Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
Pastor Marc's sermon on the First Sunday of Christmas (December 27, 2015) on Luke 2:41-52. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below.
Did anyone wake up to find birds under their Christmas tree this morning? I’m thinking of specifically three French Hens, two Turtle Doves, and possibly a partridge and a pear tree? Now, I can’t speak for you but I woke up to a tree empty of birds under it. And I’m glad because, well, I’m not sure how make birds into Christmas presents safely. We all know that Christmas came two days ago. The time for presents is over. Now is the time to return the gifts we didn’t want, take down the Christmas tree, and prepare for a new year that’s about to come. Once Christmas Day is over, we’re already moving on.
But, in the church at least, Christmas is not a one day event. We don’t create two special worship services and decorate the sanctuary for just one day. Christmas is always 12 days long - just like the song. The season is more than just lords a leaping, pipers piping, and some drawn out golden rings. I like to imagine that the early church, as it crafted a calendar for the year, realized that the story of God entering the world is just too much for one day. This story is too big, too wild, too amazing for one day to hold it all in. So the early church settled on 12 days; 12 days to talk about Jesus entering the world; 12 days to talk about what God is up to in the world now; 12 days to celebrate this Jesus, this God-with-us, who actually is one of us.
And that’s why today’s worship helps. We’re not just reading one part of the story. We’re reading 4. And we didn’t just read about the beginning, about Mary in the manger and Jesus wrapped in cloth. We went from Jesus’ beginning, through his birth, his early visitors, and into the only story of his childhood offered by any of the gospel writers. This story from Luke chapter 2 is the only story we hear from the time Jesus is eight days old until his baptism by John. Thirty years of Jesus’ life is just not there. We don’t know if he went to school, who he worked for, or who won the arguments he had with his mom when he wanted to stay up past his bedtime. We don’t know who his friends were, if Jesus ever had a first kiss, or if Jesus ever had his heartbroken when he was 22. All we have is this story when Jesus was 12.
Mary, Joseph, and the entire gang are taking their annual trip from Galilee to experience Passover in God’s holy city. They packed heir bags, loaded their donkeys, and joined the countless others leaving their homes to head on holiday. Friends, distant family members, and others hit the road, only to be joined by more and more pilgrims heading to the Temple. This mass of humanity, filled with people from all around Syria, Galilee, the Mediterranean and beyond - descend on Jerusalem, swelling it’s size. The place is just packed. But, once the festival is over, a reverse migration happens as everyone returned to their far away homes. So, with the festival over, Joseph, Mary, and the rest of Jesus’ family readies themselves to leave. They pack their belongings, find their donkeys, and join a caravan leaving the city. But, at some point, Jesus sneaks off. He stays behind and Joseph and Mary lose track of him. At first, they’re not worried. They assumed Jesus is somewhere in the caravan, hanging out with his cousins and family friends. But he wasn’t. He was back at the Temple. He was hanging out with the religious teachers and citizens of Jerusalem who gathered to worship, teach, and debate after the visitors left. Panicky, Mary and Joseph return to search for him and after three days, they find him. And once they find Jesus, they do what any parent would do, they shout, “where have you been?”
And Jesus answers: “in my Father’s house.” With those words, Mary and Joseph collect their son, and head to their home in Galilee where Jesus grows up. That’s how the only story about Jesus’ childhood and young adulthood ends - with Jesus heading home to grow into the person he’s going to be.
Now, C. isn’t 8 days old. He isn’t 30 years old either. And I’ve already heard more stories about C.’s childhood than I’ve heard about Jesus’s. He’s given his mom, his dad, his big brother, and all who love him more stories to share than we could possibly count. And that’s what kids do. They create stories. Today, we’re going to help C. create a new story. With a little water, a little oil, some words, and a promise - we’re going to welcome C. as he joins Christ’s body in the world. Everyone here will promise to love and support C. to walk with his brother and his parents, and to do our part welcoming this new brother of faith. Jesus promises to be with C. not because Connor can do anything to earn God’s love. But God makes this promise because, though Jesus, this is just who God is. This is a story that C.won’t remember but it’s a story that we’ll tell and live out. And this is a story that C. will continue to live into - because he’s now on a journey that we’re all on, just like that 12 year old Jesus. We’re learning how to grow up with God.
It’s hard to imagine that Jesus - the Son of God who is God - would need to grow up. It sounds funny to say that. God is God. What would God need to grow into? Why would God need to grow? How could that possibly happen?
Well, I think one thing God would need to grow into is just what it’s like being human. Because it’s impossible to experience humanity without spending the time it takes to be human. Our lives take time. They take days, months, hours, and years. Life is a journey - and this is a journey C.is already on. C.’s already growing. He’s already having experiences. He’s already figuring out what to do, what not to do, and what noises he needs to make for someone to pay attention to him. C. is on the journey of growing into who he is suppose to be. And today, in his baptism, Jesus promises to be with him, latching on to C. so that C. can grow into the person that God imagines him to be. And that’s Christmas. That’s the outcome of the Christmas story. Christmas is bigger than just one birth. It’s bigger than just one night in a stable. Christmas is Jesus showing us how to grow and live in God’s world. Christmas can’t be one day because our stories are bigger than one day. And C. - C.’s story includes a God who will be with him for the long haul, for his entire life, promising to help Connor do what we are all called to do - and that’s grow in faith, in service, and in love.
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