The First Sunday of Christmass (C)
1 Samuel 2:18-20,26
Pastor John Roberts
Is This the Same Jesus?
As 21st century Americans, the Mary and Joseph we
hear about into today’s Gospel don’t seem fit to be parents.
It’s one thing to lose your child in a crowded department store and then,
with the help of authorities, find them.
But losing your child for three days? We’d be calling Child and Family Services!
But things were different 2000 years ago.
We still occasionally have caravans traveling to grandma’s house for the
holidays or to summer vacation sites.
But, 2000 years ago, the safest way to travel from town to town
was to travel by caravan.
Mary, Joseph and Jesus had made the trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem every year at Passover.
And on this trip, there were probably hundreds from their home town with them.
Passing from one town to another, the hundreds became thousands.
And you know how children are. When there are other children to play
with, they would rather spend time with other children than with the adults,
especially with their parents.
If Mary and Joseph hadn’t seen Jesus in three days, they must have assumed he was
just with his playmates.
So, after asking fellow travelers whether they had seen their son
and finding that no one had seen him since Jerusalem, they went back there.
First they probably searched the place they had rented for housing.
Finally, they returned to the temple.
The by-now- frantic parents, when they found Jesus, turned their attention first upon themselves.
“Child, why have you treated us like this?
We have been searching for you and we are beside ourselves with anxiety.”
Isn’t that just what parents do when their child is late for curfew or gone awhile without letting
them know where they are going?
Don’t you know we were worried and upset?
We can almost hear Joseph asking Jesus: “What’s wrong with you son?
You’re not acting like the Jesus we know and love.”
And that’s the main point of today’s Gospel story.
Jesus wasn’t acting like the child he was expected to be.
For over a month now, Luke has given us many stories about Jesus, the child born in Bethlehem.
First, the angel Gabriel told Mary that she was going to give birth to the Messiah, the Son of God.
And Mary listened, and wondered, and finally accepted this news.
Then Mary went to visit Elizabeth where she was told by her elderly
cousin that she was blessed above all other women to be bearing the promised Messiah.
And Mary sang out words of prophecy.
Then, giving birth to the baby in a cattle stall, the Holy Family was visited by shepherds who told them about the
appearance of a skyfull of angels.
And Mary pondered all these things and kept them in her heart.
The next story in Luke is the Gospel for New Year’s Day, or as
we call it in the Church, the Festival of the Holy Name of Jesus.
At eight days old, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and named.
There, the prophetess Anna tells Mary that there will come a day when something will
pierce her heart like a sword because of her son Jesus.
Perhaps those words were put away deep in her memory and, while she must
have pondered and wondered about these words, she’d rather remember all the good things about her baby’s life. Now, here in the Temple again, perhaps those words came drifting back to her.
Was this the beginning of those heart-piercing events?
Was she about to lose her son?
Jesus’ words to his parents must have worried her. “Why have you been searching for me?
Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
The stories of her ancestors must have been twirling around in Mary’s heart and mind.
Perhaps she remembered Hanna who, when she was gifted by God with her first-born son,
gave him up to the priests in Shiloh.
Mary knew that this son of hers was the Son of God.
But now she had to come face to face with what that might mean.
Jesus was no longer a baby.
In fact, from what the scribes and teachers in the Temple told her, Jesus was no longer a child.
Luke tells us that Jesus had been engaging the learned men in the Temple.
He asked them questions that led them to amazement at his understanding and his answers.
But they, his parents, “did not know what he said to them.”
So, the Holy Family left Jerusalem together and went back to Nazareth.
And Jesus was obedient to them and increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
And so, the childhood stories of Jesus end in the Gospel of Luke.
If it weren’t for the Festival of the Epiphany landing on Sunday this year, we would be listening to
Luke’s story of the Baptism of Jesus next week because today’s story is the transition of the life of Jesus
from birth to ministry.
What questions do you and I ask today in light of this Gospel story?
First of all, we should be asking what we are doing to contribute to the “growth in wisdom and in years,
in divine and human favor” of the lives of our own teenagers.
Do we spend time, like the teachers in the Temple,
listening and questioning, advising and nurturing those teenagers in our homes and in our neighborhoods?
How about the teenagers in our congregation?
Are we so afraid that they are “at that age” that they only seem like rebellious
kids that don’t want to hear our stories?
It has been shown that one of the most important influences on a
teenager’s life are the adults who care enough to listen to them.
The stories of our lives, especially those stories of how God
has made a difference in our lives, may not be in the same setting as our adolescents
but teenagers usually find it interesting to hear about others who
have had to work through the same kinds of difficulties and challenges they are experiencing now.
Are we paying enough attention to the young people in our midst to recognize their gifts and talents?
Do we see the 12 year old Jesus in our own midst?
Then, because of what Mary and Joseph experienced in today’s Gospel,
we must ask ourselves whether we are experiencing our ownfaith: as a child or as a mature adult.
It’s so tempting for us to want to see Jesus the way we saw him as a child in Sunday School.
We want to keep Jesus a tender baby in Bethlehem.
And even when his ministry begins, we want to hear about him healing the blind and raising the dead.
We want to hear him say that we are his tender, little sheep and he is the Shepherd
who will not let any of us come to harm.
But, what even his mother was to hear was, “come; take up the Cross and follow me.”
Follow me through temptation and death because,
by now we should know that temptation and death are all around us.
Jesus now depends on us to meet temptation, distress, anger, hurt, disease, and even death
with an adult faith.
So we must ask ourselves, are we serious about our own education in the faith?
Do we want to be in the Temple studying; asking questions; seeking answers;
growing in “wisdom and in years; in divine and human favor?”
We began this day remembering the baby in the manger.
We listened today about a family with a child going into adolescence.
And, as we begin a new year, we wonder what adult situations are ahead of us in 2013?
The angels still tell us, “don’t be afraid; a child has been born for you!”
Jesus tells us, “why do you search in all the wrong places?
Don’t you know you have to look for me in my Father’s house?”
And together, we move into a new year with Immanuel (God-With-Us) at our side.
So, as the new year dawns, let’s make a commitment to be at Immanuel’s side.
Let’s commit to spend time with our children and especially our youth.
Let’s commit to learning this new year.
And, fortified by the promises of God, let’s enter this new year with the confidence
to take up the Cross that is before us and follow Immanuel to resurrection.