Growing Kids Who Embrace The Christian Faith

Growing Kids Who Embrace The Christian Faith

As Advent goes, we get Jesus in a manger and Mary pondering these things in her heart. And the next thing we know, Christmas is put away for next year and Jesus is thirty years old being baptized in the Jordan. From baby to grown man in a week of biblical texts.

As you’re taking down the tree and lights and looking ahead to a new year, once again consider Jesus. Luke 2:21-52 invites us to slow down and look into the Jewish world of religious ceremony and observance of the law—practices that began to form the young boy Jesus. Luke writes about circumcision, purification, dedication, naming, consecration, and ceremonial festivals. All of these rituals are packed into one text. Jesus grew up in the context of religious practices.

Spiritual formation is essential during the first eighteen years of life if our children are to embrace the Christian faith we hold dear.

Apparently, God intends that families of faith observe certain practices that are formative. In these years, a value system is adopted, a world view internalized, expectations established, respect learned, and self-image formed.  And who children grow up among is just as important. Role models who speak instruction, grace, and blessing into the heart of a child are priceless.

Luke tells us that Jesus is growing up wise, strong, and favored by God and humans. We conclude that the way Mary and Joseph tended to religious obligation had something to do with this. They believed their child belonged to God, thus he was circumcised, given the mark of the covenant people. The center of gravity for the family was the gathering place of the people of God. No place was more important than the temple/synagogue. No people were more important than the worshiping community. No day was more important than Sabbath. No words were more important than Scripture. Here we find them, Mary and Joseph, repeatedly at the synagogue, performing the rituals, keeping the law, offering sacrifice.

And along the way, they receive two gifts. An old man named Simeon takes the child in his arms and speaks prophetically of the saving work of God to be dome through this child. He speaks of Jesus as a light to the Gentiles, not a common thing to be heard in a Jewish synagogue.

And then an old woman named Anna comes along and makes a fuss about the child while praising God for the gift of this baby. The older generation sees in the child the activity of God in the world.

The Role of Formative Christian Faith Rituals

Don’t miss what Luke is preparing us to understand – that out of the historic Jewish faith with its laws, rituals, and ways, comes a Savior of the Gentiles. You can’t get any more Jewish than this text, yet it points us beyond the people who already know God to the people who don’t. Luke is not disrespectful to Jewish ways and customs. He connects Jesus to them in every way. Yet he offers the story and life of this Jesus to the whole world.

The closing story of Jesus with the elders in the temple demonstrates the same tension – in the temple hearing the old stories while preparing himself to live out his Father’s mission.

Parents need to hear this text for the sake of their children. In a busy world, we fail to grasp the power of repeated ritual for the spiritual formation of our children. Too many things for them to do. Too many places to go.

Fred Craddock tells the story of an encounter between a parent and a pastor. The conversation goes like this:

Thirty-something parent to pastor: “Let’s see now, is it next Sunday that my daughter is going to be baptized?”

Pastor: “Yeah, next Sunday.”

“Well, she has dance lessons next Sunday.”

“The baptism is Sunday morning.”

“Well, the dance lessons are at 10:30.”

“On Sunday morning?”

“Yeah. The dance studio has lessons on Sunday morning.”

“Then we have a decision to make, don’t we?”

That’s what we have as parents – decisions to make about religious rituals that are formative. We root them in the old ways to prepare them to be God’s gift to the whole world. We teach them who and whose they are before sending them into adulthood. This is the story of Jesus. It can be our story, too.

And a good way to start 2015, don’t you think?

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