Readings: Colossians 3:12-17; Luke 2:39-52
I was telling a story at a special service recently. Really getting to the high point in the saga. And there are two adults having a conversation right in the front row of the chapel. Quite loud really. It reminded me of my teaching days.
Teaching is fascinating. Especially if you’re an old school teacher trained in the chalk and talk method – you talk and write on the board, they take it all in and write it down, and Bob’s your uncle. Well if it doesn’t work – they will end up with Bob as their aunty if they don’t get the right message.
So new teachers are trained in all this cooperative learning – we find things out together. No experts – just constructivist learning and making your own meaning.
Well these two were making their own meaning alright – and I could feel my concentration lapsing. And if you are telling a story – that’s bad.
So I stop and do what I used to do in the classroom – you know that teacher’s kind of question: “have you two got something you want to share with the class today?”.
Well I did it in a nice way with these two: “I’m interested in what you have to say. Tell me more”.
‘We’ve just been talking about what happened to Jesus between his birth and when he was about 30,” one of them says to me.
Not much to talk about really – if you’re looking in the Bible.
We speculate of course – because of John 1:14 which we talked about on Christmas day (read from the CEV):
John 1:14 The Word became a human being and lived here with us. We saw his true glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. From him all the kindness and all the truth of God have come down to us.
If he really became a human being – he would have been through it all – experienced everything. Hebrews 4 contains the verse which are most famous in this regard: Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:14-15).
About the details – well we have to guess really.
The Christmas Carol, “Once in David’s Royal City,” for example, contains the stanza,
Jesus is our childhood’s pattern,
Day by day like us he grew.
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us he knew.
Thus he feels for all our sadness,
And he shares in all our gladness.
(Cecil F. Alexander, “Once in David’s Royal City,” Chalice Hymnal [St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1995) 165
My two front-row congregants last week raised a reall interesting issue, as you can see.
My answer on the day: “he probably did a job – his dad’s trade – as a carpenter. We know little about him after the birth story apart from the time he went with his parents to the temple at age 12 and he stayed behind”.
It so happens that this is the gospel reading set for today. About Jesus on one of his trips to the temple with his parents – the one when he is left behind.
It’s a great end to two great chapters in Luke.
When you list all the people that feature in Luke so far – you get them all – all ages and stages:
- A king called Herod
- A priest Zechariah who gets silenced for 9 months
- A barren woman who falls pregnant
- An Angel called Gabriel
- A teenage mum – a remarkable young girl
- The birth of a cousin of Jesus called John
- An emperor called Augustus Caesar
- More angels
- Shepherds of lowly esteem
- A righteous man called Simeon – spirit led
- A prophetess called Anna – 84 years old – who never left the temple but worshiped with fasting and prayer all night…
- And then today’s passage: parents and parenting issues.
There is no one really left out in the story.
- This event matters to us all.
- This baby who is the word – who speaks still.
- And the twelve-year-old Jesus – who still speaks to us.
The story speaks to us.
Do you remember how safe it used to be back in the day, to let your kids walk home from school? I caught a bus to school at 5. Okay I left my things on the bus often and my dad had to go to lost property and pay the huge sum of 2 ½ cents to get my cap or bag back. But it was safe.
How come Jesus’ parents leave him behind? I know someone who was once left on a station in her pram and her parents went off down the tracks – in the train. It is a concern when that happens.
It’s been suggested that this story, like the one of the disciples on the road to Emmaus which we will read at Easter (quite soon really) be titled:
“On finding the Jesus you’d thought you’d lost”. (Tom Wright).
In both stories there is a time interval of three days.
In both stories there is a key phrase:
Luk 2:49: “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
Luk 24:25-26: He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
Both lines use a little word in Greek that means “it is necessary”.
There is a plan afoot that is bigger than parents trying to blame Jesus for not staying with the crowd – apparently not respecting his parents.
He’d been going to the temple each year with his parents.
By age 12 the real issues would have become apparent to Jesus. The Temple was where his father’s business was to be discussed. This was his Father’s house.
Later on he would warn people that if they didn’t do what the Father really intended them to do in the temple – not only would he have to cleanse it – but he would prophecy that it would be taken away from them.
- In Luke 2 his parents are looking for Jesus.
- In Luke 24 on the Emmaus road two disciples are looking for Jesus too.
Jesus is never lost. We can be though.
A good thought as we enter the new year. Maybe our story in 2016 will also be called “On finding the Jesus you’d thought you’d lost”. (Tom Wright).
There may be something new for us too. If we look hard enough.
Maybe like Jesus we too will grow in wisdom , and the grace and favour of God will be upon us – if we position ourselves for that in the year ahead.