Love God for the Gift of Jesus
Lesson and Read: Luke 1.26-32; 2.22, 25-35
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.”
Luke 1.30-31 (NRSV)
Many Sunday church schools involve their students in holiday pageants. These events often include children, dressed in costume, reciting memorized verses that tell the stories of our faith. For those churches, there are two lessons in the Sunday school curriculum that never get taught: Easter Sunday and the Sunday closest to Christmas.
This lesson is the Christmas lesson. The birth story of Jesus is only found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. However, John captured the central theme of The Nativity when he wrote: For God had such love for the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever has faith in him may not come to destruction but have eternal life (John 3.16). The baby Jesus was a gift to the world; a blessing, though not inconvenient and a surprise, though not unexpected. Gabriel told Mary, a young teenage girl who was betrothed but not yet married, that she was pregnant with a baby by the power of the Holy Spirit. She wondered how it could be and, no doubt, she thought about what people would say. But, she also placed her faith in God and soon discovered that Joseph would be a faithful, supportive husband. God blessed Mary and Joseph to be the parents of the little babe destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel (Luke 2.34). Leviticus 12 says 33 days after the birth of a boy, the mother is to present herself before the priest in a service of purification. When Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, they encountered a devout man named Simeon and a prophet named Anna. Both of them were devoted to their faith and had not lost the hope of seeing God’s promise of a deliverer, the messiah. When they saw the baby Jesus, they were not surprised, because they believed and were expecting. They were, however, thankful that God had permitted them to witness the fulfillment of his promise.
Simeon and Anna rejoiced just to see the beginning of what God was about to do. Their gratitude and praise (Luke 2.29-32, 38) were expressions of their love for God. Let us also lift grateful praise as we celebrate the birth of the Savior.
Reverend Steven B. Lawrence