important -- understand that your life is not limited by what your parents did. Today is, indeed, the first day of the rest of your life. If you wish to have deep faith – quiet confidence -- strength for tomorrow -- start making choices today to help yourself grow in those ways. Make God a full partner in your life and in
your decisions. Live a life of prayer. Read the scriptures. Get to know other Christians. Worship regularly.
Instead of blaming or regretting, take charge of your own life – asking God to help you to become faith-filled and quietly confident. It isn't likely to happen overnight -- although it might -- but, with your faith and God's help, it can happen.
You can start your asking here at the alter.
And then, finally, a word to the parents among us. I don't know all of the things that God has called you to do, but I do know this. God has called you to be the kind of parent that Jesus had -- the kind of parent who lives personally by faith and who helps your children to grow in faith -- the kind of parent who attends church every Sunday and who takes your children with you -- the kind of parent who looks for opportunities to help your child grow in faith.
God might, at some time in the future, call you to some additional kind of ministry. You might someday feel called to the ministry -- or to a mission field. But right now, you have a mission to your own children -- a mission that nobody but you can perform.
Nobody else can be Mom or Dad to your child. Nobody can take your place. Nobody else has the same investiture into your child's life. Do your best to help your child grow in faith. Ask God for help in doing what you are not able to do on your own. You and God together will make a mighty team. And your child will bless you because you did that.
Parents too cans start here at the alter.
"Now every year (Jesus') parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover." Let us, every one, live that kind of faithful life. Amen.