Uniform 12.20.2015: What Can I Bring?


Exodus 13:13-15; Luke 2:22-32

Our unit title is “What We Bring to God.” Have you ever thought about that? Often, we focus on what God gives to us. The list is both lengthy and weighty: salvation, grace, a Savior who identifies with us, a Scripture text for guidance, the Earth with all its provisions, family, friends, animals, and on and on. But what can I possibly bring to God?

When I think of God’s greatest gifts to me, my family members are near the top. I remember when John and I welcomed our first daughter, Samantha. While she grew in the womb, we were amazed by her movements—even hiccups! And from the moment we saw her chubby cheeks and heard her angry cry, we were in complete awe of her. The magnitude of such a gift—that God would give us the ability to create a brand-new, unique human being and then entrust us to care for her—was overwhelming. It still is.

Jesus’ parents must have marveled over him in the same way—counting his little toes, gazing into his eyes, inhaling his newborn scent. They were in complete awe of him. And they expressed their awe to God. In the Bible, we learn that it was customary for Jews to dedicate their firstborn sons at the temple. The tradition goes back to the Old Testament and reminds parents of how God saved their ancestors in the exodus from Egypt at the cost of the Egyptians’ firstborn sons. Fortunately, God allows the parents in Jesus’ time to sacrifice small animals instead of their children, but the symbolism is there. They bring their babies to the temple and dedicate them to the Lord. On the day of his dedication, little Jesus encountered a faithful old man named Simeon, who blessed him and praised God for him.

Our traditions are quite different now, but some pieces remain. John and I chose to dedicate Samantha—and later her sister Natalie—at our church. One purpose of the ceremony was to stand before God and the faith community, holding our daughters and promising to raise them in the way of Christ as best we could. The other purpose was for our congregation to bless our children, promising to do their part in guiding them as they grow into women of Christ.

We are approaching the long-awaited day of Christmas this week. I’m sure that you, like me, have checked your gift list and ensured that you got something for everyone. You are probably looking forward to seeing delighted faces as they open the surprises you bought.

What gift can we give to God? What would bring delight to God’s face? The best gift of all is ourselves—including our hopes, dreams, fears, and loves. We bring our commitment to God. We bring our faith, sometimes weak and sometimes strong. We bring our questions and doubts. We bring our praise and confidence. We bring our gifts of provisions for those in need. We bring our parents, our siblings, our children. We bring everything we have to give, and we give it over and over again until we truly recognize that it all belonged to God in the first place.


1. If you exchange gifts at Christmas, how did you choose what to get for each person on your list? How do you think they will react to the gifts?
2. In our text from Luke, Mary and Joseph follow the ancient tradition of dedicating the firstborn son in the temple. What do you think this experience meant to them? How did it set the tone for Jesus’ life? What similarities and differences do you find between Jesus’ dedication and dedications of children at your church?
3. Reflect on what God has given to you. What is on your list? What do these gifts mean to you?
4. Why do you think it’s important to recognize God’s gifts and show our gratitude for them?
5. What do you think of the idea of giving gifts to God? What can you bring to God? What can you do to give God your whole self each and every day?

Reference Shelf

Simeon’s prayer also understands God’s work in Jesus to be on behalf of all the world: light for the Gentiles, glory for Israel. Despite “before the face of all peoples,” his prayer is not for evenhanded treatment, since “your people Israel” puts them in a special position that the Gentiles do not have, and since “light for revelation” speaks of access to salvation, and “glory” speaks of the results of salvation. Nevertheless, Simeon’s prayer blesses God for providing salvation for everyone, whereas Zechariah’s thanks God for rescuing Israel from their enemies. Again, Simeon would seem the more perspicacious, especially since Jesus will predict the destruction of the city and the “times of the Gentiles.”

Simeon’s song begins where Mary’s does, with the actions of God for a slave and with praise for God’s salvation. The Magnificat mentions no Gentiles directly, but does describe God scattering the proud, the powerful, and the rich, and helping the lowly and hungry. Mary and Simeon both call themselves God’s slaves, a title Zechariah applies only to David, and both speak directly of what God has done for them: “all generations will call me blessed, for the Holy One has done great things for me” and “my eyes have seen your salvation.”

Richard B. Vinson, Luke, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2008) 70-71.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and book since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She enjoys reading fiction, spending time with her two daughters (ages 10 and 8), and watching television shows on Netflix. Her goal for 2015 is to tackle the bass clef on the piano.


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