Scripture: Luke 1:46b-55
Every life is precious to the Lord. This is one of the principal testimonies of The Society of Friends, throughout history. It is seen in our Testimony of Peace, where we believe that even those that oppose our nation are precious to God in some why. It is seen in our testimony of simplicity, because we strive to live our lives so that we can be free to bless those around us. It is seen in our testimony of equality; we see that all people are equal and should have the same opportunities as every other individual. I could go on and on about how important each and every life is. Today is a day to honor the uniqueness and potential of every life that we have an opportunity to encourage.
Today I want to introduce you to a woman by the name of Jessamyn. Jessamyn was a normal little girl who was born on a farm in Indiana. No one fully knew what type of woman she would become, but she was encouraged to use the gifts and passions God gave her. Her family moved from the farm in Indiana to California when she was six and they settled in a rural community call West Home by Yorba Linda. Many of you may recognize that name because it is the same community that brought our nation our 37th president. A Sunday school teacher encouraged her, this teacher she described as a fiery persuasive teacher, and was instrumental in her future. This teacher was her relative as well as the father of Richard Nixon, Frank Nixon. Jessamyn went to Whittier college to study English and while there she helped form a women’s group called the Palmer Society, this society was set up to inspire and encourage female authors and is still very active today on the campus at Whittier. Her studies took here from California to Europe where she became ill with tuberculosis; she was never expected to live. While she was sick she began to write. She wrote about her childhood memories growing up as a Quaker farm girl. One of her books, “The Friendly Persuasion” was later made into a movie. A small girl raised in a rural community, encourages countless female authors even after her death, and wrote about her life and faith. No one ever imagined that this one girl could be so influential, or that she would become one of the most influential voices of Friends for a generation. No one would have ever imagined that from that same community a future president would be reared either. Two lives that made a huge impact in the world during their lives. Both grew up as common children in a common meeting or church, just like each of us.
Every child is special not because of their heritage or economic status but because of the great potential and future they have before them. We all know that Jesus was special and unique, but as we consider this passage today I want us to not look into the future but look at the present state of mind of Mary. She had no idea what the future would hold for this son of hers, all she knew was that he was going to be special. That he was the Messiah the chosen one of God and that she had the unique place in his life to raise Him. But did she really know what that unique place would be?
Mary knew that her son would be special in some way, but just like everyone else in their culture, she did not know how her son would change the world. She knew that Israel was oppressed and that she herself was not seen as that important to the community. Yet God chose her to participate in something amazing. Did her parents’ know that their daughter would be chosen for such an important task? Did her grandparents know that their future grandchild would be the one from which all things would be made new? The short answer is no. As far as any of these people in history would know their children were just common children that would live and work in their community. Yet as history would show they were raising greatness.
When Joseph was taking the child with him to work each day did he know that he would be encouraging the future king of the universe? As they would work together did their conversations and laughter shape the way that Jesus would interact with those he would eventually teach?
Just as Frank taught the people in his Sunday school class he encouraged each to live their faith in everything they did. Mary and Joseph trained the child entrusted to them to be the man that he was to become. We do not know what the future will hold for anyone. We are called to train up our children in the way that they should go. We are called to train them, to encourage them to dream and to follow their dreams. We are called to teach them the basics of life and to let them stretch out their wings to fly. To train does not mean to control or manipulate. To train is to walk with them in life, teaching them how we live and make decisions, and giving them the opportunity to live their own lives.
Mary and Joseph were not equipped to train up a king from a worldly point of view. They knew nothing about the art of persuasion; Joseph was just the equivalent of a modern day handy man. Today he could have been an electrician, plumber, carpenter, or mason. He learned his skills from his father as his father learned from his father, Joseph in turn taught Jesus the skills of his craft. Jesus the plumber king, can you really picture this? I hope that brings us a greater understanding of Mary’s words, “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” Mary and Joseph were of no real status they were common people trying to make ends meet like each one of us here today. They lived in a community that struggled to survive just like ours. They were like us but through their lives they changed the world.
What was special about this family that caught God’s eye? They knew what was important. They knew what was important to God; they knew that it was not great acts of passion but the common everyday generosity that built the community. They knew the lifestyle that God wanted for his people and we know this through the words of this expectant mother. They knew that mercy was greater than pride, they knew that riches were empty when people in their community were hungry, they knew that in the end the only thing that matters is how you love and encourage those around you. Mary knew this, and she knew that the true king of Israel, the true kingdom of God would be based on those things.
Frank Nixon taught those in his class that there they had a responsibility to their community, that God was calling them to serve in their communities to bring about God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. This training that was started in a small California Friends Meeting encouraged a young lady to passionately live her life during a time of great social change in their community. She lived through the depression, the Second World War along with 2 other conflicts, she saw her own cousin rise and fall in power. She saw glimpses of heaven here on earth and those are the things she wrote about. She wrote about the struggle of a testimony of Peace in times of war, she wrote about strong women in a culture that still struggles to give equal status to them, she wrote of faith and the power of faith in our lives.
We never know just how the lives God brings into our community will affect the world around us, but we know that it can be great. God used a family of simple carpenters to bring the Light of God to all people. The light we all celebrate and anticipate in this advent season. He used a farming family in Indian and California to provide a voice of encouragement to a generation of women. And He used a Sunday school teacher to inspire an author and president. God is calling us to greatness, He is calling us to participate in bringing the Kingdom of God to the people of this community and it starts with each life we have right here.
He is not calling us to criticize or to control their lives, but to train them, to encourage them to live the life that He is already inspiring and calling them into. There is greatness all around us; there is potential that we have yet to imagine. We could have in this little meetinghouse a future president, a great artist, or a missionary that will show people here in Kansas City or around the world the awesome and great love of God. We could have in this very room the beginnings of a movement of people that would flood the world with passion for God that has yet been seen on earth. It can all become a reality if we rise up to the task of Loving God, Embracing the Holy Spirit, and Living the Love of Christ with others.
You see that is what made Mary blessed. That is what turned God’s attention to her to become the bearer of God incarnate. It is through that kind of life that God can be with us today and through the ages to come. A life of worship, prayer, and service is what God is calling us to and if we listen and encourage those around us to listen we will see the blessing God desires to give us. It all starts with us choosing to live that life today; to become a people of blessing and of encouragement to each person may happen to cross our path. Each person here is important to God. Each one is loved by God and called by name to join Him in His ministry in their own special way. Each and every one is called and known by the God who came to be born of Mary, to be raised by Joseph, to teach in the fields of Israel, and to die on a tree to set us free from all the bondage and sin we have gotten ourselves into. Every life is important and sacred to God, worthy of our love and encouragement.
I hope that the song Mary sung will become our anthem, that the words she spoke about the future of her son will become the lifestyle we chose to live among a people and culture that opposes it. I pray that we will become a people of blessing, a people that will choose to do good even if it does not make worldly sense, I pray that we will become a people that will love and inspire those around us to such a degree that the for generations to come people will look back on their time with us as being the turning point of their lives. I pray that that lifestyle of blessing and encouragement will start today as we dedicate and commit our lives to the training up of a precious life that God has given to a family that means so much to us all.
Presentation of the Child
DeWayne, Tash, and Jasmine Rose, please come forward for this time of dedication.
Dedication of the Parents
DeWayne & Tash, you come to present yourselves afresh in commitment to parenthood, before us & before God. In appreciation for Jasmine Rose you are presenting her to the Lord.
In dependence on God’s grace, will you endeavor, by example & teaching, to provide her with a home of faith & love:
That she may know throughout her childhood and growth into womanhood the warmth, hope & freedom of the Christian faith;
That she may welcome life’s beauty, learn from its pain, & share in its joys;
That her love for others may deepen with knowledge & insight of every kind;
That she may discover what is the breadth & length & height & depth of the love of God, & of Jesus Christ who has made God’s love known.
That her life may be open to the grace & purpose of God & to the call of Christ Jesus our Lord.
Response: WE WILL.
Blessing of the Parents
DeWayne & Tash, you have been given a gift in Jasmine Rose. With such precious gifts come great responsibility. We see the pressures and difficulties of the path ahead and want to pray a blessing over you as you seek to follow the Lord in raising Jasmine Rose.
(The following prayer may be used, or a spontaneous prayer offered for the parents)
God and Father of us all, we know that you created families. You designed us, both male and female, and have brought together DeWayne & Tash to form a new life.
We ask that you would give DeWayne the grace and wisdom to be a father to Jasmine Rose. Fatherhood is undervalued in our world, but so vital to the development of healthy children. We ask for strength and courage in the years to come, that he would lead his family in your ways. Keep his heart soft towards his wife and his children so that they might always know the love you have placed in him for them.
God you also know a Mother’s heart. You speak of yourself as a Mother seeking to nourish and protect her young. We know that you have made mothers to possess a fierce love for their children.
We ask that you would give Tash the grace and wisdom to be a mother to Jasmine Rose. Motherhood is misunderstood by many, but so important for growing confident children. We ask for perseverance and fortitude as she watches her child encounter a difficult world. Keep her heart close to your own and allow her to trust that you will guide and protect Jasmine Rose so that she can release her to follow the plans you have for her.
God, bring them together as a united force to bless their children and care for them. Give them the tools they need to navigate this new challenge of parenting a baby together. Surround them with your people to love and support them in times of difficulty and struggle. Impress upon their hearts your love for them and their family, and keep their hearts rejoicing in the blessing of being poured out for one another.
God does not place us in the world alone but in a community to support and encourage us. We as DeWayne and Tash’s church family also have a role and responsibility to encourage them as they raise Jasmine to be the woman God wants her to be. Let us all stand together now and dedicate our lives to encouraging this beautiful girl.
Dedication of the Congregation
Pastor: “For God has formed Jasmine Rose in her mother’s womb, so we will praise God for she is fearfully and wonderfully made: Marvelous are His works.”
Congregation: “How precious also are Your thoughts toward Jasmine Rose, O God! How great is the sum of them!”
Pastor: God said, “Before I formed Jasmine Rose in the womb, I knew her.”
Congregation: “Before Jasmine Rose was born God sanctified her.”
Pastor: “For God so loved Jasmine Rose that He gave his only begotten Son, Jesus, for her. And this same Jesus said, ‘I go to prepare a place for Jasmine Rose, and if I go and prepare a place for Jasmine Rose I will come again and receive her to Myself: that where I am, there she may be also.’”
Congregation: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on Jasmine Rose, that she should be called the Daughter of God.”
Pastor: And Jesus said, “Let Jasmine Rose come to Me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
(Based on the following texts: Ps. 139:13-16; Jer. 1:5; John 3:16; John 14:1-3; 1 John 3:1)
Blessing of the Child
Gary Smalley and John Trent in their book, The Blessing, mention five basic parts to the typical Jewish blessing that fathers gave to their children.
1. Meaningful touch: Kissing, hugging or the laying on of hands were all a part of bestowing a blessing.
2. The spoken message: Basically a blessing is a statement of acceptance.
3. Attaching high value or honor on the person: In Hebrew the word bless literally means, “to bow the knee.” This word was used in showing reverence, even awe, to an important person. A blessing given to your children must have this same element.
4. Picturing a special future: Children need something to look forward to; something that will give them hope that good things will come to them in the future.
5. An active commitment: The last element of the blessing pictures the responsibility that goes with giving the blessing. For the patriarchs, not only their words, but God Himself stood behind the blessing they bestowed on their children.
So we lay hands on Jasmine Rose and we say today that you are loved, you are precious. Before you were born, God formed you in your mother’s womb. You are full of potential, with gifts and talents that we will delight in discovering as you grow. You are part of an earthly family, and you are part of our church family. When God calls your name, you will become a part of His forever family. We know that you will fulfill the good plans that God has for your life. We, your parents, your family, and your church family covenant together to surround your life with grace and truth as you grow and discover His great love for you.
Scripture Numbers 6:23-27
23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24 “‘“The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’
27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
As we now enter into this time of Open Worship a time of Holy Expectancy as we wait with and for God to speak to us. Let us remember that period of time where Mary and Joseph, and their community sat in wonder of what and how the son they were to raise and encourage would become the King of Heaven and Earth. Let us remember all those that God has placed in our lives to encourage today, and let us anticipate the future we have with each other if we are willing to live and answer the call that God has been writing in our hearts.