Monday, January 04, 2016

Sermon on Luke 2:40-52, for the 2nd Sunday after Christmas, "Our Childhood Pattern"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you, from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Today is the 10th day of Christmas! Counting from Christmas Day till today, it’s still the 10th day that we celebrate and remember Jesus’ birth. And today we also remember Jesus’ childhood, from the only episode of His young life that we have written down—from the time in between His infancy and His adult ministry. Ever since the first few centuries, Christians have been really curious about what happened in those middle years—and even speculated with tall tales about it—but when we accept what the Scripture plainly does tell us, we don’t have to speculate. John 2 tells us that Jesus first miracle was at the wedding in Cana—so we know He wasn’t doing miracles as a child. Luke 3 tells us that Jesus began His public ministry (i.e. teaching) about age 30. And our single story from Jesus’ middle years, you hear today—shows the godly Holy Family, of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, faithfully observing the worship of God, and Jesus as an exceptional learner and student of the Word of God.
In other words, apart from having an unusually gifted ability in learning the Word of God, we should understood that Jesus experienced a relatively ordinary childhood and young adult life. The years between were filled with ordinary growth and an upbringing that centered around the Word of God and the worship He had commanded of His people. As the Gospel of John tells us at the very end—of course there are many other things that Jesus did that are not written down—but those things that have been written down, are written down so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing, we will have life in His Name.
So what do we learn from this episode, of the 12 year old Jesus’ life? The Holy Family took the worship of God seriously. They made the annual 20 mile trip from Nazareth uphill to Jerusalem, for the Passover Feast—the greatest holy day of the year. Technically, only male Jews were required to make the journey for the Feast, and two other feasts a year as well—but Mary freely came also, to worship at the Feast. The rest of the year, their worship life, like all other Jews, was sustained in the weekly worship in a synagogue—where the teachings of Moses were read every Sabbath, as Acts 15:21 tells us. A synagogue was like we would think of a local church—a gathering place for the reading of Scripture, teaching, worship and prayer. Sacrifices were not offered at synagogues—only at the Temple in Jerusalem. So part of what made the three great Old Testament feasts so special, was that you joined with Jews from all over the country in a pilgrimage up to Jerusalem, and Passover was a feast that lasted 7 days. You can imagine the festivity, the joy, the singing, and the reunions with everyone traveling to Jerusalem. Our reading tells us that Jesus’ family journeyed with a whole caravan of relatives and acquaintances. This was how He got “lost”—as His parents assumed He was with them.
If you’ve ever lost a child for even a few minutes—you know the panic that can set in. Mary and Joseph lost track of Jesus for 3 days! Not only losing their own child, but the child that they knew had been promised as Savior to the world. You can hardly imagine their distress. Interestingly, the Temple turns out to be the last place that they look for Him—it doesn’t seem to be where they would have guessed He’d be. But Jesus, in childlike innocence, is surprised Himself, that they didn’t know to find Him there! “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Jesus hadn’t been sneaking off with His cousins and friends, getting into trouble, but He was sitting learning God’s Word at the feet of the teachers. Amazing everyone with His understanding and answers. What a relief for Mary and Joseph, to find that Jesus had been safe all along, and was behaving Himself!
Our reading begins with this bookend: “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon Him.” It closes with this bookend: “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” Jesus experienced ordinary growth as a child—physically, in strength, and in maturity. But in addition to that, He increased in wisdom—His understanding, and in favor of God and man. His questions and answers, His eager study of God’s Word, showed His growing wisdom. But it also indicates that He learned the Word of God in the same ordinary way that we are able—through study, by teachers, and with questions. We all can profit from the same diligent study of God’s Word—more accessible to us than ever before—reading the Bible at home, listening at church, attending Bible study, playing an audio Bible while we work out, clean, or drive. Though we might not be blessed with the same perfect memory and understanding that Jesus has—we all can still use our eyes and ears and minds to learn God’s Word, and grow in wisdom and maturity from it.
When Jesus answered His parents, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” It was clear that He understood, even as a 12 year old boy, that He was God’s Son, and that His purpose on earth was to be about His Father’s business. It would be another 17 or more years later, but the adult Jesus would come to His Father’s house again, and do a house cleaning. He would drive out the money changers and animals with words like these: “My house shall be a house of prayer—but you have made it a den of robbers!” and “do not make my Father’s house a house of trade!” As an adult man, and a rabbi—a teacher of God’s Word, Jesus took ownership of the problems in His Father’s house. He cleansed it from the crooks. He restored it to a place of worship (even if only for a short time), and He confronted those who taught falsely in God’s Name. Jesus, even as a 12 year old boy, had a clear sense that His purpose was to do His Father’s will, and that this had everything to do with knowing and understanding God’s Word. Even and especially that Word that would describe and direct His life as the Savior, the Messiah.
After all the emotion and amazement died down, after discovering the missing child Jesus at the Temple, it says that Jesus “went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.” It’s a simple statement of Jesus’ obedience to His parents. What we would expect of any ordinary child. What the 4th commandment teaches every child here to do—Honor your father and mother. Just like ordinary children, Jesus also obeyed His parents. Just think about it for a moment! Jesus, who is God, who made all the universe, and existed from before all time—this same Son of God, submitted to His earthly parents. He willingly was obedient—and didn’t consider His equality with God something to be held over Mary and Joseph’s head, as an excuse for not listening to them. But He respected them, and obeyed their authority.
God has given children their parents, for their good and their protection. We are to honor and obey them—without complaining or talking back. Children have a model in Jesus, that obedience to parents and learning God’s Word is pleasing to Him. Not every child has been blessed with the same kind of family. While our reading certainly shows that Jesus had caring parents who loved Him and led Him faithfully in the worship and instruction of the Lord—not every child is loved as God would have them be loved. Not every child is brought to worship, or raised knowing about who God is, and what Jesus has done. Sometimes families are unloving or abusive. Sometimes people don’t care for one another as they should—even in the family. Many do not see the importance of consistent worship and teaching a child God’s Word. In short, many families miss out on the full gifts that God pours down on those who cling to His Word.
So whether you are parents, or just have been “parented”—whether your family was wonderful, or not—we all see and experience the fallen and broken nature of this world. Families are certainly not left untouched by the effects of sin. We are all burdened with our sins and the sins of others. But even where families leave much to be desired, the church is our Christian family, and can help to fill that void. Through our Christian school, and through weekly fellowship in worship, or through close relationships with one another as mentors, aunts and uncles, or just friends, we can help supply the family that may be missing. But even more importantly, Jesus Christ came into the world to be our Savior. To save His brothers and sisters. To bear our burdens and take away our sins. To give us the heavenly adoption of baptism, into His family—that we might have God as our Father, and delight to dwell in His house, and worship Him. Jesus has made us His family by the waters of Holy Baptism, joining us to His death for our sins, and His resurrection to life.
As part of Jesus’ family, we are co-heirs with Him in His inheritance. God as our Father, and Jesus as our brother, provides us with the perfect love that we need, and that He desires to give us. He begins to shape, renew, and increase our love—to our earthly families, whom we are responsible to, and to our spiritual family within the church, to whom we are also responsible. As Jesus remained submissive, and obedient to His earthly parents as He grew, and submissive to His Heavenly Father through His whole life and ministry on earth—this accomplished salvation for us. Jesus’ childhood visit to the Temple foreshadows His whole life of obedience to the will of God, and accomplishing salvation for us. Jesus Christ lived His whole life in perfect obedience to the Father, and so His life stands as perfect substitute for ours. God grants us this favor with Him by faith in His Son. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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1.      About the life of Jesus, this passage from Luke 2:40-52 is a unique episode. Aside from St. Matthew and St Luke’s accounts of Jesus’ birth and infancy, this is the only passage that tells us of Jesus’ childhood. The rest of the Gospels focus on Jesus public ministry as an adult, roughly between the age of 30-33. Describe in general what this passage tells us about Jesus’ childhood? What kind of family was He raised in?
2.      Why do we not need to know all the “missing” details of Jesus’ life? John 20:30-31; 21:25. What do we learn from this one example of Jesus’ childhood that is applicable for our children to learn from? Luke 2:46-47, 51-52; Ephesians 6:1-4.
3.      The child Jesus explained His absence from His parents by the necessity of being in “My Father’s house.” What does this statement say about Jesus’ self-understanding, of who He was, who His Father was, and what the significance of His Father’s work was?
4.      Later in His ministry, how did Jesus address what was taking place “in His Father’s house?” Luke 19:45-48; John 2:13-22. Why was it necessary for Jesus to take such drastic action?
5.      What was the attitude of Jesus toward God’s Word? Luke 2:46-47; 52. What does the Psalmist say of the man who delights in the word of the Lord? Psalm 1 (esp. vs 2); 119:97-104.
6.      Jesus experienced a childhood blessed by faithful parents who lead Him in a rich life of worship toward God, and who cared deeply for Him. He showed great respect and interest toward God’s Word. Many children today have not shared the same experiences or blessings in their homes. How can we help to best provide for the spiritual growth and nurture of children, wherever it is lacking? How does Christ value these children? Luke 18:15-17

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