2nd Sunday after Christmas – B LSB #862
Text – Luke 2:49-50
And He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that He spoke to them.
Do any of you remember hearing that Bible reading, especially the last sentence, & wondering to yourself, “How on earth did Jesus’ own parents not get it?” “…they did not understand the saying that He spoke to them.” Over the years that particular verse has captured my attention & I have to say, I couldn’t understand how Jesus’ parents did not understand.
After all the miraculous circumstances around His birth, the encounter at the temple with Simeon & Anna, the visit of the Magi, the escape to Egypt so Herod wouldn’t kill Him, & what must have been obvious to them every single day – a child that never sinned – after all that, when they find Jesus in the temple they don’t understand that Jesus must be in His Father’s house.
The Bible says Jesus was 12 years old at the time. Maybe after He turned about five, the next 7 years were mostly a routine childhood. Maybe Joseph & Mary sort of got lulled into accepting Him as a good boy, but not all that different from the rest of the children in the village.
After all, the angels & the prophets told them He was the Son of God, yet it took them three days to even consider the fact that He might be in the house of God, otherwise known as the temple. I think we could make the case that Joseph & Mary were just a little bit dense during this entire episode.
Jesus said, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And His parents did not understand the saying that He spoke to them. Why didn’t Jesus’ parents get it? What was it about the Son of God being in the house of God that they did not understand? As usual, a good honest look at ourselves will provide the answer. How much do we really understand Jesus? I grew up in a family, so did all my cousins, that went to church every Sunday of the month, not just 2 or 3 of them. We went to church for every single Advent & Lenten service, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Maundy Thursday & Good Friday. We even went to church services on Ascension Day.
At that point in my life, I didn’t appreciate all that time in God’s house, nor did I understand it. It’s apparent that the same thing is true for many of the people who belong to this congregation. We’ve already moved the Thanksgiving Day service to the night before so being in God’s house doesn’t interfere with all the ‘cooking.’
Nevertheless, at most, 45 of you showed up, in God’s house, that evening. It was quite apparent, that just like Joseph & Mary, most of you do not understand the saying Jesus spoke to His parents: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Okay, so I can hear your excuse already. You’re going to claim that you are not Jesus.
I get that, but aren’t you children of God, daughters & sons of God, just like Jesus is? If being in His Father’s house is good enough for our Savior, why is not it good enough for you? Or is it that, exactly like Joseph & Mary, you don’t understand Jesus either?
You see, even in the secular world, everyone realizes that marking the end of one year & welcoming in the beginning of another, is a big deal. There’re parties all around the world, the ball drops in Times Square, & people celebrate everywhere. Very little in those celebrations remembers our heavenly Father’s role in all that, but you expect such things in a secular crowd.
In a Christian community, however, you’d think people would want to honor & thank their Father in heaven for the blessings of the past year. You’d think that mature Christians would understand the importance of ringing in the New Year by seeking their heavenly Father’s blessing for the 12 months to come. We even moved the time of the service from 7 to 6:30 PM to make it more family friendly, so the younger children wouldn’t be out so late. We had something like 31 members of our church show up on New Year’s Eve. Almost no one had to work the next day & there wasn’t even a tableful of turkey & all the fixins to cook the next morning. I wonder how many invited Jesus to their year-end celebration through a prayer?
We should give Joseph & Mary a little slack, when we wonder, “How on earth did Jesus’ own parents not get it?” It seems pretty clear that 90 percent of our congregation does not understand the saying that Jesus spoke to His parents: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
We may be thankful for all that God does but we still resist the idea that we have a duty as His children to respond with more than thanks & praise. It is that ‘serve & obey’ part we wrestle with.
In the same way, we’re delighted God has paid the price to make us His own, but we’re not so delighted in the living under Him & serving Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, & blessedness part. I speak here not to you, but from the perspective of my own stubborn heart & will. I want to belong to God as long as being His does not conflict with my lifestyle.
It seems pretty clear that attending church on Thanksgiving Eve, & on New Year’s Eve, does conflict with the lifestyle of many of you. Along with Joseph & Mary, there is plenty of guilt to go around with the poor understanding that you & I have of Jesus. We want Him to save us from our sins, but wanting Him to change how we live – not so much!
We want to receive what our Savior has to offer, but we find it a stretch to aspire to, or reach for, the saintly lives that befit our identity & calling as the children of God. Jesus wants all His brothers & sisters to be here, along with Him, in His Father’s house. It’s that message His parents do not understand. How about you? Do you get it? Are you in God’s house every opportunity you have? Last Wednesday evening, what was so important that you did not have time to spend 45 minutes in God’s house? At the very least, in line with the sermon hymn, “O Blest the House,” this morning’s reading from the Gospel of Luke is about parents raising their children in the faith. Being the Son of God, Jesus had to instruct even His own parents.
In all four of the Gospels Jesus is recorded as saying, “Follow me.” Anybody that calls themselves a child of God likes to think they follow Jesus. In today’s reading, Jesus chides His parents with the words, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Is it too inconvenient for you, to follow Jesus in that way? If so, where are you following Jesus?
The sand in the hourglass will not slow down for anyone – threescore & ten, perhaps 80 years, but not much more than that. Even after a whole lifetime of scurrying about, our long list of accomplishments, the things that cause us to burst with pride, will amount to nothingness or, at most, the sweat accumulated on our brow.
As generation follows upon generation, what is it that makes the human condition so helpless & hopeless? In Psalm 90, Moses remains relentless in his honest appraisal of life in this world. The entire problem from beginning to end belongs not with God, but with us.
The problem always has been our guilt – sin which is nothing less than the cause of mortality for the entire human race. Even our secret sins are laid totally bare in God’s sight. You & I have built up the brick wall of death with our own hands, yet we are entirely powerless to tear down that wall. It’s in God’s house that Jesus tears down that wall for us.
If you feel like a guilt trip has been laid upon you for not attending the New Year’s Eve service, consider that the work of God’s Holy Spirit, convicting you of your sin. If you are a child of God, you already know the answer to the guilt trip. It’s found right here in God’s house. Baptism, & God’s Word, create faith in the hearts of God’s people. Along with that faith comes a repentant heart – the ability to repent of our sins. Like all abilities, if we don’t use it, we lose it. The Bible calls that hardening our heart. Pharaoh was very good at it, & he paid the price. So was Judas, & though Jesus called him friend, Judas would not trust in Jesus’ promise to him.
As the closing verses of today’s Gospel reading show, Jesus does leave the temple & go to Nazareth with His human parents. In other words, the unveiling of God’s Son as a boy in the temple was neither complete nor permanent. For now, He returned to the “normal” life of a 12 year-old Israelite boy in 1st century Galilee.
This episode is a glimpse into the deep truth about the person & work of our Lord. We have what’s been called a “secret epiphany,” a brush with things that are not yet fully revealed. Yet God’s insistent mercy drives forward to their fulfillment in the suffering & death of Jesus for the salvation of the world.
Our heavenly Father’s self-revelation in Christ is a glorious mystery that has been proclaimed in all the world. But it is not self-evident, not even for those who saw these things with their own eyes, or heard them with their own ears. There’s more in this Gospel reading than meets the eye or the ear.
Christians today are still unpacking these inexhaustible Christmas gifts from our heavenly Creator. Like Mary, we too should treasure up all these things in our hearts. In that vein, I’m challenging each & every one of you to make it your New Year’s resolution to give up the six Wednesday nights of Lent to Jesus so you can attend the worship services here.
Pray about & anticipate the blessings & fellowship Christ will deliver to you, here in His Father’s house. Pray that He will give you a greater ability to understand Jesus, & the love He has for you. Pray that you will be healed of the damage caused by your own sins, as well as that caused by the sins of the people around you. “O Lord, the answer to our poverty is not wealth. The answer to our sicknesses is not health. The answer to our sadness is not happiness. The answer to everything that life & death can throw at us is Jesus, & Him alone.”
Your Word reminds us, Lord, that there is a time for everything. That truth highlights the changes of our lives as times come & go. As the year has now changed, we come to You seeking Your direction & presence, for if You do not go with us, how can we move forward? Strengthen all who counsel & encourage others with Your truth, & keep us true to You. Amen.
Oh, blest the house, whate’er befall, where Jesus Christ is all in all! A home that is not wholly His – how sad & poor & dark it is! Oh, blest the parents who give heed unto their children’s foremost need & weary not of care or cost. May none to them & heaven be lost! Then here will I & mine today a solemn promise make & say: Though all the world forsake His Word, I & my house will serve the Lord! Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet