Dear Friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
On the Replacement Lightbulb Company website in Hove, England, there is actually a tab dedicated to favorite lightbulb jokes and puns. Apparently Lutheran pastors aren’t the only ones needing comic material. Consider these examples. What did one light bulb say to the other? You’re delightful! Or How many actors does it take to change a light bulb? Just one. They hate to share the spotlight. Or What did the baby light bulb say to the mommy light bulb? I love you watts and watts. Or How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? None, the bulb must want to change!
Surprisingly, light was the topic with an elderly poet and former parishioner this past week. On one of the coldest days of the winter, I decided to visit a friend who has indirectly been a part of our family longer than Janna and I have lived. As a young journalist in Faribault, Betty Westrom Skold, lived across the street and was a mentor for Janna’s mother. Oddly, no one thought Betty would live beyond her 20’s. She was a sickly child, and as a student at Gustavus Adolphus College, she was diagnosed with TB, tuberculosis and was sent off to live in a sanitarium. Now, at 90 plus years, she has survived and outlived most of her friends and family. She was here 6 years ago for my installation service here on Candlemas. I told her that we celebrate this day at Lake of the Isles every year as a sort of personal anniversary, so I asked her if she had ever written a poem about Simeon- after all, she at least 6 books of inspirational poetry in circulation. Well, at first she said I haven’t written any poems in a long time, and then she remembered a line or two. I quickly looked on the shelf of books in her room and found the poem and read it to her, “Lord, You Are Light.”
The Light of the world, yes, but, Lord, you are my light, too.
You are candlelight, bathing this room with beauty.
You are sunlight, strengthening sunlight.
You are my trouble light when something needs repair,
my night light, comforting your child,
my searchlight, sweeping across darkness.
And one day, Lord, you will be my porch light, welcoming me home.
I know many parents who wish they had such a faith and gift that they could write poetry to inspire their children to believe. Unfortunately, mothers and fathers often doubt their own ability to share and teach the Christian faith. They prefer to leave it the professionals, and yield to the warning, “Do not try this in your own home.”
Now, you may be wondering: But why is teaching the faith so important? This morning’s gospel reading of Jesus’ presentation in the Temple reminds us that there will be more to the journey of life for your child than humorous, delightful and bright days. There will be sorrow and darkness as well- even for God’s most faithful servants. Indeed, no sooner had the righteous, old sage Simeon taken the infant Jesus into his arms and uttered his beautiful blessing, than he offered a prophetic word of truth to the infant Jesus’ mother Mary, “A sword will pierce your own soul too.”
The journey of faith and life you see, is never simply joy and bliss. We must prepare our children for the darkness as well. So this morning, let me offer you a few tips for sharing your faith with your children.
First of all, let your child see your real faith, that Jesus is the Light of the world, and your light, too. Real faith can be messy, and it may not always seem rock solid. There may be times that you feel guilty after losing your temper, and then talking to your child about God’s love, or times when you speak about trusting God alone and yet and being worried about a sick child. Real faith wanders during the day, and may even forget to give thanks to the giver of all good gifts. Don’t feel pressure to have a “perfect faith.” Instead, be real with God in front of your children. If you are worried, don’t pretend that all is well, because that’s what parents are supposed to do. Instead tell them that you are afraid, and then let them see you pray. Better yet, pray with them.
And be sure to apologize to them. How often does it happen that we as parents rush to conclusions, and blame our children for things they have not done. How powerful it is when we can say to them that mothers and fathers can make mistakes, too. Will you forgive me? Humble requests for forgiveness are a powerful statement of your own character, and the power of God’s forgiveness.
Be sure to find a good children’s Bible, or use the one that a doting aunt gave at your child’s baptism, and to read it often to your son or daughter. Children learn truth through stories, and God’s word, told in stories and parables, is the ultimate source of truth. It brings hope and light to the darkness. Show them this word. But remember, it is not simply saying and doing religious things where children learn about faith. Spend time playing Legos, and combing a doll’s hair is important as well. You see, if you don’t have a positive, healthy relationship with your children, your religious teaching may be harder for them to accept.
Remember especially, to talk about Jesus. His name should not be the name never mentioned in your home. Remind your children that you love them you so much, and that Jesus loves them too. It is perhaps one of the two most important lessons we can teach small children. One, that God made everything, and two, that God loves them. Somehow we believe as parents that our love alone should be enough, and so we deny our children God’s strength and grace. Give your little ones a hug, and tell them, how much you love them, and that God love them even more.
Of course, bring them to church. I know how hard it is to have little ones in the pew with you. But there are positive rewards of letting our little ones be squirmy next to us -even if it’s just for a small portion of the service. Children watch you worshiping. It is here that they see that God is holy, and that faith is important. There are no guarantees, unfortunately, but it is the best possible way of knowing our children will grow to know that Jesus is the light of the world, and their light too.
Nurturing faith, like parenting never ends. Indeed, many have discovered the truth of the old saying, that, “The joy of parenthood is what you experience when all the children have gone to bed.” The same may true of their acquisition of faith. The joy and comfort of trusting that your children’s spiritual trust and confident may only be seen later in life.
So what should you teach your children about your faith? Simply said, you should always start with Jesus. Since he came into the world as a child, children understand him and are drawn to his story. Granted they may not appreciate the imagery that he is the light of the world, but there are certain aspects that they can grasp. Perhaps you can begin with Jesus as the candlelight, bathing the world with his creative beauty. You can continue with the words that he is the sunlight that strengthens and warms the earth after the winter cold and darkness. As they grow in years, you can teach them that Jesus is the trouble light that provides the handy illumination for those day when repairs and changes are needed. At all ages, you can teach them that he is the nightlight that gives comfort and assurance that he is near and that all will be well in darkest hours of the soul. At the times they feel lost, lonely and alone, you can teach them that he is the searchlight, who sweeps across the landscape and will not let his lost, loved ones go. And for those who fear the final hour, you may teach them the assurance that he is the porchlight that will welcome them home, and there they will greet all the loved ones they have known.
Inevitably, there will be challenges and hardships in the lives of those we love, and they will not be spared life’s pain. But nurturing their faith now in Jesus and teaching them that he is the light of the world, will have the power to diminish their pain and sadness, and provide them with hope and assurance for a brighter day. And it all begins with this little child Jesus. So do not doubt your ability to share the faith with your children. For having seen and shared the light of Jesus, you too can depart in peace, trusting that all will be well for those you love, and that you will see them again in the house of the Lord- one day- forever. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.