Year C Christmas 1 Luke 2
When Our Children Teach Us
Luke 2:41-52

Some years ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article by Dr. Paul Ruskin on the "Stages of Aging." In the article, Dr. Ruskin described a case study he had presented to his students when teaching a class in medical school. He described the case study patient under his care like this:

"The patient neither speaks nor comprehends the spoken word. Sometimes she babbles incoherently for hours on end. She is disoriented about person, place, and time. She does, however, respond to her name� I have worked with her for the past six months, but she still shows complete disregard for her physical appearance and makes no effort to assist her own care. She must be fed, bathed, and clothed by others.

"Because she has no teeth, her food must be pureed. Her shirt is usually soiled from almost incessant drooling. She does not walk. Her sleep pattern is erratic. Often she wakes in the middle of the night and her screaming awakens others. Most of the time she is friendly and happy, but several times a day she gets quite agitated without apparent cause. Then she wails until someone comes to comfort her."

After presenting the class with this challenging case, Dr. Ruskin then asked his students if any of them would like to volunteer to take care of this person. No one volunteered. Then Dr. Ruskin said, "I'm surprised that none of you offered to help, because actually she is my favorite patient. I get immense pleasure from taking care of her and I am learning so much from her. She has taught me a depth of gratitude I never knew before. She has taught me the spirit of unwavering trust. And she has taught me the power of unconditional love." Then Dr. Ruskin said, "Let me show you her picture." He pulled out the picture and passed it around. It was the photo of his six-month-old baby daughter.

Now, I like that story for several reasons. For one thing, it shows us the importance of perspective. And it shows us how essential it is to have all the facts before we make a decision. It reminds us too, that our children have so much to teach us if we will tune in and pay attention. But also, it reminds me of this dramatic scene in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus lingers behind as a 12-year-old boy and gets separated from His family for three days. Eventually they find Him in the Temple discussing theology with the rabbis.

Now, we can imagine that as Jesus was growing up, His parents taught Him many good lessons about life and faith� but imagine, too, the powerful lessons they must have learned from Him. Our children have so much to teach us. With that in mind, let's think together for a few moments about the great lessons our children are teaching us. There are many of course. Let me mention three of them:

  1. First, our children can teach us gratitude.
  2. Second, they teach us love.
  3. And third, children can teach us faith.

Back to School
Luke 2:41-52

A number of years ago, Time carried a cover story entitled "Who's in Charge?" The magazine answered its own question with these words: "The nation calls for leadership, and there is no one home." How can the church assert leadership in the world today?

In many churches the Sunday after Christmas is also "Student Recognition Sunday" - the reason being that on this Sunday there is probably a pretty good chance that those kids who grew up in the congregation and have gone off to college are in town for the weekend. One of the church's big problems these days is that it continues to see "students" as a unique subgroup within the congregation - they go away to learn at school and return (possibly) to the church for worship.

But to be really accurate, Student Recognition Sunday should be on Pentecost. For on the day it was born, the church committed itself to being a life long learning partnership in faith. Sometime before next Sunday, with Christmas break over, nearly all of the public school and college students will return to their classrooms. But lifetime learning takes no holidays - can the church continue to be "in session" throughout the rapid approach of the twenty-first century?

Peter M. Senge ("The Leader's New Work: Building Learning Organizations, " Sloan Management Review [Fall 1990] 7-15) has suggested a whole new design for American corporations and management systems. He calls this model a "learning organization" - and it emphasizes the need for life-long learning to be a major goal of all institutions. All effective organizations must be education oriented. Only by providing an environment conducive to fostering creative energies and open communication about every facet of an organization's life can these institutions hope to survive the lightening-quick changes characteristic of the twenty-first century.

Although Senge doesn't turn his attention on the Church, it is certainly one of the institutions that needs desperately to hear his message... presents Leonard Sweet