Inner child

Pastoral Messages | December 27, 2018

On Sunday, while I sat on the floor coloring giant Disney posters with my children, I overheard my parents telling John what I was like as a child. There were a few chuckles, stories about the oddball things that would come out of my mouth, and the oft-rehearsed tale of my performance in the preschool Christmas pageant when I decided to have a seat right on the front of the risers instead of sing like the rest of the kids. I guess I was tired. I always did have a mind of my own.

As I sat with my own kids, coloring a mermaid’s hair, I smiled a bit. In some ways, those sentiments still ring true. When I’m done, I’m done – there’s no faking interest or energy level – and I still know how to make people laugh with my witticisms.

One of the things that’s fun about gathering as family or friends this time of year is when we can “tell stories on each other.” Remember the time you… I’ll never forget when you… They can be stories of promise, stories of laughter, stories of triumph.

I’m convinced these are important stories to tell right alongside the birth narratives of Jesus at Christmas. Not because our quirks and particularities need to be canonized; but because remembering is a deeply spiritual practice. In worship we recite creeds and pray the Lord’s prayer. We break bread and remember the night our Lord was last alive. In our homes, we can rehearse other remembrances. Remember that time our flight was delayed but we finally made it home? Remember that time you helped a stranger with her groceries? Remember when you were a kid and you decided to walk home from school, long before class let out?

Whether you’re a child or an adult, it feels good to be known. As a person of faith, we want assurance that we are known by God. The first couple verses of Psalm 139 speak to this knowledge:

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.

And, my personal favorite, verse fourteen:

I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Sunday wasn’t the first time I’ve heard my parents tell those stories from my childhood, and likely, they won’t be the last. But hearing about myself as a kid never gets old. Within these stories is a promise of who God is and what God’s done with me.

What about you? What stories could you tell, or could be told on you?

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Malachi 3:1-4

The Coming Messenger 3 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.[a] 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Hebrews 2:14-18

14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters[a] in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Luke 2:22-40

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple 22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;[a] this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.[b] 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon[c] came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon[d] took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant[e] in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon[f] blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 36 There was also a prophet, Anna[g] the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child[h] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. The Return to Nazareth 39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.