Saturday, December 29, 2018

Becoming Obedient, Year C, Christmas 1, Luke 2.41-52, Colossians 3.12-17

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
 Christ was born in Bethlehem.
Now, he had to grow up.
We know little of his childhood, though stories abound.  One of the sources of some incredible, meaning, unbelievable stories about Jesus the child, come from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.
The first example:
  1 1 When the boy Jesus was five years old, he was playing at the ford of a rushing stream. And he gathered the disturbed water into pools and made them pure and excellent, commanding them by the character of his word alone and not by means of a deed.
  2 Then, taking soft clay from the mud, he formed twelve sparrows. It was the Sabbath when he did these things, and many children were with him.
  3 And a certain Jew, seeing the boy Jesus with the other children doing these things, went to his father Joseph and falsely accused the boy Jesus, saying that, on the Sabbath he made clay, which is not lawful, and fashioned twelve sparrows.
  And Joseph came and rebuked him, saying, “Why are you doing these things on the Sabbath?” But Jesus, clapping his hands, commanded the birds with a shout in front of everyone and said, “Go, take flight, and remember me, living ones.” And the sparrows, taking flight, went away squawking.
  When the Pharisee saw this he was amazed and reported it to all his friends.
Some of the stories are horrible, suggesting that the young boy Jesus would curse people and they would die.
But then others present a more pleasing side to Jesus:
8 1 And again, after many days, Jesus was playing with other children on a certain roof of an upstairs room. And one of the children fell and died. The other children, seeing this, went to their homes. And they left Jesus alone.
  2 The parents of the dead child came and accused Jesus saying, “You knocked down our child.” But Jesus said, “I did not knock him down.”
  And while they were raging and shouting, Jesus came down from the roof and stood beside the body and cried out in a loud voice saying, “Zeno, Zeno—for this was his name—rise and say if I knocked you down.” And he rose and said, “No, Lord.” When they saw, they were amazed and the parents of the child praised God for these wonders.
Another story is one of my favorites:
 11 1 And he was about eight years old. And when his father, a carpenter, was making ploughs and yokes, he received a bed from a certain rich man so that he might make it exceedingly great and suitable. And since one of the required pieces was shorter and he did not have a measure, Joseph was distressed, not knowing what to do. The boy came to his father and said, “Put down the two pieces of wood and align them from your end.”
  Joseph did just as Jesus said to him. And the boy stood at the other end and took hold of the short piece of wood and stretched it. And he made it equal to the other piece of wood. And he said to his father, “Do not be distressed but do what you wish.” And Joseph embraced and kissed him saying, “Blessed am I for God gave me this boy.”
(Quotations are from The Childhood of the Saviour (Infancy Gospel of Thomas): A New Translation, Translation copyright 2009 Tony Burke. All rights reserved.)
The last story in the collection, is the story of Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem which we read in today’s Gospel.
It’s actually the only Biblical account of Jesus’ life from his birth until he began his ministry many years later.
There are other stories.  For example the Koran, the Holy Book of Islam has its own account of Jesus’ birth:
The Birth of Jesus
“So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place.  And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree.  She said, ‘I wish I had died before this, and had been long forgotten.  [Mary was worried that people would think badly of her as she was not married.]  Then (baby Jesus) called her from below her, saying, ‘Don’t be sad.  Your Lord has provided a stream under you.’  Shake the trunk of the palm tree towards you, and it will drop on you fresh ripe dates.  So eat and drink and be happy.  And if you see any human, then say, ‘Indeed I have vowed a fast to the Most Merciful so I will not speak to any human today.’  Then she carried him and brought him to her people.  They said, ‘O Mary, indeed you have done a great evil.’  ‘O sister of Aaron, your father was not an evil man, and your mother was not a fornicator.’  So she pointed to him.  They said, ‘How can we speak to a child in the cradle?’  (Jesus) said, ‘Indeed, I am a slave of God.  He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet.[4]  And He has made me blessed wherever I may be, and He has enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I remain alive.  And (has made) me kind to my mother, and did not make me arrogant or miserable.  And peace be upon me the day I was born, and the day I will die, and the day I will be raised alive.’” (Quran 19:22-33)  (
Just to note, Muslims believe Jesus was a great prophet, and they ascribe to him a miraculous birth, with him being able to speak from the first day, but they absolutely do not believe that his virgin birth or special powers made him God.
It’s no wonder that some early authors sought to fill in the void with stories about his childhood.  Yet most of them appear fanciful, and in fact, are preoccupied with Jesus’ divinity.
You see, it all boils down to this:
The single greatest offense of the Christian faith, the one that separates us from all other faiths, and the offense that stands counter to ALL reason, is that God could humble himself and become fully human, subject even unto death.
The second offense is related to that, and that is that God would do this in order to reach out to us in love.
Fully human.
Mary, not the angels, had to change his diapers.
She nursed him at her breast.
Joseph and Mary rejoiced when he learned to walk.
He would have to learn to speak.
Undoubtedly, he got colds and other childhood illnesses.
He studied.
He learned.
Probably he learned his father’s trade, and was skilled as a carpenter, though nothing is said about that.
He might also have misbehaved.
Which brings us back to Jerusalem, and Mary and Joseph’s worst nighmare.  Losing Jesus.
First of all, in Mary and Joseph’s defense, “it takes a village to raise a child.”  What I mean by that is that often, in communities such as theirs, children moved in and about the community and were with their neighbors and relatives as much as their parents.
I had the opportunity to grow up in one such town.  I asked my parents if I go could home to the farm of one of my friends after church.  I went.  I stayed because I was having so much fun.  Finally, on the next Saturday, my father came out to the farm and got me.  “Why didn’t you come home?”  “I was having fun.”
So, anyway, for Mary and Joseph to assume Jesus was somewhere with their friends and relatives would have been common.
Instead Jesus was present in the temple, talking with the teachers. 
Some of the apocryphal stories of Jesus childhood suggest that he always turned the tables and taught his teachers. 
But I’d suggest that instead of something miraculous occurring this is just an example of Jesus’ hungering for knowledge and wisdom.
At any rate, Jesus’ behavior concerned his parents.  They were alarmed, afraid of what might have happened to him, and perhaps even angry with him once they found him.
Jesus then, returned to Nazareth with them and obeyed them.
Obedience is one of the things we learn as we grow.
This is the one story about Jesus’s boyhood that is included in the bible, and it is a story about learning to obey.
On Christmas Eve, I shared the passage from Philippians 2:
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Jesus, God incarnate, becoming obedient.
Obedience is not the first word most of us would use to describe Jesus.
Yet it was Jesus willingness to submit to the Father’s will that allowed him to become our Savior.
In our lesson today, Paul writes:
12As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.
Bear with one another.
Forgive one another.
Love one another.
Be at peace.
This is the Way of Jesus.
And to walk with Jesus is to be obedient as Jesus was.
I’m suggesting to you, that just as the boy Jesus had to learn obedience, so also, our growth in faith is about learning to obey.
But this obedience is not one offered out of fear of punishment, but rather out of love.

No comments:

Post a Comment