1st Sunday of Christmas, December 27, 2015; Year C
1 Samuel 2.18-20, 26; Psalm 148; Colossians 3.12-17; Luke 2.41-52
Pastor Renee Splichal Larson
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
I’m sure we are all familiar enough with that feeling … the feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know you lost something or someone important … that pit you get when you search and search and can’t find something or someone you hold dear.
It’s an awful feeling. It’s the feeling Mary and Joseph have when they go a day’s journey out of Jerusalem and realize their 12-year-old son, Jesus, is missing. You might think, how could they forget Jesus?! He is not only their son, but the Son of God, for crying out loud!
What is important to know is that whole extended families traveled together to Jerusalem to worship in the temple. There could be 50 people or more traveling together. I can see where Mary and Joseph might have thought they saw Jesus among all the cousins, playing swords with sticks they had picked up off the ground.
By the eve of day one, they realize Jesus is not among the cousins or the aunts and uncles or the grandparents. He is missing. They rush back to Jerusalem and search the city for three whole days. I imagine they went door to door asking if anyone had seen their son.
Exhausted and filled with worry they finally go back to the temple and there they see him at the foot of the teachers, listening and asking questions.
The knot in their stomach unwinds and they breathe a sigh of relief. Then hurt and anger well up in them, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety?”
It is so amazing to think that Jesus, the Son of God, had parents and they occasionally got angry and frustrated with him. Today we get a glimpse into the realness and everydayness of the familial life of Jesus growing up.
Mary calls him, “Child,” and expresses her great worry as any parent would when she fears the worst.
We don’t get to see Mary, Joseph, and Jesus like we see them today very often. This is the only reading in all four Gospels that we hear anything about Jesus’ childhood. Most Gospels go from birth to Jesus getting baptized as an adult, or we simply meet him at the waters of the Jordan River into which he is plunged into his ministry that leads him to the cross and the empty tomb.
This is such an interesting text to have just 3 days after celebrating Christmas. Sure, it is still the Christmas season and will be for 10 more days. But it is strange to just read about Jesus, the baby in the manger, and now see him today, 12 years old in the temple.
A good question to ask is: What happened in between?
From the Gospel of Luke we know that eight days after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph take him to the temple in Jerusalem as was custom. While there, they come across two people: Simeon and Anna.
Both were quite old in age and had been waiting for most of their lives for this baby Jesus, whom they knew would redeem the whole world and all the people in it. They rejoice and sing over and about him, they proclaim God’s salvation in and through Jesus to all who will listen.
In fact, Simeon had been waiting so long to see Jesus and having finally witnessed his birth into the world he tells God that he is ready to die happy right then and there.
From the Gospel of Matthew we learn that King Herod wished Jesus dead upon hearing from the wise men of the prophecy that Jesus would be king of the Jews. He didn’t want any threats to his rule so he ordered what is called the “Slaughter of the innocents.” His men killed all of the children under the age of two in and around Bethlehem hoping that Jesus might be numbered among them.
But Joseph was warned by an angel in a dream to flee, so Mary, Joseph, and Jesus fled to Egypt and became refugees. After King Herod died, they returned and made their home in Nazareth.
Then that’s it. That’s all we know that happened in between the night of Jesus’ birth and how we find him today: 12 years old and in the temple.
The sad part is this is the youngest we will see him from here on out. Scripture skips ahead to his baptism and years of ministry. We get to know nothing of his skinned knees, or anything of his teenage years, how he made his parents’ hair grow grey when he came home late at night.
The Scripture we have heard today tells us that Jesus had a childhood, that his parents were frustrated with him occasionally, that he didn’t always listen to them.
I have heard of a fictional book called, “Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.” I haven’t read it, but friends of mine have. Apparently the story is told from Jesus’ childhood friend, named Biff. The author attempts to wonder about and fill in all the gaps of Jesus’ childhood that we never hear in Scripture. It’s meant to be funny, but there is also a longing to know a little bit more about the 7 year old Jesus, and the 12 year old Jesus, and the 18 year old, and the 25 year old Jesus.
Luke simply tells us that Jesus grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him (2.40). And we know from our reading today that Jesus is extraordinary, even surprising Mary and Joseph and all the teachers in the temple, with his questions and wisdom.
Perhaps the good news for us this first Sunday of Christmas is Jesus answer to Mary’s question of why he brought so much angst upon them: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” he says to her.
What has always fascinated me about Jesus’ answer is that he is really saying, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business or my Father’s affairs,” meaning, “I need to be about bringing salvation to all of the world.”
I’m sure he doesn’t mean to about give Mary and Joseph a heart attack; it’s just that his purpose on earth is way more important than anything else. Jesus knows and understands, even from the young age of 12, that his life is to be given up for the sake of all people.
If we fast forward a bit to the cross when people taunt Jesus and tell him to come down from it, I can just imagine him communicating to all of us through his refusal to save himself: “Didn’t you know I must be about my Father’s business of salvation?”
Because of Jesus, we know of God’s intimate work in the world to save and redeem all things, including you and me. This is what we continue to celebrate at Christmas, so Merry Christmas everyone.