When my kids were toddlers, Steve and I presented each of them in a what our faith tradition called a baby dedication. Many bible churches enact baby dedication instead of baby baptism. Baptism is saved for when the child is of age to declare Jesus as their Savior. Baby dedications are rooted in Deuteronomy 6:4-7 and in the fact that Mary and Joseph dedicated Jesus at the Temple.
On a Baby Dedication Sunday we would take our child on stage alongside other parents and their children. The pastor would lead the parents and congregation through a ceremony of commitment to raise our children in God’s Word and in his ways.
The pastor might say something like; “In 1 Samuel 1 Hannah presented her son to the Lord. In Luke 2:22 we read Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to present him before the Lord. In the same way, Jackie and Steve bring Hunter to be presented before the Lord our God and commit to raising Hunter in God’s Word and ways.”
It was a lovely time, a moment when as a parent you felt full of hope and anticipation for your child’s future.
Then I read Luke 2:22-35, once again surprised that Scripture isn’t as sanitized as we’ve made it.
Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord…
At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. Simeon then blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” (Italics mine)
Picture it. Mary’s heart overwhelmed with hope and anticipation at Simeon’s words – for a moment.
Until he starts talking about Israel’s infighting. Division within Israel? Wasn’t the Messiah coming to unite the nation against the oppressor Rome? To establish his kingdom in lieu of theirs?
Until he starts talking about a sword that pierces her soul. That took the wind out of her sails.
Can you imagine my pastor saying, “Jackie, Hunter is going to do great kingdom work. He will stop when a stranger is stranded on the side of the road, he will give his money to the pregnant homeless girl, and he will help build Internet cafes in east Africa. Oh, and Jackie and Steve, he will have some things happen to him that will cause you to feel like you’ve been pierced by a knife in your soul.”
It’s true. But it won’t preach. Not in my world.
That’s why I love reading God’s Word. He feels no need to whitewash or sanitize life. When I was raising my kids, I limited their exposure to certain movies due to violence or sexual content. Like most moms, I wanted to keep their minds pure. Funny thing is if I were consistent, then I’d have to withhold them from the Scriptures, too. In this book, there are stories of murder, rape, incest, cannibalism, mistreatment of the poor, misogyny, war, annihilations of whole cities (including children and animals) and babies being slaughtered. We tend to teach our kids and even our adults the clean version of the Bible. The stories of the flood get boiled down to cute animals coming two by two.
But God. God is not afraid of addressing the real brokenness of this world. “A sword will pierce your very soul, Jackie.” Now that I’m older I can’t live with the whitewash. Life is hard (and yes, it’s beautiful), and I need the Whole. Raw. Picture.– in all its messiness. I need a God that isn’t afraid to tell a woman that motherhood brings pain, a pain so deep it will penetrate your soul like a knife. That’s true. I’ve lived it. And if you’ve mothered, you have, too.
And when I get to the new heavens and new earth, I’m going to invite Mary over for a glass of wine and some challah. I’ve got a lot of questions I want to ask the mother of my Savior.