Past Meets Future: A Blessing for Today – Year C, December 30, 2018
Past Meets Future: A Blessing for Today
Intergenerational Worship for the Sunday after Christmas
First Sunday after Christmas, Year C
December 30, 2018
This liturgy has been designed to include and respect all ages within the congregation. We will make some suggestions about groups or individuals you may wish to ask to participate, but you should use your own situation to ensure that all are included.
During the discussion of the passage, it will be important for the worship leader to bring in a photograph of herself or himself as a young child or infant. Also, prepare a few people ahead of time that you will be asking them during worship to share a few sentences about what they thought they would be when they grew up and what they ended up doing. And if you have time to get baby pictures of them as well, that would be great!
If you want to be even more ambitious try to get a number of members of the congregation to bring in pictures of themselves as young people or infants and put them on a board with current pictures or church directory. Make up a sheet of paper with a number that corresponds to the pictures and let people try and guess who is who. You can even give out a prize the next week for whoever does the best job. And the next week put up the answers so everyone can enjoy.
Luke speaks of Jesus’ presentation in the temple. In Luke’s story, his parents bring Jesus to fulfill the Law of Moses. They make the offering of a poor family. In the temple Jesus is greeted by two people of great age, Simeon and Anna, elders who have devoted their lives to worshipping God and praying for the people of Israel. In this chance meeting with a seemingly ordinary and poor child, both of them recognize a fulfillment of their prayers, and evidence of God’s salvation present in their midst. They recognize in Jesus God’s future reign breaking in among them.
The main characters act and interact in interesting ways, blessing and receiving blessings in return. Past and present meet together, and behold in faith a future in God which looks quite different than anything they could have imagined.
The emotions and feelings expressed by this profound intergenerational group are full. The parents exhibit surprise, pride wonder, gratitude, faithfulness and awe. Simeon and Anna, in the midst of being faithful, are filled with peace, insight, vision, relief and good news to offer others who share important concerns. Jesus, while young, is said to experience growth, increasing strength, becoming wiser, and aware of the favor of God on himself.
Liturgy for First Sunday after Christmas
Call to Worship
Leader: When Jesus is born to Mary and Joseph,
People: God is there.
Leader: When Jesus is presented at the temple,
People: God is there.
Leader: When Simeon holds Jesus in his arms,
People: God is there.
Leader: When Anna recognizes Jesus in the temple,
People: God is there.
Leader: This very morning,
People: God is here.
Leader: In the future we cannot see,
People: God is there.
All: Let us worship God!
Prayer of Confession (Unison)
All: Holy God, we know that you have been present to us
throughout all of history, even throughout our own histories.
We know you will be with us in our future.
Yet often we don’t live as if we know that.
You ask no more of us than what we can provide.
Parents: As Jesus’ parents were asked to give within their means at the temple,
you ask us to give of our means. We often fail to do this.
Wise Men: As Simeon recognized in Jesus the salvation of his people,
we recognize in Jesus’ Way our own wholeness and health,
yet we often fail to follow.
Wise Women: As Anna recognized in Jesus the redemption of her people,
we recognize in Jesus God’s saving grace for us,
yet we often fail to rejoice and to share this good news.
All: Forgive us, make us wise and joyful and strong
so that we live in the understanding
of your never ending love. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon
Children: The scriptures promise that God will make all things new.
As God makes the year new, may we also be made new
by God’s love and forgiveness in Jesus. Amen.
Interactive Sermon/Discussion of the Passage
Invite the children of the congregation to come forward. (And anyone young at heart.)
Show the children the picture of you when you were a baby, ask if they know who it is. Show them a picture of one of the people you have prepped in the congregation. Ask the children to guess who it is, then ask the person to raise their hand. Ask that person what they wanted to be when they were a little child. Then ask that person some of the things they have done as a grown up that they never imagined when they were a child. Do this with one or two other adults.
Have some discussion about how it is difficult to guess what someone is going to look like as a grown up when they are a baby, and difficult to guess what they will do in their lifetime.
Lead into the passage:
“Today we are going to listen to a bible passage where Simeon and Anna are able to see who Jesus is going to be as a grown up when he is just a little baby.”
Read the Scripture Passage: Have a teen/young person read the Luke passage.
Points to guide the discussion:
As you move into this discussion, don’t hesitate to let children ask questions and make comments. And also, if they are inserting things that don’t pertain to the topic, feel free to say something like “I would love to talk with you about that later, but for now let’s stick to this story.”
Ask if they have any questions about the passage or parts that they are interested in…spend some time answering their questions and then lead into something like this, obviously modified to suit the worship leader.
Point out how Simeon and Anna both see this baby at the temple. There would likely have been lots of babies at the temple. His parents are bringing their offering, which the bible describes as what you have to bring if you are poor. There is nothing special on the outside about Mary, Joseph, or Jesus. Yet, both Simeon and Anna, these people of faith and wisdom, see the grown up Jesus is going to become when they look at the baby. Time for them becomes fluid; they can see past, present and future all at one time. That doesn’t happen too often for most of us. As parents, we try all the time to imagine what our children will become as they grow up, but they constantly surprise us with changes we couldn’t possibly imagine.
One of the key messages of this passage is that God has hopes and dreams for us, beyond anything we can imagine for ourselves. We often talk about how God has hopes and dreams for us when we are children, but in this passage it is clear that God has plans for all of us. Simeon and Anna were both at the end of their lives, and from the sounds of it, they had done wonderful things in the community all their lives. Yet God still had things for them to do. Jesus’ parents on earth had work to do. They had already done all of the things we talked about during Advent and on Christmas, but now they have a little baby to raise. And although we don’t read much in scripture about that part of Jesus’s life, they must have done a good job, because all that Simeon and Anna see in that baby comes true in the life of Jesus when he begins his ministry.
Let’s practice using our Simeon/Anna vision. In the coming weeks, when you look at people, whether they are young or old, try to imagine what God has planned for them. Then, find a small quiet place and think about what God may hope and dream for you.
Prayer with the Children: Have the children hold the hand of at least two people and repeat the following prayer with the leader:
Thank you for this chance to be together,
for the vision of Simeon and Anna,
for the baby Jesus,
and for each one of us.
Help us to see people as you see them,
to see that each one of us is special to you
and that you have plans for each of us.
Help us to make time to remember that we are special
and to think about what hopes and dreams you have for us.
Blessing with the Children: At the end of the prayer, gather in a circle while the worship leader blesses the children by placing their hand on each child’s head and saying:
May you always remember that you are special to God.
Then have the children spread out throughout the congregation and pass the blessing on by placing their hands on the head of the person at the end of the pew, saying:
Always remember you are special to God.
Then that person passes the blessing on to their neighbor, etc.
Call to Offering
God, you call us to give as we have received. On this Sunday following Christmas, when our blessings are great, when you have shared your Child with us, help us to share our blessing with those in need.
Offering Prayer (In unison)
God of Vision,
Take these offerings of money
and turn them into vision;
vision of all people fed,
vision of all people safe,
vision of all people housed,
vision of all people educated. Amen.
May the God who comes through the child Jesus bless the child in each of you
Past Meets Future: A Blessing for Today was written by an intergenerational family team: the Rev. Dr. Robert George, retired minister ordained in the Presbyterian Church of the USA and Karen George, retired Christian educator, both now active in the Broad Bay Congregational UCC of Waldoboro, Maine, and Judy Colby-George, carrying on the family tradition as Christian educator at First Parish Church of Freeport, Maine.
and receive the blessings that we return. Amen.