My, How You’ve Grown!

“My, How You’ve Grown!”
Luke 2:41-52
Sunday, December 30, 2012
First Sunday of Christmas

Today’s gospel shows us how fast the story of God can move along…Last week we celebrated the birth of Jesus…Today we find him in the Temple at 12…“Jesus, you’ve grown up so fast!”

As children, most of us had to put up with the inevitable hugs from relatives that accompanied the comment – “My, how you’ve grown!”  The holidays were usually the worst because we often gathered with relatives we only saw at holiday functions.  Of course, there were always those awful, “Give Aunt Sadie a kiss” moments too.  As we leave Christmas behind we may remember how brutal these family gatherings can be for kids.

Luke offers us the only biblical story about Jesus as a child…He gives us a glimpse of what it might have been like for Jesus’ family…However, instead of distant relatives remarking on how Jesus has grown, it is his own parents who are stunned by the change.  Apparently, life in Nazareth had been a bit ordinary for the past few years…The excitement of angels and adoring shepherds had worn off; the gifts of the wise men had been used up, and the family had settled into a routine after their brief visit to Egypt.  The prophets had been silent for years and maybe the mystery of Jesus’ birth had faded into distant memory.

Maybe Mary and Joseph knew what Jesus would become, but figured that was years away so why worry?  Maybe Mary and Joseph simply failed to notice that their baby boy was growing up.  We may be like that – we cannot or do not want to see that our Jesus is growing up just as we are growing up…Jesus is growing up beyond our childhood images…Jesus is moving past our expectations…As Jesus grows and matures he calls us to follow him.

When Mary found Jesus in the Temple all she saw was her little boy…She wasn’t ready to see that Jesus was growing up too fast…Maybe she remembered the angel’s words and she wasn’t willing to give her son to God’s plan just yet…Maybe she wanted to keep her first-born close to her for a little while longer…Maybe she wanted to delay the symbolic sword that Simeon said would one day pierce her heart as her son gave his life.  Whatever was going on her mind, Mary’s reaction to finding Jesus was so like a mother…“Child, why have you treated us this way?  Look, your father and I have been worried sick about you and looking for you for three days!  You couldn’t call?”  [Okay, so I ad-lib a little.]  The point is that Mary and Joseph were none too pleased with Jesus’ behavior and they reacted like normal parents.

And Jesus answers: “Why are you searching for me?  Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”  Our first reaction is that this little boy needs a “time-out”…or worse…But somewhere in this moment we begin to understand that this is no ordinary child.  Maybe what shocks us in this story is that we have asked the same question…“Jesus, why have you treated us this way?  Why have you gone away without telling us where you are going?”  Whenever our expectations are shattered, we ask our family, our church, and God: “Why have you treated me like this?”  When Jesus answers with: “Why were you searching for me?” we realize that Jesus is right – we know where he has gone.

That really is part of the problem isn’t it?  We know he is about his father’s business and it’s too hard for us…We’re not ready to give up our expectations of: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so…”  Jesus is no longer to be found in the sweet sentiment of our childhood expectations.  He is not in the way things used to be or the way we wish things could be.  Jesus is about the future…Jesus was born, he lived, and he died so that he might rise again and be about God’s business of showing us that the time for our searching is over…Jesus is here to show us the way to God, even if that way means shattering our expectations…Mary expected Jesus to behave in a certain way and he did not…Jesus expected his mother to already know what he was up to and she did not…It seems that Mary and Jesus have two different understandings of who Jesus’ father really is…Any child who stays out all night clearly understands the message when his parents greet him at the door with: “Do you know how worried I was?”  And he’s lucky if that’s ALL he gets!  Jesus is different.

The story tells us that Jesus did return home with his parents and lived obediently with them until his time had come…I suspect their relationship changed dramatically after this though…Jesus’ priorities have changed and his thoughts must have drifted more to God’s will for his life and not his parent’s will…The good news for us is that this week after Christmas reminds us that the search for Jesus is finally over…We have listened to the stories, we have followed the star, and we have heard the angels’ proclamation…Like Mary and Joseph, we have searched for the Messiah and we have found him in the person of Jesus Christ…The scary part of this story is that our search didn’t end where we expected it to end…When Mary and Joseph searched for their precious son they found him in an unexpected place…He wasn’t where they thought he should be – in the safety of family or friends…Instead, he was with the teachers in the Temple – the place where ultimately his life will end as he is handed over to be crucified.  That really is the hard part about this Christmas story…we have already seen where it leads and we don’t like it…It is still so hard to comprehend that our salvation depends on Jesus’ pain and suffering…But that’s the Easter story and we’re not finished with Christmas yet…For now we see that Jesus returns to Nazareth…he disappears from sight for a while…about twenty years or so…He lives quietly in a little out-of-the-way village where he is unaware of religion or politics…He grows up surrounded by ordinary people – like us…Luke tells us that Jesus continued to grow, “in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.”

Maybe that is what we all want for ourselves as children of God…To grow in wisdom and favor…To respond to God’s love…To someday meet our Lord and hear him say: “My, how you’ve grown!”  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen