Intro –Two fathers meet. One says, “My son just got his first job after college.” The second asked, “When did he graduate?” “About fifteen years ago.” Some of you may have experienced the same thing. But the point is, we don’t want to produce children who are 15 or 20 or 40 years figuring out God’s plan for their lives, right?
Imagine as a young couple you’re suddenly informed your baby will become leader of the free world. How would you feel? It would be hard not to panic, wouldn’t it? How do I do this? Will I get it right?
Well, that is exactly where Mary and Joseph found themselves. They knew they had a special baby. His birth announcement was astounding! How do you raise the promised Messiah?! God likes us dependent, giving us what we need a day at a time. Mary and Joseph were no exception. Gabriel didn’t stick around past the initial announcement. And now the baby is here. But what next? How do they treat Him? What challenges lie ahead? Are things going according to plan? Have they missed anything?
This passage is about how God, in response to their faithfulness, helped them raise Jesus. And in preparing to write Theophilus, affirming his faith, Luke went to Mary as his source for all this. As he sat with her years later, she took pains to remember the events of Jesus’ early childhood. And in this portion of Luke’s record we see the messianic mission of Christ developing from 3 perspectives. From Mary and Joseph we see how faithful parenting enabled Jesus to discover and fulfill his mission. From Simeon, we see further prophetic enlightenment defining and setting expectations for that mission. And from Anna we have an example of a faithful response to that mission.
Now, some of you might say, “Surely Christ knew His mission. How could that be in question?” And as God, He certainly knew. But remember -- He has emptied Himself of utilizing His powers as God. Thus, as this passage clearly depicts, He went through a normal human growth cycle in which according to 52 Living without the aid of His deity, He, like us, must discover His mission and purpose in life. That put heavy pressure on Mary and Joseph. So, how did they help this unique child find His destiny? In that answer, we will find guidance in helping our own children and grandchildren find their special, one-of-a-kind purpose in life. It won’t be a messianic purpose. But every life is uniquely crafted by God to accomplish something of eternal significance. Our chief job as parents? Help children find that purpose. Heavy, heavy responsibility. So, how did they do it, and how can we do it?
I. Persist in God’s presence
“And 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.” >> Luke 2:22 Mary and Joseph faced the daunting task of raising a unique child who they did not fully understand. But they knew who made that child, and they sought His presence. Fittingly, God confirms the identity and mission of their son when they go to His house. We have the same issue on a smaller scale with our children and grandchildren. They’re not Jesus, but there is a unique but unknown plan of God for that child. Children don’t come with packaged instructions. We have to find them. And help our children find them.
So, Mary and Joseph went to the temple. Now God is everywhere and can be found anywhere. But He has always urged His people to worship, pray, fellowship with Him in a special way at His house. Mary and Joseph “brought him up to Jerusalem.” They went to the temple. They went for ceremonial purposes that could have been accomplished elsewhere, in a synagogue. But they delayed 40 days so they could go to the temple. And guess what? God was waiting for them there with not one but two specially selected servants of His to help further their task. In God’s house, God provided blessings they otherwise never would have had.
God intends all His children to be together, but especially those who are seeking God’s mission for their children. We were never meant to live in isolation. God refreshes thru His Word, through fellowship and through the giftedness of others. This furthers His blessing, His guidance and His will in our lives. No Christian parent should deceive themselves that they are doing all they can for their children without regular in attendance at a God-honoring, Bible-teaching church. It’s where God meets us in a special way and equips us with renewed faith and direction. That’s why God challenges us in Heb 10:24, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Mary and Joseph perfectly model that in this passage.
Squirrels had overrun the 3 churches in one small town. After prayer, the elders of the first church determined the animals were predestined to be there and left them. The second church trapped the rodents and freed them outside of town. But 3 days later, the squirrels were back. The third church was the only one to rid itself of the squirrels. The pastor baptized them, registered them as members. Now they only see them on Christmas and Easter. If that is us – we are only cheating ourselves – and our children by short-circuiting God’s ministry to us through each other. And don’t tell me it’s tough. I was the oldest of eleven children. Dad and Mom were the hardest working people I ever knew. But tho sometimes ready to drop from fatigue, we never missed Sunday morning, Sunday night, youth group, Wednesday night and any other time the doors were open. They understood priorities. Being with God is a matter of how badly we want it. There is no question about how badly we need it! Families serious about their faith worship God together.
II. Perfect God’s Word (be doers)
About 45 years after these events, one of Mary’s children – James, (#2) – wrote these words: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jas 1:22). Those words were partly inspired by the example of his parents. Their rigorous obedience was exemplary, and their kids got it. They not only knew the Word; they were living it.
Five times reference is made to their obedience. So, 22 Lu 2:23, “as it is written in the Law of the Lord.” Lu 2:24, “what is said in the Law of the Lord.” Lu 2:27, “according to the custom of the Law.” Lu 2:39, “And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord.” Think God’s making a point? The Word wasn’t just something to learn; it was something to live. They were doers. No wonder James said you’re just kidding yourself about your Christian life if you are merely and hearer and not a doer. He had great examples.
God said in Lev 12:3, “And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” Luke 2:21 says, “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus.” God said in Lev 12:6, “And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter (40 days for a son), she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering” (Now skip to verse 8) “And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.” Luke 2:24 tells us that Mary and Joseph after the time of purification came “to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” They were doers! They were also poor. Rather than offer a lamb for the sin offering and a dove for the burnt offering, they offered two doves as allowed by the Law. Poor – but also infinitely rich. For while they could not bring a lamb, Mary and Joseph were bringing the lamb. It’s doubtful they fully understood this irony, but think of it – their baby was the very one that all those other lambs had been looking forward to all those years. They were fulfilling the law in a far greater sense than they would have even guessed at the time.
God said in Num 18:15 Everything that opens the womb of all flesh, whether man or beast, which they offer to the LORD, shall be yours. Nevertheless, the firstborn of man you shall redeem, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem. 16 And their redemption price (at a month old you shall redeem them) you shall fix at five shekels in silver.” This regulation recalled the deliverance from Egypt. The final plague called for the death of the firstborn of each family who did not put the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their home. God is saying, From that moment, the firstborn belongs to me for my service. In place of them, I will take the whole of the tribe of Levi, but a price of 5 shekels must be paid for each firstborn to redeem them. It was a reminder of the price of deliverance with a small “d” from Egypt, and it modeled the price of deliverance with a capital “D” which would require the blood of God’s own son. So every firstborn was to be redeemed. And Luke tells us beginning mid-verse 22 Mary and Joseph were obedient to the Word in the smallest detail -- faithfully pointing their son to the Word which was pivotal to Him finding His mission.
Are you serious about helping your child find his mission in life? Then you must be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only. Robert Chapman, an old London pastor was once asked, “Would you not advise young Christians to do something for the Lord.” He replied, “No, I should advise them to do everything for the Lord.” Another pastor headed home on the bus one day, paid his fare, and received too much change. He was tempted to rationalize – “Isn’t it wonderful how God provides during a tight week?” But his conscience reminded him of God’s Word. He told the driver, "Here – you made a mistake and gave me too much change.” The driver said, "That was no mistake. I heard you speak on honesty last night so, I put you to the test." Listen – got kids at home? Then you are being put to the test every hour of every day of the world. Are you perfecting the Word in your life, or just paying lip service? They will know, sometimes before you – and they will do what you do, not what you say. Perfect the Word in your life.
III. Practice Godly Contentment
Mary and Joseph had a raft of unanswered question which kept Mary always watching, meditating, pondering and treasuring in her heart every word spoken Him. But they knew they had a very special child – almost certainly knew He was Messiah. They were willing to pay any price, physical or emotional, to follow God’s Word, but there was no pride in their worship – they were content with who they were. They offered a dove, not a lamb they couldn’t afford. They practiced godly contentment. What a model they are.
They exemplify the truth their son taught later in Matt 6:31-33, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Paul modeled a similar contentment in Philippians 4:11-13, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Our children desperately need this Godly perspective in a world where worth is measured by success and success is measured by material possessions.
Believers are not exempt. We have drunk the cool-aid that says the only way to have a hearing with the world is to be successful by their standards. We buy the Yuppie Christian image – seek to be more cool than the world around us. We’re sucked into the world’s system of ambition, accept the world’s standards of success and think we have something to offer when we are no different from them. You want your children to find God’s mission for their life? They won’t find it in out-trending the world!
I’ve mentioned before William Carey’s concern for his son, Felix. Called to be a missionary, he reneged on his vows when the Queen appointed him ambassador to Burma. Carey begged a friend: Pray for Felix. He has degenerated into an ambassador of the British government when he should be serving the King of kings. Listen, Beloved, if God’s mission for your child is to be an ambassador, by all means encourage them. But provide an environment where the issue isn’t the money or the ambition or the siren call of worldly success – an environment where the only question is – what does the Father want? Practice contentment within His will wherever that leads.
IV. Present to God’s Care
Now, per v. 22 Mary and Joseph “brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.” Did they also pay the 5 sheckel redemption fee required for each firstborn child in remembrance of the deliverance from Egypt which anticipated the ultimate lamb of God who they held in their arms? We are not told! They clearly did one of two things – they either paid the fee, or they presented their son to the Lord’s service. The passage allows either possibility. I suspect they did not pay the fee, but presented Jesus to the Lord. First, there is no mention of the fee being paid, tho there is mention of the sacrificial animals for Mary’s purification. Second, they didn’t have to bring their son to the temple if they were paying the fee. The wording: “to present him to the Lord” suggests He was presented in place of payment. They knew He was a special child which suggests they were giving Him to God for service as He saw fit.
That’s a great model for parents. Most of you know that we do not baptize children because it is never commanded or modeled in the New Testament. But we do dedicate them which is the parents saying, God, we return this gift to you that you have given to us. Our desire is they find your will for their life, not ours. So we dedicate them to you. Children are not placed in our care to live out our ambitions, to complete our dreams or to make up for the deficiencies of our youth. They are with us to find their God-given mission in life. Aim at anything else, and we are aiming way too low as a parent.
In 1991, Wanda Holloway of Houston, Texas, hired her ex-brother-in-law Terry Harper to kill Verna and Amber Heath. Why? Because Verna’s daughter, Amber made the junior high cheering squad, and Wanda’s daughter, Shanna did not. Unfortunately for her, Terry was wired, Wanda was arrested and sentenced to 10 years for attempted murder. As one report put it, “Ever since her own cheerless childhood, she had been trying to snag a pair of pom-poms. She finally convinced herself that in order to get Shanna the coveted position, both Amber and Verna had to die.” Sure, that is an extreme example, but there are parents all over our country doing untold damage to children by pushing their agenda, their plans, their wishes, and their ambitions onto the kids. God forbid we ever do such a thing. God says in Prov 22: 6) “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” That v. could be translated, “Train up a child according to his bent.” It instructs parents to find the unique gifting that God has given to that child and help him go God’s way. Purposeful parents are about helping kids discover God’s plan – whether in sacred or secular roles. It is not their ambition, but the Lord’s ambition that they want to find.
V. Pursue God’s guidance
V. 21: “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” Why did they name Him Jesus? Because God had specifically instructed both Mary (through Gabriel) and Joseph (through a dream) to do so. So, they did! They obeyed God in every area of life, including the naming of the child. Matthew tells us that they went to Egypt at God’s request to protect the boy when Herod sought to kill all children under 2. They were subject to the guidance of God, and so must all faithful parents be.
Conc -- Gene Smith in his wonderful book, Lee and Grant tells how after the Civil War, Confederate General Robert E. Lee became the beloved president of Washington College which was later renamed Washington and Lee in Lexington, VA. You can still find his office there, just as he left it when he died and was buried there in October, 1870. Lee once said, “I much enjoy the charms of civil life and find too late that I have wasted the best years of my existence.” He went on to say that he had made the greatest mistake of his life when he went to West Point.
Beloved, no one wants to raise a child only to have them say as they get to the end of life, maybe even a highly successful life, “I wasted it.” But the only way to avoid that is to help them find the unique role that God has created for them to play – the mission that He intends for them. How can we do that? Present them to God early, live God in front of them and seek him with all your own heart. He will not fail you in this task. God bless you as you mold these young lives. Let’s pray.