Devotional Message: The First Sunday of Christmas (12/30/2018)

Lessons

1st Samuel 2:18-20, 26
Psalm 148
Colossians 3:12-17
St. Luke 2:41-52

Prayer of the Day

Shine into our hearts the light of your wisdom, O God, and open our minds to the knowledge of your word, that in all things we may think and act according to your good will and may live continually in the light of your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Text for This Sunday

2:41 Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43 When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44 Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” 49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

St. Luke 2:41-52, New Revised Standard Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: Asking Hard Questions

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me six geese a-laying. Anybody find six geese a-laying in your Christmas stocking this morning? According to a Christmas price index compiled by PNC Financial Services Group, this particular gift would cost about $390, which is an increase of 8.3% over 2017 — an anomaly this year. The total cost of the twelve days is estimated at more than $39,000, but that is up only 1.2% over 2017 (about half of the rate of inflation for the year). PNC says the lower inflation rate for these twelve days of gift giving can be explained in part by plunging gold prices, which have made five 14-carat gold rings $75 dollars cheaper to buy this year than last. The cost of many types of birds listed in the song have remained stagnant, with the notable exception of today’s egg-laying geese, whose prices shot up.

On the sixth day of Christmas the Revised Common Lectionary gives to us this curious story about Jesus, twelve years old and engaged with the teachers in the temple. It is easy to get distracted by Mary’s and Joseph’s inattentiveness as they make their way back towards Nazareth with the relatives and neighbors who had made the trip with them. I find myself wondering how Mary could be so inspired, and pondering the message of the Shepherds this past Tuesday, and before Jesus even becomes a teenager is able to leave a strange town without checking to see that Jesus is among their traveling group, but I’m told this is not as far out of the norm for the time as it might seem.

The parenting skills of Jesus’ parents aren’t at the heart of the story, though. More central is the image of Jesus, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” And not only that: “all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.”

Luke is clearly seeking to emphasize that there is something extraordinary about this young man. I wonder if he isn’t also making the point that an unquestioned faith is less robust than a questioned one. Jesus is asking the teachers questions, and the fact that people were amazed at his answers suggests that they were asking him questions as well. Jesus isn’t content simply to adopt the questions of his elders. He is interested in asking the questions that lead to a deeper understanding of faith; one that will eventually have to sustain him through some extraordinary difficult times.

It is in asking the hard questions about our faith, fearlessly and honestly, that we experience the chance to grow in our understanding of what it means to be a child of God. When our young people start thinking deeply about the Christian faith, and asking hard questions about what they are being asked to believe, we sometimes are tempted to be a bit concerned. But I get excited. Often times they are asking more questions than their peers because they are more interested in our faith, and more intent to grow into a faith of their own.

Luke claims that, “Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.” Perhaps as we take our own questions seriously, and pursue them with other people of faith, the same might happen to us as well.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. What does this annual trip say about the faithfulness of Mary and Joseph?

  2. What must it have been like for them to have Jesus go missing for four full days?

  3. Why does Jesus assume his parents might have known that he would be in the temple?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. When have I been in a group that was asking strong, important questions about our faith?

  2. What are some of the toughest questions I have had to consider as a person of faith?

  3. Which resources have been most helpful for me in addressing new questions about my faith?