By Jared Warner
Willow Creek Friends Church
December 30, 2018
Luke 2:41–52 (NRSV)
The Boy Jesus in the Temple
41 Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43 When the festival was ended, and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44 Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” 49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
The Christmas season is one that reminds us of many things. We gather together with friends and family, we share meals, and often we share gifts. It is important to remember that Christmas is not only a day but a season. I say this is important to remember the season, because when we celebrate a mere day, it is too easy to get caught up in the commercialism of our culture. When it is a season it spreads the thoughts out over the course of several days and it allows us to reflect on the meaning of Christmas more deeply.
Last week during our lessons and carols we closed out the season of Advent, or anticipation. We read scripture that spoke of the anticipated coming of Christ which was promised to our first parents, Abraham, and through the linage of King David. The last of our lessons was the first chapter of John, “And the word became flesh and dwelled among us.”
The Word became flesh and dwelled among us. This verse is one that causes me to pause every time I hear it. God, who created all things, joined creation where they are. God came to live with us.
When we consider Jesus, we know him in basically two stages, an infant and an adult. When was the last time we considered the time in between? This is why today’s passage is so important, it is the only time in scripture that we see a moment of Jesus’s life between the stable and the ministry. It reminds us that Jesus lived those years between, it allows us to consider that timeframe between.
This week I needed to know the incarnation. I needed to know that God understands, because it was one of those weeks where nothing worked out as planned. Gifts did not come on time. I had to argue with my insurance company multiple times. And as I was getting my car ready to travel to see my side of our family, the work I paid to have done caused more problems than I had before. Does God really understand what it is like to face the unexpected? Does God really know what it is like to have to deal with relational dynamics?
Today we get a glimpse into the family life of Jesus. Only Luke’s gospel account gives us this perspective and I am grateful for it. In Mark, we only see Jesus’s ministry because it begins when Jesus is an adult. In John, we get an abstract beginning that speaks of the eternal existence of Jesus. In Matthew, we see that Jesus’s family is visited by the Magi and then they flee from the threat of death and seek refuge in Egypt. In Luke, we see a glimpse of the family.
“Now every year,” Luke states, “his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of Passover.” This does not seem to say a great deal, but it shows us the devotion of Joseph and Mary. Two thousand years after the initial events we tend to forget certain dynamics of the story. During Mary’s pregnancy they were not yet married, but only engaged. It was the custom of their culture that the engagement would last a year. There could be several reasons for this, but one of the main reasons would be to determine if the wedding was an emergency or not. If they were engaged for a year during that time if a pregnancy occurred, they would know it happened prior to the wedding, at that time proper actions could be taken. Mary was with child prior to this event. Everyone knew that Mary was with child, and since Joseph did not negate the engagement, everyone would assume that Joseph was the father and that Mary and Joseph were living in sin.
In the eyes of that culture, sin ushered in the wrath of God. Every negative event was a direct result of your sin. If you got sick, you must have sinned. If the crops failed, you sinned and need to repent. If someone died, sin. If a child was born with a disability, the parents were sinful and that was judgement. It did not matter if you sinned or not if something happened it was your fault. There is something else about this culture we need to remember as well, they were community based.
Extended families lived and worked together. It was not uncommon for several generations to live within the same household. Adult siblings and their parents and at times in-laws, all living in the same housing complex. If they had a decent income, each family unit might have their own room, but most shared a room or courtyard used for cooking and eating. The men would wake up each morning and go together to work, and the wives would work together within the housing complex. If you did not get along with your brother, you would just have to deal with it because you would probably be living with them your entire life. The family business, and living accommodations were community based, so the sin of one family member would often be felt by the extended family as well.
Consider for a moment, Joseph’s family were construction workers. We commonly call them carpenters, but the word could also mean stone masons, so the idea is that they built and repaired structures. Joseph’s future wife is pregnant before the official wedding, and Joseph accepts the child and marries her anyway. He says that he is not the father, yet he does not make any attempt at seek justice. The family may accept Joseph’s decision, but he carries the weight of every hardship on his shoulders, and if their family is like any of ours, he was probably reminded of it often.
They lived with a social stigma surrounding them, yet they remained steadfast and devoted to their faith. Every year they would make the festival journeys, every year they offered sacrifices, and participated in the religious aspects of their lives. Every year they were faithful, and every year they were reminded of the unique circumstances of their family.
This instance occurred when Jesus was twelve. There is a reason that we are told his age, Jesus at this point is still a child. At the age of thirteen the boys would become men, they would begin their lives within the family business and would be adults. When they were twelve, anything and everything that happened was the parent’s responsibility. If a child stole an item from a vendor, the parents would take the punishment. Twelve would have been a transitionary period, we would call it adolescence today. They are a child, yet they are nearly an adult. They can do somethings on their own, yet they have not yet developed to the point they can fully reason on their own.
We can tell that Mary and Joseph have given Jesus some personal responsibility because they allow him to walk by himself within their traveling party. This is like parents today allowing their high school students drive themselves to a school event. They can drive themselves yet if anything happens to the vehicle it is the parent’s responsibility. Mary and Joseph were good parents allowing some freedom and teaching their children to be devoted to their faith.
They gave him the responsibility, and Jesus did not meet their expectations. They assumed he was traveling along side one of the other people within their group. And after a day they realized he was not there. Then they frantically traveled back to the city to look for him.
Consider for a moment this situation. Many of us have turned around in a department store and a child or a parent was not where we expected them to be. This happened to me not too long ago. I turned my back to look at some socks and turned around again and Albert was nowhere to be seen. For several moments that seem like minutes, we frantically searched for him. When I was about to go to the desk to have them announce a missing child, I heard a giggle. He had simply stepped back into the rack a bit and was standing among clothing that matched what he was wearing. I thought he walked away but he was right with us. My reaction after the initial relief was to scold the child as if he ran off to the toy section without telling me, but the scolding which he endured was really me scolding myself for not paying close enough attention to him. That was a manner of seconds, this was three days. In their mind, Jesus could be anywhere. Jerusalem had thousands of visitors during a festival, how likely would it be to find one child among them.
This is a difficult passage to consider because it challenges our concepts of theology and sin. Scripture states Jesus was without sin, yet we would consider this situation to have been sinful if it was any other child. We, like Mary and Joseph, would have scolded the child and probably punished him. Did Jesus sin, or could we possibly be mistaken in our concept of sin? Did Jesus fail to come along with the family, or did Mary and Joseph fail to communicate with Jesus what time they were leaving?
This passage gives us great insights into interpersonal and parental relationships. The first thing we see is that Jesus is a fully human child. His mind was attracted to something interesting and every aspect of his attention was directed to it. Is it sinful for a child to be in a state of wonder? Absolutely not. Children need the freedom to explore and imagine. They need to be able to ask questions and learn. We should encourage our children to learn as much as possible. This is why we provide for their education. This is why we encourage them to graduate and pursue secondary education in a trade school or university. Jesus was a completely human child, who was fascinated by the interactions and interpretations of scripture among the teachers of their faith. He heard them talking and he walked to them, Joseph might have initially even gone over to them along with Jesus. They were teaching, and Jesus asked a question and then one thing led to another and suddenly this child and the teachers were having this discussion among themselves and the child’s parents had lost track of him. Jesus stayed while they walked away, assuming he followed with them or one of the relatives.
The second thing we see is that Mary and Joseph are typical parents. They are just as human as the rest of us. They do their best to integrate and enculturate their children, but sometimes they fail. They left their child alone in a city. They made assumptions when they should have double checked and something terrible could have happened. They were sick with worry, and they scolded the child when they were really the ones to blame, because emotions are hard to handle sometimes.
The third thing I learn from this is that we should be mindful of those around us, especially our children. The teacher in Proverbs tells us to train up our children in the way they should go. Often, we interpret this as being encourage them to pursue careers that will have an income that will allow them to survive, but that is not at all what this means. We should train them in the way they should go. This means we need to be mindful of their personality and their temperament. My brother and I are very different from one another. This could be do to the fact we have different fathers, but it is more than just that. My brother tinkers and I study. My brother learns with his hands and I learn with my eyes. My mind works in abstract where his is temporal. We think differently, we have different skills and get excited about different concepts. My dad bought me a microscope, and my brother a magnifying glass. I study and my brother tinkers. I observe and my brother experiments. I plan, and he tries it out. My dad taught my brother how to rebuild a small engine and he discussed life cycles and crop rotation to me. My dad was an excellent parent, because he understood us. He knew I was never going to become a tinkerer, so he did not train me to be a mechanic. He knew my brother liked to get his hands into things, so he taught him how to fix things and gave him the tools to do it with mainly because if he didn’t my brother would use his tools. We both learned from the same parent, we both went different direction, yet the same parent encouraged us both.
We need to be mindful of others. There is a reason I allow the kids to play on the drums during worship. It gives them an outlet to participate. Do they have to play them, no but I want them to know that their worship and participation is just as important as everyone else’s. Am I aware that they are not skilled, and they are loud, yes? But if we do not allow them to experiment with their worship how will they learn? And if you notice they are starting to hear the music a little, and they are starting to get some rhythm.
Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple, they allowed him to interact with the teachers and Jesus was caught up in the moment, like every child. When they left, they made an incorrect assumption and then they reacted according to their emotions. They scolded Jesus, their child for doing something they were encouraging him to do, because they were scared. And he asks them, “why were you searching? Did you not know I would be in my father’s house?”
As a parent I get this passage. As a person that experienced childhood, I understand this passage. I can relate to it all, I have been in he parent’s shoes and I have been the child as well. What I learn from this passage this week, is that God gets it. I have expectations that are often unrealized, and I get angry. Every aspect of this past week can be found in this passage. But most of all I find myself lacking in the mindfulness area. “Didn’t you know?” Jesus asks his parents. Of course, I knew, but how could I know all in the same breath. I did not realize but I should have. This is why we need more than a day to celebrate Christmas. To more fully explore the incarnation, to more thoroughly interact with Emanuel. God with us. God knows us, because he is with us. He knew us before we were fully formed in our mother’s womb and he knows how we think. He is aware of our weaknesses and where we need grace. He is God with us. But are we aware of God with them? Are we aware of how God is working in and through the lives of others while at the same time interacting with us? And are we aware of how God might be using us to illuminate God with them?
The word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus was born as an infant, experienced childhood to the fullest extent, and grew in wisdom, years and favor. He was obedient to his parents as they became more mindful of him. As we reflect on the Jesus God with us, during this time of open worship and communion in the manner of Friends, let us also grow with him.
A Service of Lessons and Carols
Carol: “O Come, All Ye Faithful”
Sing to the Lord a new song:
Sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord and bless God’s name:
Tell the good news of salvation from day to day.
Declare God’s glory among the nations, God’s marvelous works among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world, and those who live in it.
Let the whole creation sing for joy at the presence of God, who is coming.
God is coming indeed, to judge the earth with righteousness, and the peoples with equity and truth, Praise the Lord!
Carol: “Once in Royal David’s City”
The First Lesson: Genesis 3:8-15, 17-19
8 They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” 14 The LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”
17 And to the man he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Carol: “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
The Second Lesson: Genesis 22:15-18
15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the LORD: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, 18 and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.”
Carol: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
The Third Lesson: Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.
6 For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Carol: “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”
The Fourth Lesson: Isaiah 11:1-4a, 6-9
The Peaceful Kingdom
11 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.
6 The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Carol: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”
The Fifth Lesson: Luke 1:26-35, 38
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.
38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Carol: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
The Sixth Lesson: Luke 2:1-7
The Birth of Jesus
2 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Carol: “Away in a Manger”
The Seventh Lesson: Luke 2:8-16
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.
Carol: “Angels We Have Heard on High”
The Eighth Lesson: Matthew 2:1-11
The Visit of the Wise Men
2 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Carol: “We Three Kings of Orient Are”
The Ninth Lesson: John 1:1-14
The Word Became Flesh
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Carol: “Silent Night, Holy Night”
The Lords Prayer:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen
Carol: “Joy to the World”
I have been the pastor at Willow Creek Friends Church for nearly nine years. For the past six I have shared my sermons on this blog, and greatly appriciate you readership. We have Friends across North America and Europe and several readers in India and in places many would not expect.
This past month someone within our Meeting decided that we should expand our web presence. Willow Creek Friends Church is now on YouTube!
We are very aware that many are not able to attend meeting for worship on a Sunday so you can now listen and watch our weekly messages as you prepare for your personal times of reflection any day of the week.
Thanks again for all your support these past few years and we hope and pray that you life will be filled with the light of Christ.