Sunday, January 08, 2012

Sermon: Luke 2: 41-52 Home, but not Alone

One of the Christmas traditions in our house is that, at some point in the run-up to Christmas, we’ll take an evening together, maybe with friends, and watch a movie. Each year since we’ve been married, we’ve watched the same film. Now, some of our friends always watch It’s a Wonderful Life, others may make a tradition of seeing the Great Escape. in our house, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without watching Home Alone, or else Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

The star of the film is a little boy called Kevin, who, through a series of mishaps, gets left behind while his family head off on holiday. It’s a feel-good Christmas film, as you follow Kevin overcoming fears, enjoying having the house to himself, and defeating the wet bandits as they attempt to rob his house. While Kevin is having a great time, the camera keeps cutting back to his frantic parents as they try to get back home and find their son.

In our Bible reading this morning, we find a situation a little like the movie Home Alone. Joseph and Mary have taken Jesus up to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. It’s one of the big festivals in the Jewish calendar, and there was a requirement for all who could to travel to Jerusalem to celebrate together. As they return to Nazareth, though, they discover after a day’s travel that Jesus is not in their group. He’s nowhere to be found.

Imagine that you’re Mary for a moment. You’ve given birth to this special son, yet now that he’s twelve years old, he has disappeared. Imagine the agony, the sense of blame, the panic as you begin to search for him. Where is he? Where could he be? What’s going on?

But before we discover Jesus, I want to ask you why we’re told about this incident at all. Just think for a moment - it’s the only record we have of Jesus between the visit of the wise men in Matthew 2 and the moment when Jesus begins his public ministry around about the age of 30. This is the only detail we have of his childhood. Why?

If you’ll remember back before Christmas, we looked at how Luke begins his gospel. He has carefully investigated everything that has happened, and written down this orderly account. It seems that Luke has interviewed Mary, the mother of Jesus, and heard the account of the shepherds first hand. Perhaps Luke asks her if there were any other special moments, anything very interesting that could be included? Mary herself tells this story - she remembers it all so vividly. We see it there in verse 51. Even though she didn’t understand what Jesus says when they find him, she ‘treasured all these things in her heart.’ Another version says she pondered them. The day is written in her heart, a day she returns to many times - what did he mean? What was it all about?

So we’re given this ‘bonus DVD material’ only in Luke’s gospel, because he thinks it’s an important step along the journey. It adds something to the gospel as a whole, it helps us to see Jesus more clearly.

But first, back to Mary and Joseph, Having travelled a day’s journey towards home, they turn back to search the city. There was no Twitter to send out the word, no internet or newspapers to carry a missing persons appeal. In verse 46, we’re told they find him after three days. A long, agonising time - probably with no sleep in the night times. And where was he?

‘After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.’ (46-47) He’s in the temple, talking to, asking questions and answering questions with the religious leaders and teachers. Just a twelve-year old boy, yet with more understanding than the teachers.

It would be a bit like one of our Sunday School children taking part in a meeting of the House of Bishops, and holding their own. But while everyone else is amazed at him, Mary and Joseph are more than a little annoyed - they’re astonished. Here’s what Mary says: ‘Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you with great anxiety.’ (48)

And how does Jesus reply? ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ (49) At the time, Mary doesn’t understand, yet she never forgets his words, and now, looking back after the crucifixion and the resurrection, we can see what Jesus means so clearly.

Did you hear what Mary said? ‘Your father and I have been searching for you...’ but Jesus says ‘Did you not know that I must be in MY Father’s house?’ Rather than the movie Home Alone, Jesus is saying that he’s home, but not alone. He’s in his Father’s house - in the building belonging to God, in the temple, where God was at home.

In the previous chapter we’re told that Mary conceives Jesus as a result of the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit - Joseph is not Jesus’ father. Yet Joseph adopts Jesus as his own, appears as his earthly father. But Jesus here reminds Mary and Joseph that he belongs to another family, that Joseph isn’t really his father - that God is his Father. Jesus is gently saying that he is the Son of God, not the Son of Joseph.

As the footnote says, ‘Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s interests/business?’ For Jesus, his primary loyalty is to his heavenly Father, in recognition of the fact that he is the Son of God, which is confirmed in the next chapter at his baptism: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ (3:21) Nothing will sway him from this primary identity, yet he willingly submits to them in obedience as he grows up (51).

How do you see Jesus? Is he just a man, just the son of Joseph? That’s how some of the crowds see him in Luke 4:22 - Is not this Joseph’s son? and in John 6:42 ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, of whose father and mother we know? How can he now say ‘I have come down from heaven?’ The son of Joseph would be just a man, unable to save.

But Jesus is the Son of God, in his Father’s house, about his Father’s business, knowing that even at the tender age of 12. He knows who he is and why he is here and nothing will sway him from his mission. Do you know Jesus as the Son of God, as God come to save?

There’s also a word to parents here, as to how you see your children. It must have been painful for Mary and Joseph to hear Jesus’ words, but there must be the recognition that our children belong to God, first and foremost. Simeon spoke of the sword that would pierce Mary’s soul as she watched her child fulfil his mission. Will we give our children to God, for him to use and place as he wills? Even if it’s on the mission field, or in ministry, or some other dangerous service?

Jesus, God’s Son, was home but not alone, fulfilling his mission to save his people and make us children of God. Will we bring up our children to share our faith and enable them to live for God in the way he has prepared for them?

This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 8th January 2012.

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