It is the Sunday after what holy day? [Christmas]. Which is the celebration of what? [Jesus’ birth]. There is one other Jesus baby story in the Bible, when at 8 days old he is brought to the temple and officially presented/named/circumcised… it is kind of like our infant baptism.
But we do have some clues about the kind of young life he had. Here are some things we are fairly sure about…
· He grew up in a fairly large family. He was the oldest of quite a number of brothers and sisters.
· He helped his dad in the carpenter business. (a word that in those days actually meant builder, so included stone work and metal work and anything to do with building and equipment. It would include building homes, constructing furniture and other household equipment, and even the building of farming implements like plows, and yokes (the thing that hooks on animals so that they can pull things like plows and wagons...).
· At some point, Joseph died and Jesus became the carpenter to provide for his his mother and siblings until he began his ministry.
· So when Jesus talks about building houses on rock or sand, and taking up his yokes that make work light, and how to plow properly (not looking behind) he could tell these parable from solid experience. He grew up a normal boy, trained well in the traditions of Judaism.
There is only one other story in the Bible about Jesus before he becomes an adult, and we will talk about that in the sermon later. It is when, at the age of 12, with his parents and others, he walked 65 miles to Jerusalem to attend Passover. We don’t know if it was his first trip or not, but this one was important because it was the year he prepared for his bar mitzvah the next year -- (Bar mitzvah means “son of the commandment”). For us, that is like confirmation -- it is the time when children take full adult responsibility for living out the life of faith. We will never outgrow the need for learning or from receiving help from God, parents, or peers to help us live really well. But each year we learn more and more until we are able to understand and live all on our own without having to be told how to decide and how to live out what is right, and we have to own up to what we do or don’t do.
For example -- do you know to brush your teeth every night? (Yes) How many of you still need your parents to tell you to do that every night? (Half of them) We all start out with our parents doing it with us, showing us how, then they tell us to do it ourselves, and at some point we should reach a stage where you just know that is good for you and to do it without being told -- and if you don’t, you pay the penalty of parental discipline or the pain of cavities.
The same is true of our spiritual life. At first, we need to be shown, and told so we understand, but eventually we need to know for ourselves what is right and do it without being told, or pay the price for not doing it.
So today we honor the day Jesus was getting ready to prepare for a new stage of life when he would “power up” -- to step up to be responsible for his own spiritual growth and stay in the center of God’s will. We will always need to keep learning, but there is also a sense that we become more and more responsible for our own actions…
There is another holiday coming up what is that? [New Years] New Years is a holiday of new starts -- a day that helps us try and power up to step up and take responsibility for at least one area of our life in which we want to do better… Like Jesus going to the Temple to prepare for a new stage of life, maybe with your parents, you can figure out what it might be that you should work on doing all on your own this year… so you can power up in knowledge of what to do and be responsible for your own actions. Because the key verse that covers this time of Jesus life was that he grew -- in wisdom -- and in stature -- and in favor with God and with people. (Luke 2:52) Because he did what God wanted.
Let’s pray - Lord, we thank you that you supply power for us to live our lives, and you show us through good family and friends how to live even better -- by we also realize that we will have to choose to do so, so help us to choose well too. Amen.
[Hand out “power up” granola bars].
Bible Reading Colossians 3:12-14,17
The Christ of Christmas makes possible new starts in life. Paul writes what that looks like in our lives:
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with
tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s
faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive
others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony...
And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through
him to God the Father. (NLT)
Message Don’t Lose Sight of Him Colossians 3:12-17, Luke 2:40-52
While I was growing up on the west suburbs of Lansing, our family made several family trips to the old Tiger Stadium – back in the day when stadiums were not named after businesses like they are today, and a lot of the parking consisted of unlit empty lots with a make-shift booth at the front of it. As we approached the city and stadium the traffic got heavier and heavier until it nearly became bumper to bumper until we finally found a lot we could get into, and then we walked who knew how long before we got to the stadium. In this particular game, the Tigers lost to Oakland in 13 innings 12-4. It was a really bad last inning. It was a night game as well, so it was getting pretty late as we headed back to the dark parking lot. We got to the lot, received our keys, unlocked our car and got into our car. The parking lot was so packed that we had to wait for other cars to exit before we could get out. While we waited, my Dad noticed that while they key worked, it was not feeling quite right in the ignition like it should. He turned on the dome light and he had been given the wrong set of keys. They gave him the keys to another Mercury Brougham a few cars away. They couldn’t even get into their car. Their keys worked in our car, but our keys did not work in theirs. That’s kind of scary when you think about it, isn’t it? (But that was way back then.) We got that straightened out, and then the real point of the story was as we started out of there it was bumper to bumper – it is late, we are tired and getting impatient, and it was just taking forever to get out of there - inching forward just bit by bit… but finally as we began to move further away and people took their exits to side streets on their way to their homes, the number of cars thinned out and spread out and thinned out and we were able to speed up for the long journey home.
Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. (Luke 2:41)
Remove the cars from the story and I suspect this is what it must have felt like for Joseph and Mary as they attended Passover in Jerusalem every year. From the tiny north country town of Nazareth (people guesstimate the population then as about 120 to 400 people maximum), they traveled south on their 65 mile journey to Jerusalem, and as they neared Jerusalem, more and more people would join them and begin to crowd their “highway” – for hundreds of thousands of scattered Jews would make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover, swamping the 80 to 100 thousand people who resided there year round. I suspect when you live in a town that is only (perhaps) a bit larger than our average worship community’s attendance, a town where you know everyone, or at least their face -- I imagine becoming a part of a crowd like that, and entering a city as large and bustling as Jerusalem might be a bit overwhelming…
When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.
We don’t know if this was Jesus’ first trip or not. But as mentioned in Children’s time, this year was special because it was to prepare for his Bar Mitzvah the next year when he could be officially recognized as a “son of the commandment”, a full member of the faith community with all of its adult privileges and responsibilities and accountabilities.
After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home,
the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. (Luke 2:43)
When the week-long festival ended and everyone started going home, it would have been like our ball game in reverse for Joseph and Mary – starting out en masse as they headed north, and gradually thinning as people veered off to their own home towns – and as the group stretched out because of their different pacing. Living in a small town like Nazareth in those days, Joseph and Mary may not have been overly concerned about exactly where Jesus was.
Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day.
Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. (Luke 2:44)
They probably confidently assumed as a responsible 12-year-old, he was old enough to care for himself and would be somewhere in that company on the road. They traveled for about a day – which in those days -- usually averaged about 20 miles – given it wasn’t Sabbath (you were only allowed to travel about 2/3 of a mile on Sabbath), and depending upon whether the weather was decent (which we don’t know), and the road wasn’t overly crowded (and we knew it was -- at least at first). So they probably didn’t get that far the first day, but they had achieved some distance. And there was this custom that they may have been a custom that festival pilgrims began traveling home, the women and small children were in front and the men would follow. The older kids (like Jesus) could travel with either parent, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Mary was up front and Joseph out back that they both though Jesus was with the other one. But we know for sure that it was a custom that in the evening at the end of the day’s travel, groups would gather at a pre-selected point. It would have been at this time that they would finally notice that Jesus was with neither of them and they began to panic.
When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple courts, (Luke 2:45-46a)
Night travel being dangerous, it was probably morning before they headed back for Jerusalem. Day out, day back; then on the third day they found Jesus in the temple courts. They had assumed he was old enough and responsible enough to know where he ought to be. What they did not realize was that in Jesus’ mind, where he ought to be was in temple doing his Father’s business.
sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. (Luke 2:46b-47)
It was typical for the gathered Jewish scholars to remain after festivals like Passover and discuss the faith and all of its interpretations and implications with each other. Jesus listened to these arguments, and asked questions and was asked questions. This was the ancient Jewish method of teaching - question and answer. Jesus wasn’t trying to show off his knowledge, nor be an arrogant teacher of the teachers or anything like that. (Neither of these approaches or attitudes would lead to “amazement”). But they saw in his sincere questions and answers an intelligent insight and wonderful potential.
When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him,
“Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been
anxiously searching for you.” (Luke 2:48)
Now the parents arrive and finally discover him in the temple. Mary reveals how she and Joseph felt.
Our Sara as a toddler – (well maybe still) is so easily distracted by anything that shines or glitters, that when she was a toddler we wanted to start calling her the wanderer – but we didn’t – we were afraid she might start trying to live up to the name and that would make it even worse. Though we did call her that sometimes, in secret. Every trip to a mall or a campground or any new unfamiliar territory for that matter, made my stress levels skyrocket because there is no end to attractive enticements in those wide-open areas. So even though Jesus was 12 and not a toddler, I can kind of imagine what Jesus’ parents must have felt like – magnified by more than a full day of worry and wonder about where he is.
When they finally discovered him, Joseph and Mary’s deep love for their son must have simultaneously produced both great relief and a great frustration. Yes, they knew he was the Messiah, they heard the predictions of Gabriel and all the rest -- yet they were human and so was Jesus and in spite of the angels and the shepherds and the wise men -- they didn’t yet fully grasp what all that meant yet.
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked.
“Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he was saying to them. (Luke 2:49-50)
Jesus' reply should not be interpreted as a typical teen’s rebellious retort – “Don’t interfere with me, I’m about my business!” That is not what he meant. Kind of like the joke I heard the other day when a teen approached his father and said, “I think I should be able to buy my own jeans this year.” Father replied. “Sounds good to me.” They stare at each other for a few minutes. The teen finally says, “What?!?” So the father says back, “What?” And the teen says, “Well, I need some money!” Father says, “I don’t think we are communicating.” (In case you don’t get it, there is a difference between choosing your own clothes, and buying your own clothes).
Jesus at 12 was certainly strong and self-reliant. The text makes that perfectly clear. But he doesn’t seem to have any awareness of what he just put his parents through. He wasn’t “treating them” in any way, he wasn’t trying to be rebellious, he was just amazed that they didn’t get it. He has no malice or attitude in his questions. He is simply surprised that once Joseph and Mary realized he wasn’t with them, that they didn’t know where to look for him when he had “wandered”. That they had to hunt. The first words of Jesus we ever hear is his clear understanding of his divine Sonship and how eager and willing he is to begin his heavenly father’s business in his life, which for him was natural and obvious -- to reveal the knowledge and service of God in all things that he did, and he is also surprised that Joseph and Mary didn’t know that about him.
But the parents were not as clear on Jesus’ role as Jesus was. It takes a life time of never-ending learning to even begin to scratch the surface of the depth of what God has done and is doing in our world through his Son Jesus Christ. And a life time to plumb the depths of how to follow him in our life.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17 (NLT))
– As he was consumed with his heavenly father’s business, so are we to covenant to devote ourselves to thankfully living out the values of Christ in every aspect of our life– humbly demonstrating his mercy, kindness, gentleness and patience. To not get put out by what you see as flaws and faults in others, and to forgive those who irritate you – in the name of God’s love that binds us together. Doing everything -- in his name.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.
But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. (Luke 2:51)
But obeying godly parents is also always within God’s will, and so without protest Jesus went with them back home without complaining or arguing. As a side note – the text says they went down to Nazareth (which is north), so just to clarify for people who don’t get that: In their thought, everything was down from Jerusalem. Jerusalem was so prominent in the life of faith, (well it was surrounded by valleys too) but either way, no matter which way you head on the compass point, you always go “down from” Jerusalem or “up to” Jerusalem -- always.
Mary contemplated Jesus answer -- which she grew to understand more and more as he began his ministry and fulfilled his mission for humanity.
And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom,
and the grace of God was on him.
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:40,52)
So as the text began so it ends, sandwiching this one story with summaries of the years from infancy to 12, and then from this story at 12 to his public ministry at 30. The only details we can glean from this is simply that he was in the center of God’s will always, and because he was in the center of God’s will, he found God’s favor and the favor of the people. People who knew him knew he was a good kid, and they liked him for it.
It wasn’t until he began his public ministry and challenged the powers of status quo that sides were chosen and some of humanity began to oppose and reject him. But we who accept and believe in him are given the right to become the beloved children of God – and no one or no power can take that away from us. Successfully following him step by step and day by day, we become more within the center of God’s will -- and whether people oppose or support us -- we will become closer to what humanity is supposed to be when it is at its best.
Dark to Light Candle Series (right) begins with a dark candle low and front…each candle gets higher, lighter in color, and a new flame is added each week as we prepared our hearts for Christ, (the white center candle at the top) -- Together the exercises connected with the candles enlighten our world and lives. In today’s sermon, a lower side candle will be lit…
This text gives us the essence of how to become the best human that we can become. We have prepared ourselves, making room Jesus, the light of our world, to come to our dark world and to our lives. I won’t review them today, but they were the steps that prepared us for Christ’s coming to us. It climaxes with Christ’s arrival on Christmas. But it is certainly not the end of his – or our story… it continues on. So today, this is what we learn: Too often, it is too easy to assume Jesus is with us as we go on our merry way, oblivious to the fact that we are walking away from him. Then suddenly, we realize we don’t sense him, we lose sight of him, and even though we should know where to find him, even though we should see his work all around us, we are so consumed with life’s circumstances, with setbacks and challenges, with fears and anxieties, with depressions and distractions, that we forget to see, we forget where to look – and when we finally do cross his path we wonder why he has done this to us! But he hasn’t done anything (wrong) to us – he has been about his Father’s business in us all along. Mary and Joseph find him at the Temple, but they still don’t understand. We find him, we sense his presence, but we don’t always understand everything.
Treasure the light in our hearts
But as Mary sees and hears the reply of her Son, the Light of the world; she treasures what she sees and hears in her heart… (Light candle) (Like a fountain that is pushed up, the light spills over and outward. As we continue to search, for in searching we find, and in the finding we treasure, and in the treasuring, we don’t lose perspective, we keep our sights focused on him -- as Hebrews says: fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith… throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us... (Hebrews 12:2a,1b) He shows us how it is done.
Do we continue to set our sights on Jesus? to grow in our under-standing of how to follow / represent him more veraciously?
But as I said earlier, it takes a life time. We can learn it and “be done”. It takes a life time process of never-ending learning to even scratch the surface of the depth of what God has done and is doing in our world and in us, and a life time to plumb the depths of how to be disciple, to follow Christ in his steps.
Closing Prayer and Blessing
Let’s stand for the closing prayer, blessing, and hymn. Lord, Light of the World, we set our minds on you. We need you to show us and strengthen us to put away what does not fall within your will, and to walk in your ways, in the life you once lived.
It is easy to see you in the manger, in the gifts under the tree, in the love of family and friends; but once the festival, the festivities have concluded, it is also easy for us to wander back home and not realize you are still in your temple. So as we move into the new year, help us to see you not only in the manger, but also in the village, the city of our daily doings, and to be done with lesser things and follow you. We desire you to rule in our hearts, we desire that your message of peace with God and people to be more than a Christmas sentiment, but to dwell in us and among us to the glory of your Son Jesus Christ.
Now as you go, stand firm in the faith. Give yourself fully to the worthwhile work of the Lord. Be an example of how to prepare God's way to your heart, that you may welcome his coming and continue to grow from darkness to his glorious light. Amen.
Closing Hymn # 256 (vv 1,2,5) We Would See Jesus
* All Bible texts are NIV unless otherwise noted...