Second Sunday after Christmas (Luke 2:40-52)

Some eighteen years later, Jesus would sit up on a mountain and say:

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. 

True as those words are, we often have a hard time living by them.  Worries about food, clothing, and tomorrow (and more) are a constant companion.  Try as we may, living in complete faith remains out of reach.

This was true even for the parents of Jesus.  Contrary to what we may guess it would be like to have a sinless child in the house, there was no shortage of trouble from the sinful people living around Him.  The Gospel tells us about one time in particular when Jesus’ family went up to Jerusalem for the yearly Passover feast. Twelve years after the events we celebrated at Christmas, this was a well-established pattern for their family.

But then something happens which is the nightmare of any parent—their child has gone missing.  On top of Mary and Joseph’s parental worry, there’s what the Shepherds, the Magi, Simeon, and Anna have said about this boy Jesus.  He’s the Son of God, holy, worshipped, and the consolation of Israel…AND NOW HE’S GONE MISSING!

Imagine their distress as they look all over the place for Jesus.  They’re already a day’s journey out, perhaps spending the rest of the day looking for them among the thousands of other northbound pilgrims.  Then they spend another day going back to Jerusalem, and searching around for their son. Finally, it says after three days they found him in the Temple.

And when they find Him, what His mother says is smoothed over by the English translation.  Among the emotions she’s overwhelmed by, scenarios of him being torn by a wild beast, trafficked into slavery, and countless other possibilities—but then to find out that he wandered off of his own volition!  A mixture of relief, exhaustion, hurt, and anger are all behind her words (translated literally):

“Child!  What have you done to us?!  Look! Your father and I have suffered as we searched for you!” (v. 48)

And with words that would be flippant on anyone else’s lips, Jesus replies: “Why were you seeking me? Didn’t you know [implied, you ought to] that it is necessary that I be about my Father’s business?” (my translation)  Apparently worrying your parents half to death isn’t breaking the 4th Commandment, otherwise Jesus would be guilty of sin. (Kids, don’t ever try this at home!)

But with this debut in the Temple is complete, Jesus submits to His human parents, goes home and Mary, by the grace of God and the patience and self-control of the Holy Spirit, “treasured up all these things in her heart.”

Now, how are we to treasure up all these things in our hearts?  Will we ever come to a day when we don’t become anxious about what happens in this life?

In the Old Testament lesson, we heard about Solomon’s request of God:

O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people… Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1 Kings 3:7-9)

Solomon asks God for an understanding mind for the task that he is given.  God answered his prayer and gave him wisdom renowned all over the inhabited world. He wanted for nothing all of his life.  Yet even this didn’t spare him from the trouble of his sins, and the way that impacted his family.

But that understanding mind is a model for us, who believe in Him who is greater than Solomon (Matt. 12:42).   The proverb of Solomon teaches us, “The fear of the Lord is beginning of all wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Prov. 9:10) This is the wisdom which the Holy Spirit teaches us each day of our troubled lives.  It’s the wisdom which soothes our pain and gives us endurance as we suffer. We hope that knowing what God’s plan is would make our calamities an easier pill to swallow, but that’s an empty hope.  Rather, the wise and understanding heart God gives is one that fears, loves, and trust in Him in every circumstance, no matter how our timid hearts and minds tremble.

But that’s not all God gives us to treasure in our hearts.  In Ephesians 1, St. Paul explains an amazing mystery that God’s children are made wise to: “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” (Eph. 1:4-7) God from eternity has arranged for our adoption as His children.  From eternity, in spite of the failings of our parents, the disasters that have struck our lives, the swirling events of history, our own broken path—God has worked all of them for this purpose: That you are chosen and redeemed, a child of God through faith in Jesus, an heir of eternal life.  

That’s what the quote in the bulletin on Predestination and Eternal Election is getting at: Our God, our Savior and Redeemer, has chosen us from before the foundation of the world.  So when the worst happens to us here in time—deadly illness, losing a child, a car accident, rape, bankruptcy—your Father “in His counsel…determined and decreed that He would assist us in all distresses. He determined to grant patience, give consolation, nourish and encourage hope, and produce an outcome for us that would contribute to our salvation.” (FC SD XI 48)

Mary and Joseph suffered greatly because they worried for Jesus.  Yet, this is He whom the angels guarded when Joseph was warned to flee from Herod or to move to Nazareth.  Not that this doesn’t mean we will suffer, but we have the very same angels on our side, so that we may be confident, “Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:9-12).  The same host of heaven guard you and yours.

Rest assured, beloved of the Lord, even though your confidence and sense of peace ebbs and flows, your Lord does not.  His Word to you endures forever, and nothing in all of creation can overrule His fatherly care for you in Jesus Christ. It was necessary that day for Jesus to remain safely on His path, so that your adoption by grace into His family might be sure.  Thanks be to God forever. Amen!

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