Gospel: Luke 2:41-52
41 Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44Assuming that he was in the group of travellers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When 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.’ 49He said to them, ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ 50But they did not understand what he said to them.
51Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour.
I used to wonder how they could miss him for the whole day... but seeing Home Alone: Lost in New York, and having two children who, when they were little, could disappear in a moment, I understand!
Commentators sometimes note how Jesus appears almost from nowhere in Mark’s gospel. Luke (and Matthew) they say, answer the question, “Where did he come from?” This may have been part of their motivation in the introductions to their gospels, but the introductions are not simply romantic, 'human interest' stories. As we have seen, Luke has a clear theological and political agenda.
In this Sunday’s story Jesus is twelve. He is nearing adult life, coming of age. A childhood which was thoroughly and correctly Jewish, is given the divine seal of approval. The Messiah is almost ready to be introduced to public life.
This was a life instigated by God. Jesus was conceived by the will of God, and his birth foretold and announced by angels. His birthplace was unknowingly organised by the Emperor himself. He was taken up to Jerusalem to be circumcised, and was recognised and validated by the prophets of the temple. His family were devout, coming to the Passover festival each year.
By now his story has begun to diverge from that of Samuel, with whom he was compared in the beginning of Luke. This young boy, was not learning from Eli. In contrast, “all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” He was the model son, obedient to his parents, increasing “in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour.” What God had planned had come to fruition.
“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” he told his Mother. He had begun to understand his calling. We are shown a person who could not be better suited to be the Messiah. In chapter three, as John the Baptist begins his ministry during "the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius," Jesus will be ready.
The spirit of this reading, coming immediately after Christmas, is reflected in Jim Strathdee’s hymn I Am the Light of the World.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the magi and shepherds have found their way home
The work of Christmas is begun.
I am the light of the world!
You people come and follow me!
When you follow and love
You'll learn the mystery of what you are meant to do and be.
In the sacrament of Communion, there is often a place in the liturgy where the celebrant says, “Come, now, for all is ready.”
In the celebration of the sacrament of Christmas, God is saying to us, “Come now, for all is ready. Let us begin to live out the Gospel.”
I will say on Sunday morning that it is in the living of the Gospel, that we experience the Christmas stories coming true.
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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