Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!
Here we are friends! Another new year by God’s grace. It’s a fresh start and a new beginning. 2020 really was a bust and we are still feeling its effects. But it also had some really great moments and memories too. And, it might be just me, but the older I get, the faster time flies by. Have you noticed that? I remember being back in grade school and watching the clock tick by, longing for the moment the bell would ring and we could go home! You’d watch that clock tick and tock and you swear it would actually go backwards! Minutes seemed like an eternity. And now, whole days fly by like a blink. It’s like back in the day when the kids were little. One day they are a little pink bologna loaf in the bassinet and the next day they are running around eating you out of house and home! The time flies!
It seems like our Gospel lesson for this 2 nd Sunday after Christmas is also set on fast forward too. Just days ago we were focused on little baby Jesus in the manger with the stable scene and the shepherds and the angels. But now, we are rocketed into the future and Jesus stands before us as a 12 year old kid. St. Luke is the only one who records the childhood of Jesus. In this lesson, Jesus and His family have gone on up to Jerusalem for the Passover. When we think about travelling, it usually involves a car or truck to drive or a Westjet flight to fly around the world. But in Jesus’ day, when ever a family went someplace, the whole clan got up and walked. This is of course unheard of today. Kids don’t even walk to school anymore! Back in my day, we had to walk to school every day, -40C, uphill both ways, no shoes, on broken glass! Walking anywhere now is very foreign to us.
When we lived in the south Okanagan valley, in BC, you did see people walking, often in groups like the Bible records. In the summer and the fall, the whole place would fill up with hippies and French fruit pickers from Quebec. They all clan up together in huge groups and walk around, orchard to orchard, tent village to tent village. Looking for jobs and livin’ the dream.
Now our Gospel reading records an interesting detail. St. Luke tells us that Jesus is 12 years old. He’s still a child. In Jewish culture, you’re not considered an adult until you are 13. Perhaps you’ve heard of a Bar Mitzvah or a Bat Mitzvah? It’s the time of the coming of age, where one becomes responsible for one’s own spiritual life – a spiritual adult. It parallels closely our tradition of Confirmation, around the same time period. It’s a rite of passage. So in this Gospel, Jesus is still 12, a kid. After the passover, Jesus’ family and clan all start walking home, but Jesus stays back unbeknownst to Mary and Joseph. When they finally realize that Jesus is not with the huge group of relatives all walking together, they are immediately concerned, frantic and panicked.
Have you ever misplaced a child? If you have, you’ve probably experienced these same kinds of feelings: panic, fear, guilt, anxiety, worry and wanting to vomit all rolled into one heinous feeling! I speak as child who was once misplaced! We were up in Saskatoon visiting some family and I was just a little gaffer. We were at Bullwinkle’s family restaurant when I wandered away from mom and dad for just a moment. When I turned around, they were gone! I was scared and started crying, wandering up and down the halls looking for my parents. One of the waiters found me and helped me find my mom and dad. Talk about traumatic! But that little Bullwinkle episode was only at the most maybe 5 minutes. Mary and Joseph travelled a full day’s journey before they realized Jesus was missing! After 3 days, they found Him. That’s a long time to panic! But it’s no coincidence that Luke emphasizes this detail. For later, Jesus would also spend three days in the tomb. This is Luke’s little way of setting up the Salvation story for us. It’s a stark reminder where this little 12 year old kid would end up.
So Mary and Joseph finally find Jesus. He is not crying. He is not upset. He is not worried. He hasn’t been kidnapped by a psycho! Instead, He’s at the temple in the midst of the learned ones, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” What a strange sight this would be. It’s just as if a 12 year old kid went up to Edmonton to the Seminary and started discussing the deepest depths of Dogmatic, Exegetical and Isogogical theology with the Doctors, detailing the finer points of the crux theologorum and the genus maiestaticum! Everyone is utterly astonished at this little Jewish boy. He’s a prodigy! A real whiz kid! “And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.” The word translated “amazed” (literally being put out of their wits) here only occurs …3 times in Luke’s Gospel (here, at the raising of Jairus’ daughter 8:56, Disciples on Emmaus road 24:22). It’s again a fast forwarding to the resurrection! It’s a fast forward showing us that the battle has already been won. Christ is victorious and He gives His victory to those who trust and believe. Despite all of life’s ups and downs, you have a Savior who has conquered for you!
So, Mary and Joseph finally find Jesus. And, as good God-fearing parents, they give Him a blast! It’s the typical reaction of people who love their kids and have concern for them. It often comes across as hurt and even anger. But Jesus calmly looks up at them and says “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that it is necessary for me to be about my Father’s business?” What a strange answer this is! His father’s business? Wasn’t that carpentry back in Nazareth? Ahh, but something is different about this child. He is speaking not of an earthly father but of His Heavenly Father. He speaks these words and His earthly parents don’t get it. Nobody got it, until later when Jesus was risen from the dead. It’s interesting that the first recorded words of Jesus are not understood. His whole life and ministry are not understood! But we understand our Lord and Savior by His grace as the Holy Spirit grants us wisdom.
Wisdom is not knowing all the answers. Rather it is faith and trust in the One Who does know all the answers! And this is a rock solid foundation for another new year. 2021. Who knows what it will bring? Challenges? Hurts? Loss? Financial crunch? We don’t know. But we do know Who does! Our Lord is forever Emmanuel, in our midst. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Everyday is one lived under His Fatherly care for us. No matter what unseen calamity may come, God will never leave you or forsake you. His love is certain, His forgiveness is sure. He is always available for you, there is no voice mail or busy signals for you! Call upon the Name that is above all names in every trouble, prayer, praise and thanksgiving! This is the Father’s business: to give you the promise of His real incarnate presence, given and shed for you, helping you, supporting you, lifting you up when you fall and when you miss the mark. By His grace, you live in His promise and know that God is ever for you, giving wisdom, strength and His favour! Thanks be to God now and forever more. Amen!