“All Were Amazed”

Luke 2:41-52, December 26th, 2021

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard


“Hear now these words as recorded in the gospel according to Luke, chapter two, verses forty-one thru fifty-two.”

Luke 2:41-52

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. 51Then 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.

“Having Listen to our morning lesson let us consider how amazing it is to watch our children grow up.”

“All Were Amazed”

We come together this morning in the hush of Christmas. The lights of our Christmas Eve candle lighting service still burn in our hearts. The birth of the Christ Child has transformed the lives of millions, including our own and those who have come before us for over two millennia!  Now in the twilight of our annual Christmas celebration of Christ’s birth, our scriptures from the gospel of Luke swiftly move us forward in the accountings of his life story.  We move past his visits from the shepherds that followed a star that led them to the shelter where he was born.  The account of the three wise men, from the East, gives way to Jesus’ dedication at the Temple, when he was eight days old, where old Simeon gives thanks to God for the privilege of performing the ritual for this child, the salvation of Israel.  The prophet Anna also praises God for the Child Jesus, the redemption of the people. In verse forty we learn that “The child (Jesus) grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”  On this platform of historical knowledge according to Holy Scripture we come upon Jesus, with his parents Mary and Joseph in Jerusalem.

We learn that they had traveled to Jerusalem within a group of fellow travelers, to attend a festival with their son Jesus, who was now twelve years of age.  Having attended the festival, Jesus’ parents prepare to head home with those with which they had come.  Our narrative begins as Mary and Joseph join with the caravan when it leaves.  It was a large group, and they had assumed Jesus was with them.  Astonishingly, based on our assumed norms in our current society, it took a full day before Mary and Joseph realized Jesus was not with them, which causes them to go back in frantic search for his whereabouts.  On their return to Jerusalem, after searching the marketplace and other popular places, they finally went in search for him at the Temple.  To their astonishment, they did find Jesus in the Temple.  “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.” /Luke 2:46 & 47/ When we reflect-back into our earlier lives, back when we were but lads and lasses, around twelve years of age, it seems unlikely that we would have picked a synagogue or church to hang out in; certainly not a cathedral or Temple, to talk with the elders and the teachers of the church! 

My brother often wandered out in the woods down by a stream hidden in the heavy wooded areas.  But he almost-always came home the same day, just dirty, hungry, and tired; trust me when I say there were consequences.  But of course, if he brought home a string of trout from the stream forgiveness came swiftly!  Me if I was late for supper… it was big, and there were consequences, as I never caught any fish!

Can you imagine this scene from Mary or Joseph’s perspective as parents?  Three days!  How could there have been that much-time past.  One scenario, which is highly likely, Mary and her family traveled with other relatives like her cousin Elizabeth who had children of similar ages.  Mary easily could have believed the children were all together and thus safely within the group. How long, in our society, would a parent go without laying eyes on a twelve-year old?  A day, like a Saturday, as they may be on a one day outing with a scout troop, or with friends, or dear old dad took them fishing and did not tell you.  Overnight when they stay over at a friend’s house.  So, half a day or an overnight are reasonable in our current society.  Three days they searched for young Jesus.  Well, I suspect that a twelve-year old had more responsibilities and such then we may imagine.  Traveling in a caravan, it may have been he had responsibilities and not being-seen, for a day may have been common.  Yet, it still seems, that his staying behind in Jerusalem was a form of disobedience to his parents Mary and Joseph.  His disobedience seems much like any common adolescent we might easily identify with from our own lives.  Either way, it makes the boy Jesus more human.  As we move forward from this accounting and from Christmas we shall grapple with this whole concept of God, being incarnate, alive, within this young boy.  As we look to the conversations, which we will undertake come Lent and then Easter, his youthful ‘humanness’ becomes even more striking!

As we continue our critique of our lesson, can you imagine how the Temple teachers felt, how the elders of the church saw this event?  And consider how strikingly different this is then when he becomes an adult and his relationship with the Chief Priests and Sadducees becomes strained.  Was the child Jesus unaware of his future?  Or did he need to exercise his knowledge with these instructors within the Temple system?  Whatever the full answer is – we shall never be sure.  But, as an instrument to move us toward the importance of his birth is surely in play as this writing takes form!  The purpose of these writings from the gospel of Luke are meant to, as stated so clearly in the Gospel of John, is to strengthen our faith as to who Jesus truly was.  It is meant to be a vehicle for both Jew and Gentile alike to come to believe in Jesus as the true Messiah.  Look to the gospel of John, chapter twenty, verses thirty-one which clearly states why the gospels exist. “These (accounts) are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” /John 20:31/ Therefore, taking this into account, the effort to tell us of this incident in Jerusalem is meant to reaffirm the life of the Christ Child and his adolescents as he moves toward adulthood and his ministry as the long awaited Anointed One! 

But most importantly, in our discussion this morning, how would you respond if you were any of these characters in this whole Temple drama?  This event was clearly a drama!  Imagine the headlines in the local news.  “Boy left behind for three days!” As the story unfolds the drama over young Jesus gone missing for three days, fads into the background as this new Drama unfolds! “Temple teachers mesmerized by the brilliance of a young boy.”  “The carpenter’s twelve-year old son astonishes church elders!”

“How did this young lad become so knowledgeable about the depth and meaning of the scriptures?” As these headliners draw our attention, the deeper question begins to take shape.  The Christmas celebration just past, what was it truly about?  More importantly, as Christians, what is the true significance, in all this fuss, regarding our personal faith journeys?  Surely, it was more than the month long build-up of the commercially driven push for everyone to go out and shop till we drop attitude!  Was it not simply that we Christians wished to make the birth of Jesus, the Christ Child, as being significant!  Was it not a great way to get the message of the story of Jesus into wider circulation!  And was it not a wonderful way to introduce the principles of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love as we seek to bring to light the true meaning of it all; that the Jesus story, the Christ Child narrative is all about Jesus being God incarnate and thereby brings the Light of God into our lives, our families, and our churches!  Are not our true motives for the celebration and now the story of Jesus as a lad to reaffirm this truth which is the very essence of why we follow the teachings and the life of Jesus; from cradle to grave!?

The closing verse of our lesson this morning raises up the importance of Mother Mary as our writing speaks of how beloved and cherished Jesus was to her and how events in Jesus’ life reinforced her love for him.  “Jesus’ mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.” /Luke 2:51b & 52/ Soon enough the scriptures will reintroduce the stories of Jesus’ adult life and his ministry here among us.  Jesus’ birth, the star that led the to the stable in Bethlehem, the shepherds the wise men, his encounter at age twelve with the Temple teachers, all this and the love of his birth mother Mary, they lead us to the mystical identity of the man Jesus.  His life story leads us to our faith journeys as Christians.  Let us, ponder all this in our hearts, as did Mary.

On Christmas Eve, the stage was set.  The Carols reached out to the heavens, invoking our commitment to faith: “O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!”  The candle lighting ceremony silenced our hearts.

“Silent Night, Holy Night, Christ the Lord is born.”  As we lit up the sanctuary by lighting our individual candles one by one, the illumination of our combined lights reached out to heaven!  Our faith filled emotions soured as we sang out for all to hear!  “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!”
Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing, And Heaven and nature sing, And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.”  Jesus said to Mary and Joseph, “why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  But they did not understand what he said to them.  Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and the young Lad that Jesus was, he was obedient to them.” /Luke 2:49-51/ Thank God for the scriptures which ‘were written’ – to enhance our faith.  Thank God for our traditions, which ‘were passed’ to us through the generations.  The Christmas narrative opened the beginning of the story.  Today’s lessons reach out to us, as young Jesus begins to explore and open our hearts to his place in history.    

Amen.

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