Wednesday, 30 December 2015
Sermon December 27, 2015
Other than the stories of the nativity, the bible contains the only one account of Jesus’ life as a child. This is the account we have just heard of the events when he visits the temple in Jerusalem when he is twelve years old.
The typical way of looking at this episode in the life of the young Jesus is to regard it with wonder and amazement. Here is a boy—in many ways he is still a child—and yet it is a glimpse of the potential he will show when he begins his ministry among the people of Galilee at thirty years of age. Isn’t it wonderful how he has a realization that he is more than just a typical teenager? He declares he must be about his Father’s business. Of course we realize he is referring to his heavenly Father. We know that he will later show us that his life will indeed be about his Father’s business.
However, there is another way of looking at this. In some ways this is the account of a typical teenager. He doesn’t give a second thought to how his actions will affect others — particularly his parents—his earthly parents. He is unmindful of how his parents would react to his absence. Of course they will be worried. They will be inconvenienced and have to make the journey back to the temple to search for him. As with many teenagers, he is rather disdainful of their natural concern for his well being and dismissive of their authority.
It is unfortunate that there are no other accounts in the bible of what Jesus was like as a child and as a teenager. We might let our imagination fill in the blanks and think about what a challenge it might have been for his parents. He was most likely a very precocious child who showed at times other glimpses of his divine nature. There are accounts in the apocryphal, non-canonical sources which gives us a glimpse of what it might have been like. There is one account of Jesus as a child making twelve sparrows out of clay and miraculously turning them into real live birds; a rather sweet, harmless act. However, it was on the Sabbath and is perhaps a precursor to times when he is criticized by the Pharisees for doing miracles on the Sabbath.
However, there is another in which the child Jesus is not so playful. He is carelessly knocked down by a playmate and is aroused to anger and kills him with a curse. The parents of the dead child naturally see the danger in such unbridled power and want him expelled from the town. The account goes on, “Joseph arose and took hold upon his ear and wrung it sore”. Jesus warns Joseph that to act that way is unwise and to “vex him not”.
But in his developing wisdom he does not retaliate against his earthly father. These accounts are apocryphal and should not be taken a literally true. They didn’t make it into the canon of scripture. However, they give us some interesting possibilities of the challenges of raising such a son.
These accounts and our Gospel reading do show us promise of the greatness which is ahead. At this precocious age he shows great wisdom to the elders at the temple. We are told that this at the temple outburst, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” – is the exception to his behaviour. We are told that from this point on in his childhood, he is obedient to them. This reflects what is proclaimed in the Gospel Luke after he is presented as an infant in the Temple, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
The account of Jesus’ visit to the Temple at age twelve is, I believe, important for us. It gives us a glimpse of someone who is not only divine but is also fully human. It shows something of Jesus’ human nature. It shows us what it means for us to be human. It shows us what it means for us as fallible, human beings who are children of God to follow Jesus. We know from this experience of Jesus that he did increase in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. This gives us the hope and promise of what is possible for us. We also can increase in wisdom and stature. We also have the possibility of become more fully the people that God intends us to be
—that God intended us to be when he created each of us. We have that possibility to grow and develop and mature as Christians and as people. This will not happen automatically. God gives us that potential and possibility. However, we are called to do our parts as children of God and as Christians. We are called to follow the commandments that Jesus has given us. We are to love God with all our hearts and minds and souls with all our strength and we are to love our neighbours as ourselves.
This is a challenge but it is one that Jesus knows as he experienced it and knows the challenges that we have in following them. He also knows that we will not always succeed just as he did not consider his earthly parents at the Temple. We do know that he is with us in the times we do not succeed as well as the times that we do. Thanks be to God.