I was recently invited to speak at a local church about Luke’s account of when Mary and Joseph presented the baby Jesus at the temple. (Luke 2:21-40)
Luke’s account begins as an ordinary event that many Jewish families would have gone through. It is something that would have happened to Joseph at the same age, the same as his father and his father before him. Although the visit starts off as an ordinary family event things soon become extraordinary, simply because Jesus was no ordinary Jewish child. The baby that Mary and Joseph were taking to be blessed is God incarnate – the saviour that the Jews have been waiting for. There were two amazing people in the temple who recognised this - Simeon and Anna. First of all, Simeon comes forward. Luke tells us that Simeon was righteous and devout, and the Holy Spirit was on him. God had promised Simeon that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. On that particular day Simeon had been prompted by the Spirit to go to the temple and there he met face to face the one that he had been waiting for. Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God. Then Anna steps forward – Luke tells us that she was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to the young couple Anna gave thanks to God for all that Jesus would go onto do.
Luke finishes this amazing account with the simple line, ‘And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.’ If I could have any prayer for the children and young people within our local schools and communities that would be it. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could say that of every one of our young people - that they were healthy, wise, and they knew God’s grace? The challenge for us as Church and Community is simply what part are we willing to play in helping that to be the case.
There are many ways that we can do this. First and foremost is by committing to pray for the young people regularly – organisations such as Pray for Schools can help you do this. Secondly by showing you care for them – this could be by making them feel welcome in church or by volunteering in schools. And finally speaking truth and hope into their lives. A great way to do this is through leading school worship (for Primary Schools, ‘Open the Book’ is a great organisation to get involved) or even to explore the possibility of chaplaincy. Are we willing to be faithful, as was Simeon and Anna, and to join in raising up each new generation?
Alex Wolvers is Lichfield Diocese’s Schools Mission Enabler which means she is both part of the team of advisers and also encourages our schools and churches to work together especially around chaplaincy and community projects.