Christmas 2A

Text: Luke 2:40-52

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel which was read earlier.

There was a movie that came out when I was a kid called Home Alone. The premise was a huge family going on Christmas vacation. In the hustle and bustle of getting everyone ready before the airport vans showed up, they neglected one of the kids in an upstairs bedroom. It’s not until they arrive to their destination that they realize they left their son Kevin at home. His parents became frantic and immediately began looking for ways to get back home to find him. In our Gospel reading for today, a similar situation happens, or at least it appears to happen.

During the Feast of the Passover, everyone would return to Jerusalem in order to celebrate this Jewish feast. It meant that the city had a greater population than usual. The streets were more crowded, with people moving throughout the city and the marketplace, buying all the things necessary to celebrate the Passover. After the hustle and bustle, people began to leave Jerusalem in droves, including Joseph and Mary, but not Jesus. Luke records, “And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.”

Why did Jesus stay behind? Was He left behind on purpose or was this a “Home Alone” accident? Luke doesn’t give us any indication as to why Jesus was still in Jerusalem upon His parents leaving. Jerusalem is the place of Jesus’ destiny. But would that destiny be fulfilled by Jesus at twelve years old? Luke sets up Jerusalem as the city of destiny here at the end of the infancy narrative. Having reached the age of twelve, it was the time when a Jewish boy became “a son of the law,” that it, obliged to learn and to observe its provisions. It was quite possible that Jesus was left to study the Torah and become proficient in the Word of God found in the Old Testament.

After a day’s journey without Jesus, “supposing him to be in the group,” it was clear that Jesus was not traveling with the group. They returned to Jerusalem, searching for Jesus for three days. What could have been going through the minds of Mary and Joseph? Luther, when preaching on this text, contemplates on Mary’s thoughts during this time: “Behold this child is only mine, this I know very well, and I know that God has entrusted him to me and commanded me to take care of him; why is it then that he is taken from me? It is my fault, for I have not sufficiently taken care of him and guarded him. Perhaps God does not deem me worthy to watch over this child and will take him from me again.”

We can easily get a feeling of Joseph and Mary. They are the earthly guardians of Jesus and have lost Him. Is that what was God expecting of them? Where would they even begin to look for Him? It took them three days to scour Jerusalem and find Jesus. And when they find Him, it was in the least likely of places, or was it? Luke says, “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.” To some extent, it would be proper to find Jesus in the temple. Remember, He is twelve years old and so it would be proper for Him to be in the temple and learning from the teachers of the Law. However, Luke says that not only was He listening to the teachers, He was asking them questions. That was not proper at this age – listen, but keep quiet. Not only was He speaking, they were amazed at what He said.

Mary and Joseph didn’t think about where they found Jesus, just that they found Him, and it is apparent in Mary’s statement to Him: “Son, why you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” Mary and Joseph are shocked at Jesus, shocked at how quietly Jesus had acted up to this time, never opening His mouth in the synagogue, to now sit in the temple with prominent rabbis all about Him, with all eyes and ears fixed upon Him.

Jesus knows who He is and what He was about, even at the age of twelve. He responds by saying, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Unbeknownst to Mary and Joseph, this wasn’t a “Home Alone” situation but rather, a “right where I needed to be” situation. Jesus is in the temple, the house of His Father. He is speaking with the teachers of the Law, but not learning from them. Instead, He is teaching them of God and they “were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” Everything you ever wanted to know about God, well, here God is in the flesh. Here is the Son of God, the one promised from long again, here to fulfill the Father’s plan of salvation. Though only twelve years old, a mere boy, He was the full embodiment of God sent to save creation.

It would appear as if we see a different side of Jesus, one of disrespect towards His earthly parents. He did not leave the Passover Feast with them. He stayed behind. He did His own thing. Was this an almost-teen rebellion? Of course not. He instructs the teachers of the Law, hopefully clearing up any questions the teachers had about God. He prepares them so that they can rightly teach the people of God. And when Mary and Joseph arrive at the temple, Jesus keeps the Fourth Commandment and leaves with them, submitting to the authority of His earthly parents.

There is no “Home Alone” here, but rather Jesus doing His work of teaching, setting the tone for His teaching when He begins His public ministry. All this, the Son’s perfect keeping of the Law, He did for us, being obedient to God’s Word, setting us up for our obedience to God. The only problem with that is we can’t be obedient to God and His Word. We saw how obedient we were in the Garden. It is by Christ’s active obedience that our disobedience is forgiven. St. Paul says in our Epistle, “In him we have redemption of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace….” In Him, by Him, from Him, that’s where we have our forgiveness. It’s by Jesus’ work for us that we are obedient to the Law of God. Because we cannot keep it, God sends forth Jesus to keep it for us. Because of our disobedience, which we inherited from Adam, we were under God’s condemnation and judgment. But through Christ’s active obedience for us and His carrying out faithfully the will of His Father for us, we are counted as righteous and obedient before God through faith in Him.

In today’s Gospel, we might be tempted to say that Jesus was lost. In fact, Jesus was exactly where He was supposed to be; it was really Mary and Joseph who were lost. In a similar way, we are also lost – lost in our trespasses and sins. It is God who finds us and places us among the things of the Father. There the Holy Spirit works faith and makes us people of the Father. Since Jesus said, that He must be in His Father’s house, doing the work of the Father, that means we are with Jesus. That is exactly where we are supposed to be, in our heavenly Father’s house, brought in by Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Christ dwells only in sinners

Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach. The Protestant...

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Beware of aspiring to such purity that you will not wish to be looked upon as a sinner, or to be one. For Christ dwells only in sinners. On this account he descended from heaven, where he dwelt among the righteous, to dwell among sinners. Meditate on this love of his and you will see his sweet consolation. For why was it necessary for him to die if we can obtain a good conscience by our works and afflictions? Accordingly you will find peace only in him and only when you despair of yourself and your own works. Besides, you will learn from him that just as he has received you, so he has made your sins his own and has made his righteousness yours.

Luther’s Works(AE) v. 48:12-13

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A great read–“Why Would Anyone Ever Want to Read the Catechism?”

Pastor Dan Walters has written a great piece entitled, “Why Would Anyone Ever Want to Read the Catechism?”  Currently, I’m teaching the Small Catechism to our 7th and 8th grade catechumens.  It is a difficult process because they are, well, 7th and 8th graders.  They don’t want to learn the Small Catechism (most of them).  They are here because their parents make them come or that’s what you’re supposed to do in 7th and 8th grade.  But he quotes the words of Martin Luther talking about the importance of the Small Catechism.  Below is just a snippet of that quote:

Catechism…For myself I say this: I am also a doctor and preacher; yes, as learned and experienced as all the people who have such assumptions and contentment. Yet I act as a child who is being taught the catechism. Every morning – and whenever I have time – I read and say, word for word, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, and such. I must still read and study them daily. Yet I cannot master the catechism as I wish. But I must remain a child and pupil of the catechism, and am glad to remain so….

Go ahead, read his post.  While you’re at it, go ahead and dust off your Small Catechism.  If you’ve “lost” yours, it’s ok; CPH has lots of them for sale!

Keep On Preaching Christ

But someone might say, Are we to proclaim nothing but that Christ died for us? Isn’t it enough to preach about this one time only? I have heard it so often and know it so well. Answer: The Jews were required to hold the deliverance from Egypt in remembrance not only once, but always, year after year. But should we Christians trouble ourselves continually to repeat the remembrance of the deliverance Christ wrought for us from sin, death, devil, and hell? Are you among those who say, I have heard it all before; why must I hear it again? If so, your heart has become dull, satiated, and shameless, and this food does not taste good to you. This is the same thing that happened to the Jews in the wilderness when they grew tired of eating manna. But if you are a Christian, you will never grow weary, but will long to hear this message often and to speak about it forever.

Martin Luther, Sermon for Maundy Thursday, April 2, 1534. From Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, vol. 5, page 463.

Luther quotes

I’ve been bad…I haven’t been keeping up with the Treasury of Daily Prayer like I should have been.  I have to say that I really enjoy the Writings for each day.  Here are two writings from Martin Luther that should remain at the forefront of our minds.  The first writing is about baptism and the value and importance and meaning of it.  The second writing is about the office of holy ministry, something very important, as I am one who holds that office.  Enjoy these snippets from Luther.

Wednesday After Easter

For just as the truth of this divine promise, once pronounced over us, continues until death, so our faith in it ought never to cease, but to be nourished and strengthened until death by the continual remembrance of this promise made to us in baptism.  Therefore, when we rise from our sins or repent, we are merely returning to the power and the faith of baptism from which we fell, and finding our way back to the promise then made to us, which we deserted when we sinned.  For the truth of the promise once made remains steadfast, always ready to receive us back with open arms when we return….

It will therefore be no small gain to a penitent to remember above all his baptism, and, confidently calling to mind the divine promise which he has forsaken, acknowledge that promise before his Lord, rejoicing that he is still within the fortress of salvation because he has been baptized, and abhorring his wicked ingratitude in falling away from its faith and truth.  His heart will find wonderful comfort and will be encouraged to hope for mercy when he consideres that the promise which God made to him, which cannot possibly lie, is still unbroken and unchanged, and indeed, cannot be changed by sins, as Paul says (II Tim. 2[:13]): “If we are faithless, he remains faithful–for he cannot deny himself.”  This truth of God, I say, will sustain him, so that if all else should fail, this truth, if he believes in it, will not fail him.  In it the penitent has a shield against all assaults of the scornful enemy, an answer to the sins that disturb his conscience, an antidote for the dread of death and judgment, and a comfort in every temptation–namely, this one truth–when he says: “God is faithful in his promises [Heb. 10:23; 11:11], and I received his sign in baptism.  If God is for me, who is against me?” [Rom. 8:31].1

Thursday After Easter

This ministry [that is, the Word of God, Baptism, and Holy Communion] will endure and is not to be replaced by any other.  But the incumbents of this ministry do not remain; they die.  This necessitates an ever-new supply of preachers, which calls for the employment of certain means.  [This ministry] came directly from Christ; but later Christ departed from this earth.  Now a new way of sending was instituted, which works through man but is not of man.  We were sent according to this method; according to it, we elect and send others, and we install them in their ministry to preach and to administer the Sacraments.  This type of sending is also of God and commanded by God.  Even though God resorts to our aid and to human agency, it is He Himself who sends laboreres into His vineyard.

There everyone [who preaches] must realize that he has been sent.  That is, he must know that he has been called; he dare not venture to sneak into the office furtively and without authorization.  It must be done in the open.  The sending is done through man, for example, when a city, a prince, or a congregation calls someone into office.  But at the same time this person is sent by God.2

1) Writing from Martin Luther, “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church,” pp. 59-60 in vol. 36 of Luther’s Works, American Edition
2) Writing from Martin Luther’s sermons on the Gospel of St. John, p. 482 in vol. 22 of Luther’s Works