Christmas +1

The build-up, as always, was difficult.

Four Sunday’s of waiting – weeks of being told “we’re not there yet”

Four weeks of the prophets, and their harsh assessment of our sorry state.

Though Christmas was breaking out all around us –

decorations and music and holiday cheer manipulate our celebrations

and try to push the “Christmas season” on us before we were ready

but we were patient, because we are different.

We were waiting to welcome, not a season, but our Saviour.

And today our patience is rewarded by an isolated story

of Jesus as a twelve year old boy, running away from his parents.

…75 or 80 miles over difficult terrain – three days of hard travel.

From Nazareth to Jerusalem – every year – without fail.

This is how they give their son an appreciation of his history – his traditions – his roots.

And how are they repaid? He gives them the slip – loses himself in the city

while Joseph and Mary search frantically among the camp.

They are one day towards home before Jesus is even missed –

that means a very frantic day just to get back to the last place he was seen (the city) –

and once there, more searching, wondering and worrying.

And where is he found? At the temple – with the elders and teachers –

not just listening (he should know his place) but conversing – talking back!

Answers that left the teachers (old venerable men) amazed!

(Whether by his nerve or his grasp of the issues…).

Mary and Joseph are not amused- “Child, why have you treated us like this…”

He doesn’t understand their problem (what 12 year old does)

their worry makes no sense to him – he believes that he has found his vocation

“This is my father’s business (my father’s house) – I must be here, busy with these pursuits…”

now his parents are dumb-struck.

What does he know – what can he know

How can a child speak so confidently of the Law, the things of God.

They had certain expectations of their son – he would learn and become familiar with the faith, with tradition – he would honour God as their people had always honoured God – indeed Luke tells us:

“the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom

and the favour of God was upon him.”

but he was growing in a way no one could imagine

here was a child who expresses a need to be about his Father’s business –

who has a sense of calling –

who has a strong desire for the things of God.

We, like Mary, Joseph and the other “adults” in the story, are unsure how to deal with this –

we have conditioned ourselves to the words of Jesus, the man – the teacher – the rabbi.

We expect to marvel at the words of mature, trained professionals,

and are quick to set aside the words, deeds and desires of those who don’t “fit the mold.” –

and that includes the adolescent Jesus.

Perhaps this brief tale is also Luke’s way of helping us understand

that God does not work according to our expectations, understandings or desires.

In spite of how everyone heard and understood the prophecy of the past,

this child – this “soon to be king” from Nazareth

will never behave according to our designs.

So how are our understandings and expectations changed now that Christ has been revealed?

Are we ready for the changes God is calling us to through this bold young man?

are we prepared to open our eyes to the unexpected,

to see that God’s business calls to everyone – whatever their age or ability?

We are entering to the season of Christmas – the celebration of the Incarnation.

God-with-us is more than just an encouraging motto –

In Jesus this phrase has become reality.

God has proved, to us and to all, that our idea of God –

high and mighty – lofty and distant –

is not the way God prefers to work.

While we sing songs and weave stories,

and do our best to keep God at a distance,

God arrives as a child –

wanders the streets of the city without an escort –

surprises and delights the ‘so-called’ God experts,

and challenges us to follow in his footsteps.

Are we ready for that?

Are we ready for the presence of the One announced by angels,

welcomed by foreign dignitaries,

pursued by jealous heads of state?

We may have lived in ignorance of his reality while the shopping season raged about us;

we may have missed the presence while we raced through our Christmas dinner,

and lounged exhausted after all the company was gone.

The cards have stopped coming and the special services have ended,

but there is no denying that the presence is certainly among us –

the presence of grace and mercy, of love and forgiveness

that signals God’s continuing engagement in our lives.

We have welcomed God into our midst again this week in the person of the Christ Child.

May we now find the courage to follow where He would lead us. Amen.

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