Preface for Pastors and Parents
For the First Sunday after Christmas Day in Year B of the lectionary (or if you happen to be celebrating the Feast of the Presentation) I offer you a children’s sermon on Luke 2:22-40. It’s a beautiful text. The only trouble is that it has four distinct parts, and I worry I can’t give all of them their due.
As I wrote in a Monday Meditation on this passage,
there is the discussion of the law’s required sacrifices for firstborn male babies,
then there is the encounter with Simeon who bursts into song,
followed by Simeon’s “blessing” which really sounds more like a “warning,”
and finally there is the Holy Family’s encounter with the prophet Anna.
That’s a lot.
Normally I would choose just one of these and leave the others behind. But this time around it seems fitting to just tell the story, fleshing it out here and there. After all, this scene is more an event than a lesson or a moral. You can tell me in the comments section or by email what you think about this approach to my children’s sermon on Luke 2:22-40.
(I’ve had Simeon sing his famous song, as countless Christians do East and West, especially in Evening Prayer or Vespers services. But I created a kid-friendly paraphrase in rhyme and slightly wobbly meter. I did not, however, pick a workable hymn tune. One reader suggests “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” Another: “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” A third: “O Christmas Tree.” Send me your ideas and I’ll add them here to benefit parents and pastors who want to sing it to their kiddos.)
A Children’s Sermon on Luke 2:22-40
Good morning kids! I’m so glad to see you here in worship today. Thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon.
Today is the first Sunday after Christmas Day.
In the Church it is actually still Christmas. The birth of Jesus is so wonderful, so amazing, so important, that every year we spend twelve whole days celebrating it.
The Bible tells us only a few stories between the day Jesus was born and when he was all grown up. Today’s story is one of them.
About a month after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph took him up to Jerusalem, to the Temple. They had to travel all the way from Bethlehem. They needed to do a special ceremony for Jesus there.
“But Joseph!” said Mary. “We don’t have the animal we need for the ceremony. Everything we own is back in Nazareth.”
“Don’t worry, Mary,” said Joseph. “The Lord will provide. Plus, I still have a little bit of the money we brought on our trip.”
To the Shop
Just outside the temple there was a shop. the sign said “Animals for Temple ceremonies: Best prices in Jerusalem!”
“Let’s go in here,” Joseph said.
And they did. As they passed through the door, a little tinkling bell rang and the shopkeeper came and stood behind the counter.
“How can I help you?” she asked.
“We need to buy what is needed for the ceremony for a firstborn child,” Joseph said.
“Ah, well, congratulations to you!” said the shopkeeper. “You’ll be wanting a lamb then. Can I show them to you?”
Joseph dug through his coin purse. Then, with a worried look, he glanced at Mary. “I’m afraid we don’t have enough money for a lamb. We’ve been traveling for many weeks, and—“
“Say no more!” said the shopkeeper. “Moses wrote that if one cannot afford a lamb, one may bring two small birds. How do these look?” And she placed a small bird cage with two doves onto the counter.
“Yes please,” said Joseph, handing the shopkeeper some coins. “Thank you very much.”
In the Temple
At nearly that same time, inside the Temple, two old friends were meeting.
One was a very old woman, named Anna. She was eighty four years old. For years she had never left the temple. She spent most of her time praying to God—and sometimes God gave her special messages to give to other people.
The other was a very old man named Simeon. He often came to the temple to pray as well, so he had known Anna a long time.
“Anna! my old friend!” said Simeon, coming to give her a hug.
“Who are you calling ‘old‘?” Anna joked. “It’s so good to see you, Simeon. What brings you to the Temple today?”
“Well, Anna,” said Simeon quietly, “you remember I told you that God revealed a secret to me?”
“Right,” said Anna. “You said God wouldn’t let you die before you saw the Messiah.”
“Yes,” said Simeon. “And this morning I think the Spirit gave me a little push. I think that the Holy Spirit wanted me to come to the Temple today. I think maybe today is the day!”
The Holy Family
Just then, Mary and Joseph came through the big front doors of the temple. Mary had the baby Jesus in her arms. Joseph carried the little cage with the birds.
They stood there, blinking, as their eyes adjusted to the shadows inside after the bright sunlight outside. So, as it happened, Simeon and Anna saw Mary and Joseph before Mary and Joseph saw much of anything.
Thy came right over to the Holy Family. When she realized strangers were approaching, Mary huddled a little closer to Joseph.
“Excuse me, Madame” said Simeon, “I didn’t mean to frighten you. My name is Simeon, and this is my friend Anna. I see that you came with a baby.”
“Yes,” said Mary softly. “My firstborn son. His name is Jesus. Oh—And I’m Mary. And this is Joseph.”
“If you don’t mind,” said Simeon, “May I see his face?”
Mary pulled back the blanket, and Simeon bent closer. He looked and he looked.
Then he stood up and Mary saw his old eyes filled with wonder.
“Yes!” he said softly. “I know! I know who he is!” Then he looked into Mary’s eyes, and said “Do you know who he is?”
“Well of course,” said Mary, pulling a bit farther away. “He’s my son, Jesus.”
“Yes, he’s your son,” said the old man, “but he is so much more! He is the one we’ve all been waiting for. He is the Messiah!”
“I have a blessing for you,” said Simeon. “Decisions will be made because of this little one.”
“Decisions?” asked Mary, wondering at Simeon’s odd words.
“Many who are low will rise up because of him. Some who are high will trip and fall down over this little one.”
And then he looked deep–so deep–into Mary’s eyes. “And you—I must warn you. It will be hard for you with this one. Like a sword in your own soul.”
Then the strange, but gentle old man reached out his hands. “May I?” he asked. “May I hold him?”
Mary paused a moment. But then she put Jesus in Simeon’s arms.
Then as he held Jesus close to his heart Simeon began to sing him a song . It went something like this:
You’ve let me see your saving Son
and now in peace I’ll sleep.
You’ve always planned this Holy one
would guide and feed your sheep.
All will see truth in his light
and we will shine with glory bright.
And Anna was so excited she started telling everyone who came to pray in the Temple about the baby Jesus.
I wonder how Simeon and Anna felt seeing Jesus after waiting so long?
I wonder how Mary felt hearing Simeon say Jesus would make her life hard?
I wonder what you would sing if you got to hold the baby Jesus?
You are, of course, free to use this children’s sermon, or adapt it as you find most useful. But, if you use it, please do one (or more!) of the following.
- You can let me know that you are using it, either in the comments below, or using the contact form above.
- You can put a little notice in your church bulletin that your children’s sermon is adapted from one published on GaryNealHansen.com.
- You can support my work over on Patreon. (Just $1 per month brings my children’s sermons straight to your inbox about two minutes after they go live. And every little bit keeps me going…)