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Walther on Epiphany 1 – Luke 2:41-52

by pastorjuhl ~ January 6th, 2011

C.F.W. Walther takes the opportunity to preach more or less a topical sermon on how the Holy Family is an instructive example for Christian parents and children. Here are selected quotes from his sermon in the “Evangeliumpostille”.
Granted that parents have done everything for their children they were able to during their school age, their parental responsibility in no way ceases even afterwards. But what usually happens? Parents almost begrudge their children even the last weeks for that important day in their lives, when they before many witnesses confess their faith, publicly renew their baptismal vow, and swear eternal faithfulness to the Triune God; or, if they allow this to happen, they immediately afterwards mercilessly drive their children out into the world; they do not ask whether their children’s souls are in danger or not, just so they find a place where their children can earn more money….

Yes, they say, we have had enough worries until we brought our children through school. Now they have to get along as best they can. When we were young, we had to go out into the world. Those who are so indifferent show that when they went into the world they were overcome by its corruption. They have no concern for their own souls; hence, they are little concerned about their children’s soul-needs. Instead of lighting the way by their pious example, by their zeal and earnestness in Christianity, they seduce them by their evil example, by their lukewarm sluggish Christianity to be as ungodly as they are. If you would think of what you do, if you should hear the woe which God pronounces upon such unscrupulous parents, you would shudder….

Father, bear in mind, God has placed your child in your arms. Mother, bear in mind, God has given you your infant into your bosom. God will again demand his child from you. Woe to you, if you must then become silent at the question: Where are my children? Think of Eli upon whom God’s frightful judgment fell because he had not reared his sons in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Not once had he turned a stern eye upon their pranks.

Do not say: My child will no longer obey me! Perhaps you allowed the child to grow up without the rod of correction. Even now you are reaping the bitter fruits of your blindness. Hurry to retrieve, if possible, what you earlier neglected.

If you have chastised your children in their youth, you should not suppose that your children have not outgrown your discipline. You must continue to use your parental authority which God has given you and even now make your children obedient; do not cloak and excuse their sins but earnestly punish them; do not slacken with admonition and warning; let even your tears speak that, if God wills, the hard hearts of your children may still be softened. But above all, you should cry to God day and night, that he would stir the hearts of your lost sons and daughters and convert them. Yes, if they absolutely despise your parental admonition, you should show that you love Christ more than your children, withdraw your parental blessing, and no longer recognize them as your children.

But you, my dear parents, who carry your children day and night upon your hearts, and still see no results, do not despair; God sees your secret tears. God hears your sighs; he notices the inner yearning of your heart. Only wait for his help. Your grief and toil is not lost. God will either draw your godless children to himself, as once he drew Augustine who had fallen deep into the service of sin. His faithful godly mother, Monica, had prayed and wept for him more than twenty long years. Ambrose said to her, “It is impossible for a child of these tears to be lost,” — or if your children absolutely are not to be saved, your anxiety and prayers for them will still not be lost, but the blessing of your parental faithfulness will return a thousandfold upon your head.
Oh, that I could write this word, “And he was subject unto them,” indelibly in your hearts who still have parents! What humility that he to whom all creatures are subject, before whom all angels and men must bow the knee, was subject to his parents! What wonderful, incomprehensible condescension that he who created the firmament let his foster father employ him when he wanted to build a small hut for a poor human being!

But also recognize from this what godless children they must be who do not imitate this example and do not wish to be subject to their loving parents! What will Christ say to you who have despised your parents, thrown their admonitions to the four winds, grieved them daily, and not even once regarded their tears and sighs which you wrung out of them by your disobedience? The Savior will say to you: You disgraceful children; I though that you would be moved to obey your parents, if you would hear that I, your God, Lord, and Savior, was subject to my parents, but see! even my example could not melt your disobedient obstinate heart and move it to childlike obedience. Woe to you forever and ever! Yes, depart from me, your cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Alas, how those who were godless and disobedient children will wish that they could once again become young! They will think: Oh, how gladly we would obey our parents! But it is too late. Therefore in heartfelt repentance and firm faith pray God today that he would forgive your disobedience for the sake of the holy obedient Child Jesus. God will then be gracious to you and help you to become better while there is time. Do not listen to those who would deceive you by saying that obedience is a heavy yoke. That is Satan’s voice. Listen rather to the faithful voice of your father and mother! Their voice is the voice of God; their wrath is God’s wrath; their blessing is God’s blessing; their curse is God’s curse.

Ah, yes, bear in mind all you children what Solomon says, “The eye that mocks his father, and scorns obedience to his mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it” (Proverbs 30:17). And finally, bear in mind, what God himself says in his holy Law, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you. This is the first commandment with promise” (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2-3).

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