The Rev. Betsy Anderson Christmas 2, 2008 Jeremiah 31: 7-14, Ephesians 1: 1-14 Lk 2: 41-52

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1 The Rev. Betsy Anderson Christmas 2, 2008 Jeremiah 31: 7-14, Ephesians 1: 1-14 Lk 2: I have always been intrigued by this Gospel story of Jesus and his parents in the temple. Perhaps it is because it is hard for me to understand Mary and Joseph leaving their first born behind on this important Passover Road Trip to Jerusalem. But I am also intrigued by it because it portrays a very human Jesus, who is neither a baby nor an adult. He is 12 years old in his time, nearly an adult, but not quite there. I well remember when our daughter Neville was about this age, maybe even just a bit younger, and she told us a couple of times that she wanted to be doctor when she grew up in fact, a pediatrician. She loved kids, she used to baby sit as many young girls her age did. I wouldn t say Carl and I treasured this it in our hearts, as Mary did with Jesus, but we were mindful of it all along. There would be some set backs after she told us this linear algebra in high school, and organic chemistry in college (neither of which I could ever understand myself) and the usual social growing up experiences. But it became clearer as she made her way through school and struggled with these things, that she probably was going to become a doctor and then as she entered medical school at the University of Rochester in New York, and residency here at Children s Hospital, it became clear that our little girl who has always loved kids, was becoming able to take on the life and death responsibilities of a real doctor and she knew a lot of things we didn t. It is intriguing that we get this image of Jesus as a twelve year old. Luke tells us that in many ways his experience was typically Jewish for his time; it would include circumcision at 8 days, presentation to God in the temple at 6 weeks, along with his mother s purification, bar mitzvah at 12, and public life at around age 30. This image of Jesus seems very normal yet goodness only knows that 12-year-old boys are very incarnate beings. And it was appropriate that at age 12 he went with his parents to the Passover celebration in Jerusalem and appropriate that he took his own place there as a young man, sitting and conversing himself with the elders. There is no mention of anything miraculous about him in this story no mention of the Virgin Birth. Mary and Joseph acted pretty predictably when they headed home to Nazareth, probably in a caravan with lots of other Passover pilgrims, and realized Jesus wasn t with them. They turned around and went back to the temple and found him. They made their feelings known probably some relief, and certainly some anger: Do you realize what you have put us through? Yet they certainly can t be accused of being what we call today, Helicopter parents, who hover over their children, needing to control them and thus stifling their development. This story is especially intriguing, I think, because we can so relate to it. But this is a very significant moment of transition for everyone. As New Testament scholar Fred Craddock has said, In the temple at Passover, for the first time Jesus claimed for himself his own true identity and special relationship with God it wasn t the angel Gabriel or the heavenly chorus, or his mother Mary, or [relatives] Elizabeth and Zechariah, or the shepherds in the fields, or Simeon and Anna [in the temple when he was presented at 6 weeks], who identified him as God s Son. (Interpretation, Luke, p. 42.) Jesus at age 12, but nevertheless in the eyes of Jewish 1

2 tradition a young adult, responded to his own true relationship with God. One must wonder what Mary and Joseph thought when Mary said to him Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety, and Jesus, sitting in the temple with the rabbis, said, Did you not know that I must be in my Father s house? At this moment, at age 12, he began to personally own his own relationship with his God he was no longer relating through anyone else. And we are also told he was obedient to his parents as the Jewish commandments directed: he left the Temple as they asked and went home with them to Nazareth. There he grew in wisdom and in years and in divine and human favor, until he left to pursue the fullness of his call at age 30. His special relationship with God did not preclude the responsibilities and formation of family life. As parents and as children ourselves, we can well imagine Mary and Joseph wondering what all of this would eventually mean. This second Sunday after Christmas, we can really see how God, in choosing to come and live among us, truly limited himself. 12-year old boys are very incarnate human beings. Here is the God of whom the great prophet Jeremiah speaks in this morning s Old Testament passage God whose own people saw him deliver his promises through great military and political acts that could both scatter them in exile and return them home. I have become a Father to Israel...with weeping they shall come and with consolations I will bring them back as a shepherd keeps a flock. Here is also the God of whom the writer to the Ephesians speaks--the God who in Christ has united the whole creation through faith in him, by the forgiveness of human sin, for the restoration of human brokenness, and through the gift of the Holy Spirit, has revealed to his children on earth an intoxicating glimpse of God s true kingdom. Here is this God in a twelve year boy sitting in the temple, awaiting his call to teach all who can trust him and follow; awaiting a baptismal journey to the cross and to the resurrection of Easter. It shouldn t be lost on us all, given the horror that is going on right now between Israel and the Palestinians in the land of this 12-year-old boy, just now much the world needs this. But Jesus himself first had to accept his own relationship with God--God s work in him couldn t happen any other way. And so it is for you and for me. We too have to grow up spiritually ourselves. We too have to accept our own identity as God s children, and no one else can do this for us: not our parents, not our husbands or wives, not our priests nor any of our Christian heroes. As it was for Jesus, owning this relationship will free our lives and set them on their true course. A good life is not a commodity it is not something we can buy, or earn. Can we, like Jesus, realize our own holiness, and live into it openly and obediently? A good life only comes from living it fully. And for Jesus, this life wasn t always fair, either. There was sorrow and struggle within the soaring joy and power of knowing his heavenly Father, and going where he was called. And so is it for us. This little story today is a gem it invites us to think about whether or not we are living as God invites us. Is God in the center, or is God out on the edge? What does it mean for you and me to really own our own relationship as his children? Who might we become as we do that? And what about our children are we allowing them to grow up spiritually? This Sunday we now leave Christmas and journey into Epiphany, where we will follow Jesus further in his earthly life. Our winter Emmaus groups begin next week; Howard Anderson s bible study will begin in a few weeks; Michael Seiler s bible study continues, 2

3 as does Sunday school for the children there is much going on. How might we all continue to grow up in this new year? Amen. The Lessons Jeremiah 31:7-14 Thus says the LORD: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, "Save, O LORD, your people, the remnant of Israel." See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, "He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock." For the LORD has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again. Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the LORD. 3

4 The Epistle Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe. Matthew 2:13-15,19-23 Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son." When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He will be called a Nazorean." or Luke 2:41-52 Now the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem every year 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 4

5 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. Matthew 2:1-12 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: `And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'" Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. 5

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