Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sermon -- 1st Sunday after Christmas (December 30, 2012)

LUKE 2:41-52

In the name + of Jesus.

     There has often been a lament that we hear next to nothing about Jesus’ childhood, his teen years, and his early adulthood from the Gospels.  It is not a new complaint.  The eagerness to hear such stories is one of the reasons Christians are curious about the Gnostic Gospels.  In the Gospel of Thomas, for example, we hear of some of the alleged miracles that Jesus performed as a child.  One of those miracles was that Jesus killed another child who had run into him while they were playing.  The early Church recognized that these writings were fraudulent.  While they did not suppress them, they did condemn them.  But that leaves us right where we were.  We have almost no information about Jesus from age 2 until age 30.  The twelve verses we heard in our Gospel are it. 
     St. John tells us that Jesus’ first miracle was the changing of water into wine at the wedding of Cana, so we should not expect any writer to uncover any infant miracles of Jesus.  The amazing thing about Jesus is not that he could do miracles.  (Moses and even Pharaoh’s priests did too.)  The amazing thing about Jesus is that he is God in the flesh.  Therefore, this one account of Jesus gives us much to marvel at and much to ponder on.  Already at twelve years old, Jesus testifies that he is into his Father’s things.
     It was at age 12 that Jesus was first under the obligation of the Law to journey to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover.  Jews from all over the world traveled to Jerusalem to remember God’s mercy and God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt.  There, they rejoiced before God and praised him that, through the blood of an unblemished lamb, the Lord delivered the Israelites from death.  The Israelites ate of the lamb’s body and unleavened bread.  They drank wine from the cup.  They feasted.  Then they departed in peace.
     As they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:43)  As Jesus later explained to his parents, this was no act of rebellion.  Jesus knew what he was doing by staying in Jerusalem and by going to the temple.  He talked with the priests who presided over the sacrifices.  He plied with questions the scribes who had copied the sacred words for the new scrolls.  He studied the rabbis who taught in the synagogues.  What do the Scriptures say concerning the Christ?  How does he fulfill the Passover?  The sacrifices?  The priestly office?  Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms all testify of the Christ.  How will he fulfill these words?  What does the Father promise that his Son will be?  What does the Father say that his Son will do?  The boy Jesus had stayed behind in Jerusalem.  Jesus was into his Father’s things.
     Meanwhile, you can imagine the panic that filled Joseph and Mary when they could not find Jesus in their caravan.  When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him.  After three days they found him in the temple…  And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so?  Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” (Luke 2:45-46,48)  You can just as easily imagine Jesus’ stunned innocence as he replies, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) 
     The phrase Jesus spoke is more literally “It is necessary that I be in the things of my Father.”  Yes, that means the Temple.  But it also means the sacrifices, the Scriptures, the priests, the prophets, the festivals, and the fulfillment.  It was necessary that Jesus would be here.  All things in Israel’s religion pointed to Jesus; and Jesus came to fulfill all these things.  That is still the way it is.  Everything in the Church is still about Jesus—whether Christmas, or hymns, or ceremonies, or architecture.  It all points to Jesus, because that is what reveals the Father’s mercy to us.  Jesus is into his Father’s things so that he can give us the Father’s things. 
     Mary and Joseph were frantically looking for Jesus.  Jesus chastised them.  They should have known where to find him.  He could only be in his Father’s things.  This is also the only place you will find the peace, hope, and security you long for.  Your life is filled with angst and worry and grief.  You continue to trust in things that are not trustworthy.  You lean on things that are not stable.  Your money can’t save you.  Your job gives you no guarantees.  Your friends can fail you.  Your family disappoints you.  You remember the security and peace of the good ol’ days and you wish you could have that back.  But as you get older, you realize more and more that all the traditions, all the customs, and even all the people you had enjoyed and relied upon are taken from you.  They change.  They die.  They are lost.  Everything in life is unstable and unreliable. 
     When Jesus went to the Passover, it was not to try to relive the good ol’ days when God paid attention to his people and acted for their good.  God had come to earth because he was mindful of your plight.  He came to act for your good.  The reason Jesus came was to be into his Father’s things.  It is the Father’s business to have mercy on sinners.  That is why he sent his Son for you. 
     The only peace and hope and security you are ever going to find is in Jesus Christ.  He is into his Father’s things and did his Father’s work.  He delivers peace to you by taking all guilt and torment and death and hell from you.  He is the Lamb slain for you.  His blood covers you.  Death passes over you.  God is merciful.  And Jesus grants you the security you crave.  His forgiveness is no momentary or fragile thing.  His compassion does not change.  Therefore, your salvation is not something that can be swept away by the next disaster.  God’s goodness which was revealed in Jesus long ago is delivered to you here and now through the word and sacraments.  You do not have to long for what was, because God delivers his mercy to you in what is here.
     That is the only place you will find Jesus.  He is in his Father’s house where the word is preached.  He is the sacrifice slain for sinners.  He is the body and the unleavened bread upon which you feast in the joy of forgiveness.  He is the curtain which was torn in half to grant you access to the Holy of Holies.  He is the one who made the good ol’ days good, granting you those blessings brought peace and security.  He is the one who makes your future eternally peaceful and secure.  And he is the one who will bless and sustain you in God’s mercy until you enter your heavenly home.
     St. Luke sums up Jesus’ early years rather succinctly: And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them….  And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:51-52)  Jesus was into his Father’s things.  This sums up Jesus’ life from infancy to when he began his public ministry at age 30.  He did not check in to be your Savior and substitute when he felt like it.  He lived for you from his conception through his crucifixion. 
     Jesus is into his Father’s things.  Where else would you expect him to be found?  Mary and Joseph needed that reminder that Jesus was not just God’s gift to them.  Jesus is the Son of God who has come to be the Savior of the world.  For, God so loved the world that he gave his Son for you.  Jesus devoted himself to his Father’s things, so that he could give the Father’s things to you.  Like Mary, we take all this to heart and ponder it.  That is our marvel.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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