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2010-01-03 (am) Luke 2.41-52 At the Temple 2

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2010-01-03 (am) Luke 2:41-52 At the Temple 2

            Last week, we saw the way Mary and Joseph demonstrated their faith in God.  They circumcised Jesus on the eighth day, and then, when the time of Mary’s uncleanness was over, they travelled to Jerusalem to present Jesus at the temple.  Jesus, who had descended from the true heavenly temple, made his first appearance at his earthly temple.

          Mary and Joseph, in faithfulness to God’s commands, made atonement for Mary and redeemed the redeemer of the world with 5 silver shekels.  All this foreshadowed Jesus’ role as atoner and redeemer, not of himself, but of the whole world.  The flesh and blood of circumcision pointed to the offering of his body and blood on the cross.  The price he paid, his life, willingly laid down, paid in full humanity’s debt owed to God’s holy righteousness.

          Now, some 12 years later, Mary and Joseph again travel to Jerusalem.  What has happened in the last 12 years?  Mary and Joseph have travelled to Nazareth, Egypt and back to Nazareth.  The excursion to Egypt happened because the megalomaniac Herod, paranoid of any kingly threat, ordered the execution of all males age 2 or younger.  The joy Jesus brought to Mary brought untold pain and sorrow to so many other mothers.

          In this, we see the total tragedy of the human race.  The King of Kings, who came into the world to bring peace between God and people, and between people and people, was met instead with jealousy.  Instead of harmony, people embraced strife, anger and hatred.

          But the good news is that Jesus came for this very reason.  And Jesus’ power hasn’t been diminished one bit.  The Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus, after his ascension into heaven, still works in the hearts of people.  God, who called and moved Mary and Joseph into obedience, calls and moves us to obedience too, so that we can be agents of peace in a world dying from war.

          God has called us to be faithful and devout, just as Mary and Joseph were, just as Jesus was and is.  We see Mary and Joseph’s faith expressed in their yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Granted, God’s commandments required every Israelite to pilgrimage to Jerusalem 3 times per year.  But after the exile, travel became much more difficult, so most chose to go to Jerusalem only once a year, as Mary and Joseph did.

          They always went for the celebration of Passover.  Do you think that is a coincidence?  Passover, we recall, celebrated God’s mighty rescue of Israel from Egyptian slavery.  On the night of liberation, each family slaughtered a lamb and sprinkled its blood on their door posts.  This feast pointed to Jesus, the true, perfect lamb of God, whose blood, sprinkled on his people, saves them from death!

          Do you think Mary and Joseph realised who their son was when they chose to go to Jerusalem for passover?  Do you think they realised the important lesson they were teaching him?  Do you think they realised that their son was the true Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world?

          Whether they knew all that or not is nothing more than speculation.  Possibly they did.  But from our passage, we see that Mary and Joseph treated Jesus as any of their children.  Travelling back to Nazareth with all their friends, Mary thought Jesus was with Joseph, Joseph thought Jesus was with Mary, so they didn’t realise he was missing until later!  They were completely normal parents to him.  Though they knew that he was special—the very Son of God, even the special becomes familiar after a while, doesn’t it?

          Even the specialness of communion, which we’ll celebrate next week, can become familiar.  It can become routine.  Far from intending it, we can become used to the mystery of the resurrection.  Think of it!  We can become so familiar with the story of Jesus resurrection that we, as it were, simply go through the motions.

          The reason why we do the preparatory exhortation for communion is so that we can stop and reflect on the meaning of Lord’s Supper.  Jesus commanded that we celebrate the supper regularly, in remembrance of his death.  Mary and Joseph went faithfully to Jerusalem to remember the salvation God worked for their people, for themselves also, by saving them from Egyptian slavery.

          We remember that Jesus saved us not from physical slavery to a foreign nation, or even to any nation, but slavery to sin.  Bound by sin, we were dead, spiritually dead, and unable to move to life.  Jesus brought us life, and set us free from sin and slavery.

          So, in the week to come, we need to reflect on Jesus, who is in the true temple, the heavenly temple we read about on Christmas Day, described in Revelation 21 & 22.  We need to reflect on the completed work of Christ on the cross.  We need to realise how Christ has set us free from sin.  How that changes everything, our whole outlook on life, our relationship with God, and with one another.

          Jesus has made it possible to be faithful in a way that Mary and Joseph longed for!  We are able to turn from sin, and we are able, through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, in our lives, to live in obedience to the king.

          Speaking of obedience, do you wonder what it was like for Jesus?  What if Mary and Joseph’s commands were contrary to God’s?  Did that happen, do you think?  Granted, God chose them, and he prepared them for the task of raising his Son. 

          But here is Jesus, at the temple.  He’s twelve years old.  He’s totally aware of who he is.  Mary and Joseph know too, but he’s become such a part of their life, that, well he’s just Jesus, he’s just their son!

          During the feast of Passover, which lasted seven days, Jesus was in and among the teachers at the temple.  So, when the feast ended, he remained.  He sat and learned, and he also spoke.  The teachers who were there were amazed at his understanding.  Everyone was amazed.

          It is tempting to think, well, that’s just Jesus.  He is, after all, the Son of the living God.  Of course he knows all that stuff.  Of course he’s going to ask good questions.

          But isn’t it possible that there’s a much more familiar, more mundane answer?  Isn’t it most likely, given how devout and faithful Mary and Joseph were in circumcising Jesus, in making atonement, in presenting and redeeming Jesus at the temple, in travelling to Jerusalem yearly to celebrate at least one of the three required feasts, that they worked hard to teach Jesus the faith?

          Maybe Jesus’ knowledge came from family devotions after supper.  Maybe it was the result of Mary and Joseph praying with Jesus every day.  Maybe they strongly encouraged Jesus to attend Sabbath School.  Maybe he had good teachers in Nazareth.  Maybe he went to a Jewish day school.

          Do you wonder how your children would perform at the temple at twelve years old?  Some students are better than others, some parents are better teachers than others, so let’s set that aside for a moment, to ask ourselves, are we discipling our children to the best of our abilities?  Are we seizing every opportunity to teach them that is available to us?

          If it is possible for Lord’s Supper to become familiar to us, is it possible for our very faith to become familiar with us?  Do we find ourselves searching for deeper meaning?  Do we find ourselves tired of the same old-same old, so that it becomes hard to get enthusiastic for our faith?

          Daily prayers can become rote!  Have you ever had it where you’re reading the Bible, and you eyes move over the words, but they don’t seem to get into your brain?  When that happens, stop, pray.  Ask the Holy Spirit to sharpen your focus.  Read the passage over again.  Concentrate on each word.

          It takes discipline.  Satan would like nothing better than for us to allow ourselves to become complacent.  But faithfulness takes effort.  When you read the Today, don’t read only the short verse included at the top of the page, but rather, look up the whole passage that is selected. 

          It takes discipline to sit down as a family to read and to pray.  At times, it does feel like a burden.  Rather like hauling off the kids to swimming lessons.  At first, it is fun and exciting.  It is so important and worthwhile to have children who know how to swim; it might save their life one day!

          But after the first week of lessons, suddenly the fun wears off.  It becomes a pain to have to get the kids ready and dressed, then out the door, into the vehicle, drive to the pool, get them into the change rooms, and get them ready, showered and attentive to their teacher.  Then, get them dry, changed, and hauled off home again.

          After a while, the process can become a dull chore, and it can even take the focus off the reason for the lessons in the first place—so that the children can become familiar and have fun in water, and so that they can be safe!

          Faithfully following God has been described by Eugene Peterson, author of the Message paraphrase of the Bible, as a long obedience in the same direction.  John Bunyan describes it as a pilgrim’s progress.  The Heidelberg Catechism says that in this life, even the most devout make only small progress in faithful living!

          Hardly sounds exciting and glamorous, does it?

          In just a few more weeks, the winter Olympics will begin.  There will be many glamorous moments.  There will be celebrations, medals, people standing on podiums after long hockey games and short and long speed skating races, all kinds of competitions.  It will all take place in a matter of days.  But the preparations by the athletes have been going on for years.  Getting up every day.  Eating a healthy diet, training, racing, training, conditioning, studying, practising day in and day out, changing things up, trying to keep fresh, so that at the exact moment of a race, the body performs, the muscles exercise, the plan is executed flawlessly, with hardly any thought, the same task repeated over and over becomes second nature, and brilliance results.

          Jesus, growing up with Mary and Joseph, devout and faithful parents, practised, trained and conditioned his mind in the Jewish faith.  His lessons paid off, so that when he was in the company of the wisest men, he amazed them with his knowledge and understanding.

          Haven’t we seen similar things here?  Haven’t we seen wise questions and deep answers from our children during the children’s’ message?  Yes, we have!  Our efforts do pay off!

          Have you ever been in conversation with someone and had a moment of wisdom where you could give them the true message, the good news?  Is that not a product of faithful study, prayer, church attendance, sermon listening, Christian radio and television programming, Christian school, Christian teachers in the public school?

          Do those moments give you a desire to learn even more?  Or if you have the situation where you don’t have an answer, which can just as easily happen, doesn’t it make you want to learn more?  In fact, can’t you say that to the person you’re talking to, “That’s a great question!  I don’t know the answer off hand, but let me look it up for you.  I’ll get back to you!|

          Even if you’re not one for resolutions, this year, resolve to delve deeper into your study, if that’s an area you think needs improvement.  Work hard with your children to teach them the truth, the Christian faith.  Christian day school may be many things, but at it’s core, it not only teaches how to do well in this life, it also teaches the Christian faith.  If you don’t send your children there, some of you can’t, period, but if you can, ask someone whose children attend the Christian school.  Ask them what they think of it, if it is worth it, if their children are getting a good education.

          We’re all like an athletic team.  Christ has paved the way; all we have to do is follow.  All we have to do is respond to God’s call on our lives with faithful devotion.  All we have to do is thankfully receive Christ’s righteousness and live up to the calling we’ve received.  Thankfully, we give our lives in service to Christ and in service to one another.

          This week, in preparation for Lord’s Supper, consider again, as newly as possible, Christ’s sacrifice for you.  Consider how he tore down the veil separating us from our Father in heaven.  Consider how he broke down all barriers between people, friends and even family.  Consider how we can live as thankful people.  One specific requirement of participating in Lord’s Supper is making amends with those you’ve offended, or who’ve offended you.  Seek them out, offer apologies.  Mend relationships, and rejoice in the communion of the saints with Christ!  Amen.

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