Focus on the Children
30 December 2018 – First Sunday after Christmas
Our readings for this day go beyond children merely being present in the worship life of the people of God to children being active participants. Samuel wears vestments and has a specific liturgical role at the shrine in Shiloh. Jesus is actively engaged in the theological discussions of the teachers in the temple precincts. Thus the adults in the narratives take these children seriously. Samuel’s service to God is real worship.
. . . Worship is the serious business of offering to the Holy Trinity right thanks and praise. But it is also the delight of being welcomed into the presence of a God who desires to relate to us as beloved children. All of us who are baptized into Christ Jesus can say with our Lord that we must be in our Father’s house, especially our children. –– Ben Sharpe
Apart from the dedication of Jesus and the flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:13–15) this is the only other canonical reference to Jesus as a child. (Given the recent interesting noncanonical texts, this Sunday might be a time to reference The Gospel of Thomas or other works with the tales of Jesus’ childhood. This would provide a teaching moment about the wisdom of the church in creating the canon.)
Joining the masses in the annual Passover pilgrimage, Joseph and Mary use “the whole village to raise a child.” No doubt Jesus and his friends are off to their own adventures; so much so that his parents do not miss him until into the first day of the return home. Finally finding him in the temple, he receives appropriate chastisement. Jesus responds with awareness of his unique relationship to God. Even so, he obediently returns with them to Nazareth, to grow and mature until the time of beginning ministry after his baptism.
Though his uniqueness has been recognized by angels, Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah, Simeon, and Anna, Jesus now claims his special mission himself through the experience with the elders in the temple. –– Sara Webb Phillips
1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26
This passage recounts the tradition that Samuel’s mother Hannah had of making a little robe for her son to wear under his ephod, a garment worn by the priests. She brought it to him when she and her husband, Elkanah, offered their annual sacrifice. The priest’s blessing for more children (because they had given young Samuel born in their old age, for the LORD’s service) was heard; Hannah gave birth to five more children! –– Sara Webb Phillips
Referring to the Christian community, the writer reminds them that they have been saved for heavenly purposes (vv 1–4). The challenge is given to offer one’s total effort in godly living. Perhaps connected to the garment Hannah provided Samuel, this text speaks of putting on the
garments Christ has given, so that the world may see “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” and concern for others; forgiveness, tolerance, love and the peace of Christ are to govern all actions. Lastly, be thankful for the salvation that has come through God in Christ. –– Sara Webb Phillips
Paul E. Koptak is professor of communication and biblical interpretation at North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.
Homily Service 40, no. 1 (2006): 41-51.