This season is always interesting when you preach from the lectionary – the three year cycle of readings – because we seem to be doing a time warp.
Just two days ago, we celebrated the birth of Christ, and here we are in the midst of the Christmas season – but then we jump ahead twelve years for the scriptures today and find ourselves in Jerusalem with Jesus as a young man.
We have very little record of what happens in between. There are a number of other gospels that have been found that are not included in our book. But they come from much different times and say many things that contradict what we find here in scriptures.
No, all that we have officially is story of Jesus being circumcised in Luke’s gospel, and then twelve years later this rather ordinary tale of a mother, a father and a son visiting Jerusalem for the Passover feast.
They had done this quite often. Every year they faithfully made the trek with others in their village and family members. Every year they battled the crowds and the people and the animals to worship with one another.
In fact, the only thing that made this year different from any other year is that something had changed in Jesus.
As a precocious 12 year old boy, he was starting to realize a difference between his early parents, Mary and Joseph, and his heavenly parent, God Almighty.
And he got into his head that he was ready to make the switch – he was ready to leave his family in order to be closer to his Father. He made his way to the temple, sat down in the midst of some rabbis and started debating with them!
Now, we could accuse Mary and Joseph of being bad parents… but they got a good ways down the road back to home before they realized that their son was no longer with them. It was chaos in the caravan so it was hard to keep track of one another – and perhaps Jesus had employed a little trickery to sneak off. In any case, they realized he wasn’t with them and rush back to the City of David to find him.
I can’t imagine the panic they were feeling. They searched every corner of the city – where they had spent the night, places they had eaten, where they last saw him, and they checked the temple courts.
And there he was – in the midst of the teachers – who were all astounded at the wisdom of this little boy.
But here is what I think is the really interesting part of the story… Jesus tried to explain that he wanted to be there in the temple close to his Holy Father… but in the end, he traveled back with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth.
The scriptures say that he was obedient to them – for all that time.
For 18 years, Jesus disappeared. He went home and obeyed his parents. Moms and Dads – note that scripture when your kids are acting up =)
For 18 years, we have no record of what he did. We assume he took up the mantle of his father the carpenter, but it doesn’t say so anywhere in scripture. Some say that he traveled and studied in far off places. Perhaps he married and had a family – afterall, 30 is a quite old age in this culture to be starting one’s life work. Now, the scriptures say no where that he did do these things… but they also don’t say that he didn’t. There is a gap that we try to fill with our imaginations and what we know about the culture of the time. But really, we are left wondering what was he doing all of that time?
The only answer that I can come up with is that he was waiting.
He was waiting for the time to be right.
He was waiting for the call of the Lord upon his life.
In our reading from Colossians today, we are told to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…. And above all clothe ourselves with love.
The one that sticks out in that passage for me is patience.
Jesus went back to Nazareth with his mother and father instead of starting his ministry when he wanted to. He went back to Nazareth and clothed himself with patience. He clothed himself with humility as he honored his earthly parents. He got himself ready for his ministry to the world by clothing himself with compassion and kindness and meekness. And above all else, he clothed himself with love.
For all of that time, Jesus was hidden away from the eyes of the world, but he was also getting himself ready for what was to come.
I think the hardest part of our lives sometimes is the fact that we haven’t heard God speak to us yet. Some of us have… some of us have heard a still small voice, but others of us are still waiting.
We are like the young man Jesus who reluctantly but humbly goes back home with Mary and Joseph – we must wait, and we may not be sure for how long.
But in the meantime… we can get ourselves ready. We practice our faith so that we are ready when the time comes. We spend time learning the scriptures. We can spend time singing the songs of faith. We can spend time caring for our neighbors and loved ones, clothing ourselves with compassion. We can practice forgiveness for the small things – so that when the big things come into our lives, we are ready for them.
Our call is not to simply wait for a burning bush to appear. Our call is to take this faith we have been given and to practice it in small ways each and every day so that we are ready – we are clothed with the right stuff – when that burning bush appears.
Next week, we will look at some of the ways that Christ was being prepared for his ministry in the world…. Even back to the time of his birth, and the following week we will hear the call that ended that 18 years of silence. So come, journey with us as we prepare our hearts and minds for what God is going to do in our midst.
Amen, and Amen.