12/30/2018 First Sunday after Christmas The text is Luke 2:41-52.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
It’s hard to believe that another year is almost over and as with all years, 2018 has been full of its ups and downs, twists and turns, unexpected events and traditions held fast. Some things we wish did not happen. Other things we wish would have happened. But, no matter how the year unfolded, it will soon be in the history books as the curtain will be raised on a new day and a new year of challenges and opportunities, hopes and dreams, and the realities of change.
We never know what will come our way so we end one year and begin a new one with traditions – as if these traditions will ward off evil spirits and make the new year bright. For some these traditions involve resolutions and family time. For others, it’s a celebration and First Night events that take center stage. And for many, it’s football, football, food and more football.
Traditions can be great things. They can provide continuity to an often chaotic life. That is true for us and it was definitely true for first century Jews.
In keeping with tradition and custom, but not a specific law – in today’s gospel, Jesus’ entire family is making its annual trip to Jerusalem and the temple during Passover. Unlike our family outings today which only involve those who live under the same roof, and sometimes grandparents, for Jesus, a trip to Jerusalem would involve aunts and uncles, cousins (both close and distant), as well as mom and dad, brothers and sisters, and grandparents. They travel together as one big family group. When they arrive at their destination, as per custom, the family would piously and devoutly go the temple and pray, and maybe offer a blood sacrifice, and perhaps make monetary contribution as well. This was their tradition. This is what they did every year, so this trip when Jesus was 12 is nothing unusual.
It is on the return trip that Jesus separates himself from his family. Without ever consulting with Mary and Joseph or anyone else, he decides to stay behind. On his own initiative and without parental approval, he goes back to the temple and stays. His parents don’t have any idea that he’s not with them for the numbers in caravan are great and Jesus would have been allowed to venture from the side of his parents and walk with other members of the clan.
When they suddenly realize that their son is not with his cousins or aunts or uncles, or among the animals or the tents, anxiety begins to arise, and parental panic overcomes Joseph and Mary. Although they frantically search for him, they cannot find him. So, they return to Jerusalem…only to find their errant child sitting in temple – listening to the rabbis and sharing his questions and thoughts along the way.
While they react to Jesus and his knowledge with awe, Mary reacts to finding Jesus in the way that any parent would. With a mixture of tears of relief and anger over disapproval in her voice, she questions and chastises him…calling him a little child, a child dependent upon on her and Joseph for survival. But, Jesus’ response to his mother is not that of a young child, but of a young man who knows his place. With an authoritative voice of his own, Jesus explains that his place is with his heavenly Father, not with his earthly parents.
With these words, a new day has dawned. The lines of misunderstanding are drawn, and earth-bound family bonds are broken. In their search, Mary and Joseph may have physically reunited the family, but they will remain separated from their son. For, the words of angels and shepherds, spoken at the time of conception and birth, have fallen by the wayside as Mary and Joseph fail to understand that Jesus must be obedient to a higher authority than theirs…the authority of God, his true and everlasting Father.
Mary and Joseph must now “let go,” whether they want to or not, whether they are ready to or not. Yes, Jesus will return home with them, but Mary and Joseph must let go for their son came into the world not to please them and to do their will, but he was born to be obedient to the will of his Father and to answer his calling as the Son of the Most High. With Mary and Joseph’s help and guidance, Jesus will continue to grow in faith and knowledge, and at the right time, he will take on his appointed role as Savior of the world.
But for now…all Mary and Joseph can do is let go and let God be his guide. They have done a great job in raising Jesus and Jesus will return home with them, but Mary and Joseph are now experiencing perhaps the greatest challenge parents face – knowing when to let go of a child so that wings can be spread and an independent life emerge.
Mary and Joseph have no choice. Jesus knows his place and he will not be a carpenter forever. The Bethlehem babe has grown in accordance to the will God and at the age of 12 is showing signs of who he will be.
A new day has dawned for Mary and Joseph and a new day has dawned for a sin sick world. The Savior of the world has come. And at the right time, through him and a cross and grave, there will be the dawning of new age where death is swallowed up in victory.
At this dawn of a new year, may we rejoice in the gift that God has given us in Jesus. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.