SCRIPTURES – 1 Kings 3:4-15; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:40-52
“Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?”
Well, here we are, in a new year: 2015. Will it be a different year; a better year; a blessed year for our world? Will it be a different year; a better year; a blessed year for you? How about for our church?
To help make a new year a better and blessed year, many people resolve to make changes in their lives. They recognize that it takes work to make a new year a better year. So: what things do we need to do, what changes do we need to make – in our personal lives and in our life together in our church – to make this new year a blessed year? Well, as always, we need to more and more make Jesus our focus. As His light is received into our hearts it turns us from the darkness of our sins and shines forth in our lives: to our blessing; to the blessing of our church; and, to the blessing of many others. So, let us fix our eyes on Jesus!
Today we see Jesus’ light as it begins shining: when He is 12 years old and journeys with His family to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. It’s an interesting story; but, what does this story mean for us? What difference does it make?
Galatians 4 says that “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law.” He became like us in our flesh and life, and in our responsibility to live this life in obedience to God. It goes on in Galatians to say that He did this “to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” He fully and completely became like us, that we might fully and completely become like Him and be children of God. As children of God, then, when you read in the Gospels about Jesus, see yourself. His life is your life. His story is your story.
When we consider Jesus at age 12, what do we see? We see a life which revolves around and finds its center and purpose in God’s temple and the Word of God which is proclaimed in that temple. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” He says to His parents. As a child of God, like Jesus, take this to heart and resolve in this new year to find your center and purpose in God’s house and the Word of God which is proclaimed in that house; namely, in this, our church.
It’s not, unfortunately, such an easy thing to do; at least, for those of us who are older than 12. Children, even those who are on the verge of puberty, have far less difficulty with God than do we adults. The stories in the Bible are accepted without doubt and sincerely believed. They do not struggle with the mysteries of the faith but just accept them.
Well, you can’t make yourself a child again. We hear the voices of the skeptics who challenge the Bible and are made to wonder. Doubts also arise at times within our own minds. If not doubts, then sometimes just the simple thought: this has little to do with me and my life. Maybe the child Jesus could be excited about going to God’s house again and again, but the repetition of stories and hymns and liturgies we have in church quickly bores us and dulls our minds.
Here’s where you can learn from the child Jesus. He didn’t just go to His Father’s house and sit there like a lump. He listened and considered and asked questions. Do the same! Listen carefully. Consider the words of not only the readings but also the hymns. Feel free to ask me questions about the sermon. Resolve to attend Bible class, where you can ask questions and discuss and learn God’s words and what they mean for you more deeply. You will not grow as God’s child if you will not devote time to Him!
But, if you devote the time, you will most certainly grow. How God will bless your faith! Just consider this story of Jesus in the temple at age 12. A skeptic might say, “Well, if he amazed them so much with his questions and answers, why didn’t he stay there, as the boy Samuel did? If he had spent more time with Israel’s teachers then, perhaps they would have listened to him later and not rejected him! Why didn’t he perhaps even do a miracle among them?” If you consider the story carefully, you will see that Jesus did do a miracle. The miracle was that, even though He knew He was God’s Son, He still left His Father’s house and went with His earthly parents to Nazareth and was submissive to them. The Son of the eternal Father humbled Himself and served sinners! Even at age 12 that was the purpose of His life.
It still is. For, it wasn’t only in Bethlehem, or in Jerusalem at age 12, or on the cross that God sent forth His Son to serve and redeem those who were under the Law and condemned by it. He is still doing so. He sends Him to you here, in His house, and in Him sends His Spirit into your hearts. This began in your Baptism, as Galatians 3:26-27 tells us: “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Christ serves you in Baptism by allowing Himself to be put on you, like clothing! He covers you with His obedience of the Law and His payment for your sins, He gives you His Spirit, and you are adopted as God’s obedient child. God then sends forth His Son to you in His holy Word, and He humbly teaches you. Finally, God sends forth His Son in Holy Communion, His flesh and blood received into your flesh and blood, and He lives within you. These things of God’s house, His Word and Sacraments, are “dim revealings” to be sure, as our sermon hymn (LSB #410) calls them. They don’t glow with a heavenly light. Baptism doesn’t cause an infant to suddenly stand up and praise God. But, by these “dim revealings” the eternal God comes to serve you, a mere mortal – and a sinner at that! – and He raises you to eternal life as His child! Let us pray, then:
Lord, visit Thou our souls and teach us by Thy grace
Each dim revealing of Thyself with loving awe to trace. (verse 5)
When with loving awe you trace these works which God does in His house, He then renews you and makes you to be like Jesus: one who loves to be in his Father’s house, and one who is willing to be a humble servant. Neither is easy, especially the serving of others. After all, we all have our warts, and those of your fellow church members can seem even more egregious and be very upsetting. Here you must let your focus be like Solomon’s, who asked that God would bless him so that he could serve God’s people. Even though he was their king, three times he called the people God’s people, “Your people whom You have chosen.” Have the same vision as you look around you in church. You are sitting among people God has chosen for Himself and given His Spirit! As you serve them, and as you worship God and serve with and among them, you do the works God has given you to do. You are God’s obedient child, like Jesus.
Make this your focus in this new year. Your God and Father will then make this a better year, a blessed year; a year in which you “increase in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” To the praise and honor of our God and Father, who sent forth His Son for us and in Him sends forth His Spirit into our hearts! Amen.