george_hancockstefanIn Luke’s Gospel, the first thirty years of Jesus Christ’s life are tightly condensed. What we call the Christmas story ends with Jesus being circumcised on the eight day and presented to the Lord in the Temple. (Luke 2:21-24) We do not hear about Him again until at the age of 12 He is taken to the Temple to be presented as a man according to the Jewish tradition. (Luke 2:41) We next hear about his appearance at the River Jordan to be baptized by His cousin John. He is about 30 years old. (Luke 3:23)

I was thinking about this in view of the opening of our schools for the 2009-2010 school year and also the beginning of the Sunday school year where most of our children learn about God. I was also thinking about what in our day can be called the public manifestations of our children – those events in the lives of our children where they are presented to the world in the light of their accomplishments.

By working the chronology of Jesus Christ in reverse, we can see that when He is 30 years of age, He is fully convinced about what He must do. Even though His cousin John tries to convince Him that He should not be baptized, Jesus asks John to baptize Him. Since the baptism of John was for sinners and Jesus was the sinless one, the answer given by the majority of the scholars is that in baptism Jesus identifies Himself with all the sinners.

The Nicene and the Chalcedon creeds have carefully chiseled a definition of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ – fully God and fully man. The difficulty for all readers, pastors and theologians is not to decrease one nature in favor of the other.

After baptism and temptation, Jesus begins His ministry in His hometown of Nazareth. Look closely at Luke’s introduction, “He went to Nazareth where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” (Luke 4:16) The last four words are extremely important – AS WAS HIS CUSTOM. Customs are something that we form in our childhood, in our youth; it is something that our parents drill into us until it becomes second nature. That is why in the in the book of Proverbs, the author writes in verse 22:6, “Train (teach) a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” This commitment to training in godliness was given to the people of Israel by God through Moses and is explicitly found in the book of Deuteronomy.

The childhood of Jesus is described in natural ways, much like the childhood of anyone. “And the child grew and became strong: he was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him.” (Luke 2:40) Without taking away from the person of Jesus Christ, being fully human and fully divine, this verse is a reflection of Numbers 6:22-27, “The Lord said to Moses: Tell Aaron and his sons; This is how you are to bless the Israelites: Say to them; The Lord bless you and keep you: the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you his peace. So they will put my name on the Israelites and I will bless them.” Christ enjoyed a childhood like other children, with the blessings of His father.

By focusing on what happened when Jesus Christ was 12 years old, we might miss what happened before. In his meticulous approach, Luke tells us, “Every year, his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.” (Luke 2:41). Mary and Joseph were committed to develop godly character in their son – He regularly went to the synagogue worship service and He went regularly to the annual festivals in Jerusalem.

Many in our society are wondering where our young people are going wrong. The answer has to do with habits, customs and godly behaviors that our children need to learn and they need to see in us as their parents.

I hear two answers given by parents when I ask them why their children are not in the house of God to learn how to become godly people.

The first is that they do not want to impose any type of religion on their children. They want their children to have the liberty to choose what they want to do in their lives. Yet his statement is full of contradictions. The same parents are very careful to ensure that their children receive the best education from kindergarten to college so that they will enjoy a happy life. Moreover, I am invited in situations where the children have gone astray. They have made their own decisions and they have become involved in drugs or alcohol or worse, committed suicide. Then the parents say to me, “Where have we gone wrong?” The simple answer is that the wrong action was a non-action – not building a strong godly character, not showing consistent, transparent, godly character.

The second answer is the parental division – let the mother bring the children to church, while the father stays home either to work some more or to relax. The reality is that the children come to the church until they are teenagers and then they start siding with the father. Slowly, they stop coming – after all, Dad isn’t coming, why should they? The impact is that they are not going to the next stage of expanding their faith into adulthood – religion is seen strictly for the kids, wives and not for the adult males who have better things to do. I attended a Christian wedding in which the father gave the toast. It was one of the best toasts that I have heard. It was a beautiful summary of wisdom given to the son as he was embarking on his married life. Yet, this toast could have been given by any pagan. The mother brought the children faithfully to the church and while the father was a member, he rarely attended. Sadly, his son and his wife follow the example of the father, not of the mother. They rarely, if ever, attend any religious service.

In contrast to the answers mentioned above, I see another group of parents. These parents regard their children as gifts from God and they seek to do everything so that their sons and daughters will grow up to be godly young men and women. Above everything else they want to produce God-pleasing character in their children. They want their children to exemplify certain customs and habits because they have seen God in their parents who regularly, as was their custom, took their children into the House of the Lord where the Word of God was taught and God was worshipped.

Now that the summer is over, do you as a parent get ready to continue your godly custom of bringing your children to Sunday school and Worship Service? Do you give your best to raise your children to be Christ like from their earliest day? If you do so, they will be able to be a blessing to so many people and God will be pleased and honored because your children will seek to imitate Jesus.

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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...