The Second Sunday After Christmas
8:00 a.m. Divine Service: Part 1
8:00 a.m. Divine Service: Part 2
Sermon Title: Wonder Revealed in the Ordinary (Luke 2:40-52)
The holy Evangelist, Luke, sets before us this morning an account whereby wonder is revealed in the ordinary. It centers upon the life of a ,common, everyday family in an ordinary place in first century Palestine, known as Nazareth of Galilee. Aside from the infancy narratives, this is the only account we have from the first 30 years of Jesus’ life, with his parents, Mary and Joseph. That in itself is a wonder! Why haven’t the Biblical writers given us further details of Jesus’ childhood and young adult life? Inquiring minds would love to know, wouldn’t we?
But alas, we have nothing of Jesus’ childhood exploits, unless you want to consider some scrupulous and highly fictitious accounts penned by some highly imaginative writers and contained in some of the Greek Apocryphal works like the infancy narratives in the so called Gospel of Thomas. There one can find tales of the child Jesus already at seven years old fashioning animals from clay and making them move as though they were alive, and birds and sparrows that actually could fly and eat and drink. Others relate how Jesus, without any tools, would adjust Joseph’s carpentry blunders to the perfect dimensions, by lengthening or shortening a board here and there or square up the edges and corners. Young Jesus is even reported to have saved his half-brother James’ life by healing him after he had been bitten by a venomous snake.
The unlikelihood of all these wonderful displays of divine power by the boy Jesus is obvious. If Jesus had been performing such miraculous stunts as a child, you can be sure he would never have made it through childhood. Even as an adult the religious leaders branded Him as Beelzebub; that is, Satan himself for casting out demons! What would the orthodox religious elite have done with a boy who could create life? He would have been a first century celebrity! There would have been no quiet, anonymous, life for Him.
The True Gospels are not hiding anything. The reason we have no other accounts of Jesus’ childhood is precisely because His life was so ordinary. He lived the same normal, mundane, life you and I do. He did not grow up with a golden spoon in His mouth. His father was a common day laborer, a carpenter. He did not have all the advantages of the best of education and opportunities that someone of a more affluent family would have. His parents were not globe trotters, unless, of course, we count their flight to Egypt when Jesus was but an infant to save his life from the wicked Tetrarch Herod. He didn’t go around amazing His friends with miracles. On top of this, we also know from the Gospel of John that the Holy Spirit only saw fit to record for us those incidents that are necessary for our faith and our eternal salvation.
So we come back to this incident of Jesus at 12 years old. Since it is the only one of we have of His actual childhood, it ought to command our attention. Here in the midst of something quite ordinary for a Jewish family of the first century, going up to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, something quite extraordinary, even wonderful, is being revealed. Here everyone, most especially Jesus’ own parents, were made keenly aware that there was something quite extraordinarily wonderful about Jesus’ person, as well as His life in this world.
Have you ever wondered what life would have been like for Mary and Joseph raising the Son of God? Here, I believe, we are given a real clue. It was truly normal.
Of course, everyone of us who have children would immediately want to insist that raising Jesus could not have been completely normal. He was, after all, as Holy Scripture assures us, without sin. Imagine having a completely dutiful, loving and obedient son! Our parental minds just won’t let us go there! But in the culture and time Jesus grew up, obedient children were probably the norm more than the exception. After all, under the Mosaic Law, Jewish society was a morally strict environment. Likewise, because of the divine mandate to keep themselves separate from the Gentiles, the Jews were, for the most part, protected from outside influences.
There was no T.V., internet, or progressive secular society to influence your child. You lived in a totally homogenous community. Your family members were all Jews. Your neighbors were all Jews. Everyone sought to follow the Ten Commandments, the Ceremonial laws of Moses, as well as the teachings of the rabbis. One could truly say that the whole village did raise each child because everyone shared the same values and beliefs. Disobedience by children was not tolerated in any way. Punishments were strict and severe. The Mosaic law even called for the death penalty for defiant children. So, a perfectly obedient and submissive child like Jesus would not have stood out quite like it would today. It was for most part completely normal.
In fact, the trust that Mary and Joseph could have in their son to be doing what he was supposed to be doing, as well as their trust in their extended family members and their neighbors to watch out for their son, was completely evident in that Mary and Joseph did not check before leaving Jerusalem to see that Jesus was among the company traveling back to Nazareth and that they did not miss him for one whole day. Now, parents, many of us have perhaps in our rush from the store, left behind a child or two over the years, but to not miss a child for a whole day, why, today that would truly be considered parental neglect!
I’m sure we all can truly appreciate, then, how shocking it was for Mary and Joseph not to find Jesus when they did finally go looking for Him among their relatives! The worry and concern that must have filled their hearts the next two days we can well imagine was excruciating, as they frantically headed back to Jerusalem and searched everywhere for their son.
And then, to find Jesus in of all places the Holy Temple, well, you can just hear it in Mary’s voice when she scolded Jesus, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress!”
Parents, we have all been there, done that and, yes, said that! How many times haven’t we also scolded and upbraided first and asked questions later? Instead of being overwhelmed with thankfulness over our child’s safety, we have done just what Mary did and first tried to punish them with guilt for the hurt they have caused us!
This is truly revealing. If Mary and Joseph had continually been mindful that their son was also the Holy Son of God, do you really believe they would have felt so comfortable scolding him? Jesus was so much a normal boy, Mary and Joseph, who had even received a special appearance of God’s holy angel to inform them of the true nature of their child, were not always cognizant of it.
This was, no doubt, for the best. After all, as a parent how could you mentally handle it if your son’s divinity was always clearly evident? You would be thinking, “Gee, instead of me giving you advice, commanding you to do this and that, I should be seeking direction from you. In fact, instead of working so hard to meet your needs, I should just be asking you to take care of me and the rest of the family.” Jesus needed a normal family life, and with Mary and Joseph He was truly receiving it… scolding and all!
Jesus felt it necessary at this juncture to remind His parents of His true divine personhood and the true wonder of His life as their son. Jesus responded to Mary’s scolding by saying, “Why were you looking for me? Did you knot know that I must be in my Father’s house?” More literally Jesus said, “Do you not know that in the things of my Father it is necessary for me to be.”
Here Jesus was helping His parents to see once again the real wonder of their lives as His earthly parents. No one else save them had or will have the grace and opportunity to raise up the Child who is Himself, as the prophet Isaiah foretold, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Just as there was truly nothing ordinary or unimportant in this Child, Son of the Eternal Father in flesh, so there was nothing ordinary and unimportant in Mary and Joseph’s roles to raise up for the world its Savior! Their life, just like Jesus’ life, was truly a wonder revealed in the ordinary king of life!
Now, there are some, most notably the higher critical scholars, who claim that the child Jesus was not fully aware of the awesome wonder of His true nature as the Son of God, but only became aware of it in bits and pieces as He matured, being fully aware only when He heard the Father’s voice at His baptism. But this incident in the temple in Jerusalem at 12 years old clearly debunks such nonsense.
Even though in His state of humility, the divine nature did not fully manifest itself or share all of its properties with the human nature in the person of Jesus, clearly this 12 year old knew not only who His true Father was, but also was already fully aware and committed to His Heavenly Father’s business; the saving of sinners through His own active and passive obedience to the Law of God, even the offering of Himself as the Sacrificial Lamb. It was not an accident that Jesus chose this occasion and this location; in the shadow of the liturgical slaying of the Passover Lamb at the temple, to remind His parents of who He was and the very purpose for which He had come into the world.
Like the teachers of Israel who were totally wonder struck by this 12 year-old’s level of understanding and questions as they conversed with Him in the temple, so Mary and Joseph could not have escaped the sense of awe at just how wonder-filled were their lives at the moment of Jesus’ response to Mary’s scolding. We can be sure they were humbled by that wonder once again even though Luke clearly points out that they did not comprehend the full magnitude of Jesus’ words to them.
And so, what about you, dear Christian? Do you comprehend how wonder-filled is your life in this Jesus Christ?
Mary was blessed to give birth to, nurse, and nurture the Son of God, who she fully admitted would be her Savior. Joseph was richly blessed to provide for, keep safe, teach, and hold in his lap the very One who would guard Joseph’s soul, provide him with eternal salvation, and lead him on the paths of eternal truth and life.
If you think that your life is but ordinary… mundane… and unimportant by comparison, then let this 12 year old Jesus also set you straight on just how wonder-filled is your life. Every person on this planet was born and born in sin at that. But you were through Holy Baptism given re-birth into the forgiveness of your sins by the Spirit of Christ and through the very power of the God/Man, Jesus Christ’s own word of promise.
In those waters you were put to death to this world and made alive in faith to live forever with Christ (Romans 6). He Who is the Creator of all life and yet rejoiced to become a member of a human family, has made you, along with your fellow believers, a member of His holy family even as you live in this created order. Is that not a wonder?
In this world, like every other human being, your ears are filled with words and teachings of men, that lead only to death. But as a new creature in Christ, you have been given ears to hear and comprehend the Words of Jesus as they are preached to you and you read in Holy Scripture which bring you eternal life. Is not this wonderful!
Like your fellow human beings you eat and drink the food of this world to sustain your life in this world. But distinctly apart from this world, as a baptized believer in Jesus Christ, you are blessed to be nourished with the incomprehensible food and drink that nourishes you with eternal life; the very body and blood of Jesus. How fantastically wonderful is that!
And if all this isn’t wonderful enough, Jesus has given you a life rich in purpose. Mary and Joseph were blessed to bring the world the Christ, but you have been blessed by the Word made flesh Himself, to bring Christ to others personally by sharing His Word with them and supporting with your financial gifts the ongoing work of making disciples of all nations. Yours is also in Jesus Christ a wonder-filled life! Who could ever conceive of throwing this life away or not living it in complete wonder and joy! Amen!