SCRIPTURES – 1 Kings 3:4-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Luke 2:40-52
Jesus said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.
God is incredibly generous and giving. We see this in our reading from 1 Kings, as God speaks to Solomon in a dream and, without being asked, offers to give him whatever he desires. But God’s incredible generosity is especially seen in the holiday we have just celebrated. The gift of His Son is truly amazing. What have we done to deserve this?
Ø God the Father choosing to send His Son into the world and into the flesh to help and save us rebellious sinners.
Ø God the Son choosing to set aside all He enjoys as God to become human; and, doing this not only to live among us sinners but to make our sins His own and die a horrible death that we might be forgiven!
Ø God the Holy Spirit bringing all this about for us by bringing the Son into the world through a lowly virgin, and then bringing Him to us in simple words, water, bread and wine.
How incredibly giving is God! He gives and gives and gives to us, even though we are undeserving. He loves to do so!
And, how He loves to see His giving nature reflected in His people. What joy God has in Solomon’s request to not be made great in wealth or power for himself, but in wisdom so that he might rule for the blessing of God’s people! This is what God wants to see in you. He tells us in Ephesians 1 that He has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” so that we might live “to the praise of His glory,” reflecting His giving nature by having as our foremost desire and prayer, not that we gain more blessings, but that we be a blessing to others.
To be such each of us must rely on far more than our own strength of faith and character. We all fail in reflecting God’s giving nature, even the best of us. We fail when our giving is not appreciated and we are taken advantage of, and so we stop giving. We fail when we don’t give because the recipient doesn’t deserve it. We fail when we are tired and ask, “Hey, when is it my turn to receive?” The best of us fail; and this we see clearly in today’s readings.
Solomon becomes great. God does as he asks and gives him wisdom. He becomes wiser than all others, and the nation of Israel prospers under his wise rule. But, he will not faithfully continue in God’s ways, keeping His statutes and His commandments. Instead, his desire for women will lead him to marry many wives and have many concubines. They will include foreign women who worship other gods. He will build temples to their gods in Israel and will join in worshiping them, and so lead his people away from the true God. God will become angry with him, and at the end of his life will raise up opponents to his rule from among those closest to him.
And, who could be a better example of a servant of God than Jesus’ mother? And yet, when Jesus stays behind in Jerusalem without telling Mary and Joseph when they leave for their home in Nazareth and they spend three stressful days looking for Him, she wrongly accuses Him of mistreating her and Joseph and causing them great distress. Now, I can understand her distress.
Ø I remember one time when my girls were little taking them to a playground in a neighboring town. While sitting there, reading the paper and watching them climb on a big structure with walkways and tunnels and slides and such, I suddenly realized I hadn’t seen one of them for several minutes. I scanned the structure and the entire playground, but still didn’t see her. With increasing nervousness I got up to look around, and just then she came around from the back of the structure. How I breathed a sigh of relief!
Well, just imagine searching for your child for three days! “Son, why have you treated us so?” I’d be asking more than this. “Where’s your brain?!! Do you realize what could have happened?!”
And yet, Jesus let her know in no uncertain terms that Mary was wrong to accuse Him. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” In other words: “You aren’t my mother, and Joseph isn’t my father! I am God’s Son, not yours! His desires take precedence over yours.” What is God’s desire? That people know Him and be one with Him; that they rejoice in His giving nature, His love and mercy for them, and reflect that giving nature and love in their own lives. God gives this knowledge of Himself and union with Himself through the teachings of His Scriptures. And so, Jesus did not leave Jerusalem with His parents but stayed behind so that He could continue His discussions of God’s words with the teachers of Israel. God’s glory and the good of others took precedence over Jesus’ own needs and the needs of His parents.
So it is to be with you. St. Paul cries out in Ephesians 1, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him!” Take these words to heart as you begin this New Year. How you have been blessed by God! In Christ He has chosen you; He has adopted you as His own child; He has lavished His forgiveness upon you; He has given you an inheritance in heaven; He has sealed you with His Holy Spirit, who dwells within you. How greatly you are blessed!
Why? “That we should be holy and blameless before him.” That we should be like Him! Remember this! Live this! Give this! And when you fail to do so, when you fail to honor God by withholding instead of giving, or by accusing instead of forgiving – look upon Jesus.
Ø See how He, who even as a 12 year old child knew He was great, of God and not of us, nevertheless set aside His own greatness and was submissive to Mary and Joseph. He did this for you, fulfilling all that God expects of you.
Ø And then, see Him on the cross, there bearing your sins and God’s judgment of them. He gave His life to take away your judgment and purchase your life for God.
Ø Finally, see Him risen from the dead and alive forevermore, with a life that He joins to yours in your Baptism and seals in you with His Holy Spirit.
You do not enter this New Year as the same old person. You are God’s child! You have been created in Christ Jesus to give, to do the good works God has prepared for you.
As children of God through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, let us pray:
Almighty God, You have poured into our hearts the true Light of Your incarnate Son. Grant that His Light may shine forth in our lives; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.