lass=MsoNormal>It comes as no surprise to anyone that today is known as the 1st Sunday after Christmas. A day that has become known as one of the “Low Sundays”
The Sunday after Christmas and after Easter are the two “Low Sundays” of the year
With all the excitement that the high holidays bring
- the follow up to that, is a naturally… a let down
- a time of recuperation
This year with Christmas day landing on Friday
It means that only three days ago you were here for the biggest Christian celebration of the year
It is certainly understandable that the Sunday following Christmas Friday will be a low Sunday
But it is precisely at these “low days” of the year where how you live out your life in faith really characterize your “relationship with Christ” - our Lord and Saviour
These are the days of character building
It reminds me of a billboard that I used to pass by most days when I lived in Hamilton - it said:
6am practices lead to 7pm games
Now we are not involved in “competing” where what we do results in a trophy
But we are training
We are conditioning
We are journeying along a path with a goal in vision
That goal is a “life in Christ”
And the vision is for both the journey and the outcome
As it is written in the Lord’s prayer
“on earth - as it is in heaven”
The readings for the day are ideal for this particular day and this time of the year
The last Sunday of the year - marking an ending
But also the first Sunday after we celebrate the incarnation - God coming as Emmanuel - God with us
Time when we think about Beginnings and endings
- and how we will live…
“all the life in the middle”
It is also a day where I will have the incredible privilege of baptizing two new members into God’s family
This too is remarkably timed
The Old Testament reading tells of Samuel who was a miracle baby
His mother Hannah was one of two wives of Elkanah, and she was unable to get pregnant
One year on the annual pilgrimage to the Temple, she prayed to God that if she became pregnant that she would dedicate the child to God
God bless her with Samuel and after being weaned he was dedicated to God and raised in the temple by Eli the priest
Samuel became an incredible figure in Ancient Jewish and Christian history
As the last of the “Judges” that ruled Israel
The one that choose (guided by God) both their first King - Saul and their greatest King – David - King David who is the patriarch of the messianic line
And of course ancestor of Jesus
….Our OT reading today closes with
Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.
Our Gospel reading from Luke today tells part of the story of the greatest gift the world has ever seen
The miracle baby - Jesus - born of a virgin
Tells the story of how Mary and Joseph made an annual pilgrimage - as usual
This time with a 12 year old Jesus who stays behind and
After three days (in great anxiety) 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
Our reading today closes with
Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in divine and human favor
In both stories we have:
A miracle baby - a gift from God
A devoted religious yet humble family
An annual pilgrimage
A child in the temple
- in service for others
being discipled - trained - conditioned - growing
both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.
Samuel, one of the greatest figures of Christian history was taught
And grew in faith
Jesus, God in the flesh was taught
And grew in wisdom and stature
God, through the writers of scriptures, sends us a clear message
….All creation is on a journey …
We are all in need of being taught - being discipled
Even the giants of our faith were once discipled
What an incredible message for a time of Beginnings and endings
- But most importantly for how we will live “all the life in the middle”
- and what a great message for a baptism
Because in baptism not only is a child brought into the church
- but parents - Godparents and the whole congregation present
make significant promises for “a life in faith” - “A life in Christ”
It has been said that “it takes a community to raise a child”
And the church is the special community in which God “is the author”
We are all on a journey
A journey discipled in community
It has been observed that the entire book of Luke is structured as a journey, as Jesus travels from Galilee to Jerusalem in important stages in his life
As a Baby - then young adult - finally His adult ministry
Luke arranged the material to communicate his message.
This suggests that the journey in Luke is more than just a physical journey,
and the setting is more than geographical.
The reading tells us that Mary and Joseph made an annual pilgrimage
But it is in the 13th year of Jesus life that we have the only glimpse into his upbringing in Jewish culture during the 13th year a child went through a Bar Mitzvah and was considered an adult for the purposes of accountability and responsibility under the law
As now, a legal adult, we see him learning and answering questions
An aside that was an incredible discovery for me during my study this week
(that a male became a full member of the community at age 30) - this is next time that we see Jesus
he starts serving out his adult ministry once he is recognized as a full member of the community
Luke also plays with the word father
For the first time Joseph is referred to by Luke as father not Joseph
This is done because I believe he wants to show the contrast and the power of Jesus’ statement
“I must be about my Father’s business”
This is a radical call ‘for all of us followers of Jesus’ to discipleship that unfolds from being "about our Father’s business"
· Let us be about our Father’s business!
I have known from an early age that all I wanted to be was a Dad - a parent
o The reason for that I am sure is complicated but the simplest way I understand it is that, I wanted to share Love and to be loved
Now because I am ordained priest in the Anglican tradition, a title that I am sometimes called is: father
And today we as a congregation are going to welcome a new one into the church
The greatest gift the world has ever seen - is the gift from God our Father to all of humanity when he gave of himself – his one and only Son into the world to be our saviour
· Today as “father” I get to baptize these precious ones
· and will be doing "our Father’s business"
· We will all be doing our Father’s business in the promises that we make as a Church - a Community to help raise these new members to the family both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people
· To bring them into new life in Christ
And what is that “life in Christ”
What will they be baptized into
What we will as a congregation be reclaiming in our baptismal vows
We look to Colossians - our New Testament book for that answer
It is set up earlier in the letter and I will read from Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase “The Message” which I believe captures it beautifully and powerfully
From Colossians 1
“We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen.
We look at this Son and see God's original purpose in everything created.
For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels
--everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.
He was there before any of it came into existence
and holds it all together right up to this moment.
Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe-
-people and things, animals and atoms-
-get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies,
all because of his death,
his blood that poured down from the Cross.
You don't walk away from a gift like that!
You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust,
constantly tuned in to the Message,
careful not to be distracted or diverted.
There is no other Message-
-just this one.
Every creature under heaven gets this same Message.
And I will close with God instructions for us on how to live a “new life in Christ” from today’s Colossian’s passage also from the “the Message”
- let it soak in and penetrate your soul
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you:
content with second place,
quick to forgive an offense.
Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.
And regardless of what else you put on, wear love.
It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other.
None of this going off and doing your own thing.
And cultivate thankfulness.
Let the Word of Christ
have the run of the house.
Give it plenty of room in your lives.
Instruct and direct one another using good common sense.
sing your hearts out to God!
Let every detail in your lives
--be done in the name of the Master, Jesus,
thanking God the Father every step of the way.
It is that
That we are to teach
To disciple others into
It is that
That we are baptized into
let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful - Amen