Christmas 1c, December 27, 2015
Luke 2:41-52 with Colossians 3:12-17 in bg
Have 1 or 2 people read the text 2 times – listen – see if you can approach it as one of the characters in the story. Have them share what they noticed, what they heard, where they stopped and wanted to stay – what stood out for them. Listen. Then share following.
It is 2 days post Christmas. That’s right only 2 days. But “now” in today’s Gospel text Jesus is 12 years old. We notice that Jesus’ family are religiously observant Jews. They walk 75 miles each way once a year for the high holy days of Passover. That commitment would be a 10 -12 day commitment.
Following the Passover celebrations we notice that there is a conflict between Jesus and his parents, Mary and Joseph. They are going home. I mean, “It’s time to go home”. But unbeknownst to them, Jesus stays behind. It takes them 3 days to find him. They find him in the temple listening and asking questions, completely oblivious to their angst.
What happens between them then is not at all ‘smooth’. Joseph and Mary are upset, anxious. Can we blame them? What we observe here is a serious conflict between Joseph and Mary’s expectations, and Jesus’ self understanding.
It’s fascinating. From early on Mary had some inkling of who Jesus was and would become, is being called to be. Yet, at the same time Jesus is her son. He is just twelve years old.
Now, as a twelve year old, he speaks to both of them of a higher allegiance to God than to his family. I don’t know what those folks who are always trumpeting ‘family values’ would do with Jesus’ response to his mother. More importantly I am not even sure what we shall do with this response.
Jesus’ response to Mary demands that we ourselves, “Does God sometimes call us (always) to put our allegiance to Jesus first – even before pleasing mom or dad, husband or wife, friends and family? If so, what does that mean for us now?
And, how do we balance the questions of our ultimate allegiance with the 4th commandment – “Honour your father and your mother that your days be long upon the land which the Lord your God has given you?” How can we do both – seek to do God’s will first and foremost, and also honour our father and mother, husband and wife, son or daughter, close friend? What shall we do when there are conflicts between the two?
Then, just as we might begin to wrap our mental muscles around such questions, in only 2 chapters forward we are thrust another twenty years ahead in Jesus’ life. Then he is in his home synagogue. There, during his first public speech, Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah. He stood up to read and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the lord’s favor.”
Is this Jesus’ father’s business – good news for the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, a freeing from that which binds us? Does this have anything to do with Jesus going back to Nazareth as a 12 year old after that blowup with his mom and dad? Was that necessary for him to increase in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor, as Luke tells us?
Finally, but not unimportantly – what does this have to do with us?
Are we with Mary and Joseph, sometimes more than a bit peeved that Jesus doesn’t do what we expect him to do – stay with us, where we can keep an eye on him? Or, somehow keep things the way they were, the ways we were somewhat comfortable with, while letting us do our things with him (this fully human and yet divine one) at our pace and our understanding? Are we like Mary and Joseph, sometimes hearing Jesus but not understanding what he is saying to us?
Lastly, are we willing to be about God, our Father and Mother’s, business? Do we want to be – even if it means practicing things that we do not yet understand, like being faithful, misunderstood, even excluded by some?
Yesterday, a learned woman said to me, “Prayer is not so much about understanding, but it is a practice”. I think she meant that prayer is something to regularly be done. Show up, make yourself available to God, and listen.
Jesus continually strives to be about his father’s business. Because of his faithful obedience we sometimes get a glimpse of him, full of grace and truth. Yes, Jesus continues to be about his father’s business. Sometimes we live out the reality of the clothing he provides for us- exuding compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).
After all, Jesus’ entire life, suffering, death and resurrection continued to be about his father’s, God’s business. As a result we and this world can be brought through death to new life, from despair to hope, from apathy to action.
And so, because Jesus continued to be about his father’s business – whether we understand him as fully human and fully divine or not – we are being given new life. Merry Christmas.
And a blessed New Year attempting to be about our heavenly Father and Mother’s business. Amen.