Fr. Andrew Armond – The Second Sunday after Christmas Day, January 2, 2022
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.Our Gospel reading this morning gives us the only story in the Gospels, and indeed the only reference in the entire New Testament, to Jesus’s childhood. Other Gospels that did not make it into the canon of Scripture tell other stories about Jesus’s childhood, some quite fantastic tales in which Jesus creates sparrows out of clay and heals other children. Our curiosity about these types of stories is quite natural. It’s natural to wonder what kind of life Jesus led as a child, as a teenager, before he begins his earthly ministry in the ways described by the Gospels at around the age of 30. But there may be reasons beyond our capacity to know as to why we are not given those stories in the canon of Scripture, in the New Testament as it was handed down to us by the Church: and those reasons may not be as acceptable for us, in a contemporary age, as they were for generations past. We suppose, don’t we, that we have instant access to any kind of knowledge that we could ever want? It is true, and I am just as guilty of it as anyone else, that when I am watching a movie and trying to think of an actor’s name, I immediately grab my phone and Google it. Or when I need to remember how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon when I’m cooking. Or any number of other things that I think I need to know or want to know. We are, of course, a generation entirely spoiled with knowledge. We have more of it than we could possibly ever read or process in our entire lives. But knowledge, of course, does not equate with wisdom. Since our culture supposes that we have infinite knowledge about everything in the universe, we may feel that we have a right to know things that are simply unknowable. And this is part of the life of faith: acceptance of what we do know, and even acceptance of what we do not know.One of the most important historical documents for the Anglican faith, the 39 Articles, says of the Bible that it “contains all things necessary to salvation.” And that understanding of the Bible has taken us in two complementary directions as Anglicans. One is that we do not believe that the Bible says everything about everything. There are many things in life that are simply not mentioned by the Bible at all. That doesn’t mean that our faith is lacking, and it doesn’t mean that our faith shouldn’t inform those areas of our lives. It just means that the Bible was not meant to be a comprehensive guidebook for every part of life. But the other direction helps us realize that what IS contained in the Scriptures is enough, more than enough, to lead us to a right understanding of God, and of who Jesus is, and of what it means to be part of the Kingdom of God. We believe that the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, included those stories and passages of Scripture that best illustrate the overarching narrative of God’s Creation, Redemption, and Restoration of All Things through Jesus Christ. What we have, in other words, is sufficient. Scripture is the rock upon which we have built our theology, our understanding of God and God’s Grace, and our worship and liturgy, especially the Holy Eucharist. And so I know that is a very lengthy preface to the story from our Gospel for today! But I think it is very important to remember, especially when we are confronted with a story that doesn’t always meet our modern expectations. We are quite rightly disturbed by this account of Jesus nonchalantly dismissing the anxiety of his parents, who had been searching for him for several days by this point. We in fact may expect or want the story to be very different from what Luke tells us. Maybe we expect Jesus to apologize for worrying his parents! Maybe we expect Mary and Joseph to be harder on Jesus! But Jesus is very good at subverting expectations. Jesus is so good at it that it seems to be one of the main points of nearly every story in the Gospels about him, including this one! As one commentator puts it,
“We are not ready to accept that Jesus did not come to fulfill our expectations. He is not to be found in sentiment for the way things used to be or the way we wish things could be. Jesus is about the future. Jesus was born and lived and died and rose to be about God’s business of putting an end to our searching by making plain the way to God, even if that means shattering our expectations.”And so: this story, too, becomes a means of shattering our expectations, a means of helping us to understand the relationship between seeking and finding Jesus in our own lives. Where will we find Jesus? Will he be dutifully following our own expectations, or will he be where we should have been seeking him all along?It is important to remember that Luke found Jesus to be the hero of the story in the Temple, yet he also extended compassion and empathy to Mary, describing her exasperation and anger. A prominent theme in all the Gospels is this idea of backward revelation–that, as the Christian community reflected on the things that Jesus said and did after his earthly ministry was concluded, they began to fit together and make sense. The puzzling and confusing things Jesus said and did are resolved in the Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus, because that Paschal Mystery is the light through which we see our entire life of faith. Mary did not understand at the time what Jesus was saying to her. And I’m sure she was hurt as well. She has been in great anxiety and now Jesus tells her that this is the way it must be. But at the same time, she is beginning to understand just who her Son is, and she is beginning to let go of her own expectations. Jesus settles the concerns and anxieties of his parents with his response, which is that He can always be found looking after the affairs and concerns of God’s Kingdom. That is where Jesus lives. That is where He will always be. And if we want to find him, that is where we will look.For we know that, whatever else is going on in our own hearts, whatever our own fears and worries are, that Jesus is in God’s house, tending after God’s affairs. The image of the child Jesus in the Temple, in conversation with the Elders and Leaders of the Faith, is meant to reassure us that Jesus leads the way for us in wisdom and in truth. As we search for Jesus, often in great anxiety, in different ways that we think are best suited for us, Jesus’s gentle voice reminds us: “Why are you searching for me there? I am tending to God’s work in the world. I am tending to God’s work in your own life. Rest easy, be assured!” Jesus tells us that he can take care of himself! We don’t have to worry about Jesus.Jesus is home: Jesus is where he should be. And where are we? Psalm 84 teaches us that the birds of the air have homes; and that we have a home as well. Our home is not in a Temple made with human hands but in the presence of Jesus.Imagine what a comfort Luke’s words must have been to a people who had just recently witnessed the destruction of the Temple by the Roman armies. As the earthly temple had disappeared, with all of its beauty and grandeur, Luke points us to the image of the young Jesus, sitting calmly in the presence of God, and reminding us that he is about the work of God.He is not standing by idly, and we know where we can find him.He is here, always here, in the presence of God. He is here, always here, in the bread and the wine.He is here in our worship, but he is outside of these walls as well, wherever we are seeking God’s will and building up God’s kingdom.He is here, in our hearts, always at work in our lives.Amid our fears and our anxieties, as we frantically search for him, he calmly and strongly reassures us. I am here.He is in the Father’s House. He is about the Father’s work. And in his presence, no matter where we are, no matter what else is happening in our lives, there is peace. AMEN.