First Sunday after Christmas 2018 – Making assumptions about Jesus
Assuming that Jesus was in the group of travellers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends.
His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
My family tell me that the word assume means, “making and ass of you and me”. Not a bad definition. It doesn’t stop us making many assumptions. I like the feature image posted above as it challenges assumptions many of us have of what Jesus might have looked like. Middle Eastern families don’t usually look Scandinavian!
It is hard for us in the 21st century to think of two parents leaving a relatively big city for a three-day journey home and they don’t actually know where their 12 year old son is. As people travelled in a kind of “caravan”, a large group of family and friends all walking together; it was not unreasonable that you would not notice immediately. But most parents know the anxiety that comes from realising that one of their children is missing. Now, Luke the Evangelist telling us this story is not so interested in us feeling empathy for the parents. He wants us to join with Mary and Joseph searching for Jesus and beginning get a true sense of who Jesus is.
At the beginning of this Chapter we heard that Emperor Augustus had sent out an edict that there should be a census which was why Mary and Joseph had gone to Joseph’s home town Bethlehem. Jesus was being help up in comparison to Emperor Augustus. The audience that Luke was originally writing to were of Greek and Roman origin. They would have known that Augustus was so well educated and so erudite that at the age of 12 he was able to read the Eulogy at his grandmother’s funeral. His grandmother was the sister of Julius Caesar. So young Augustus did well. At 12 he showed great signs of being an important leader. This story of Jesus in the temple continues that theme of comparing Jesus with Emperor Augustus.
As I said Luke wants us to join in searching for Jesus and to begin to understand who he is. David Keck invites us not to make assumptions as to where Jesus is:
When Christians and churches get comfortable with Jesus—when like his parents we presume to know where he should be and what he should be doing—Jesus rebukes us with what should have been obvious. He is not where we think he is supposed to be, rather he is doing the work of his heavenly Father.
I wonder, what are the assumptions about Jesus that we are tempted to make? Where do we expect to find Jesus? Maybe we expect to find Jesus in Church, perhaps in the nativity play, being sweet and charming, or may be like a little gnome on the sideboard at Christmas time. Or maybe we have a strong sense of prayer and we do expect to find Jesus in our times of difficulty responding to our prayers. Perhaps we assume the sweet baby Jesus wants us to be loving and kind and also forgives us when we fail to be loving. There is a large element of truth in that.
In preparation for Baptism we read the story of the Fishermen who leave everything to go and follow Jesus. The prayer remembering that event of leaving the fishing boat and their father, says: “Christ whose insistent call disturbs our settled lives.” The sweet Jesus or the loving caring Jesus and even the forgiving Jesus, are only various sides to who Jesus is. Occasionally Jesus seems sweet and charming, but he can equally be disorientating and disarming. Jesus’ response to Mary and Joseph in the temple could easily be seen as rude and arrogant. Remember Luke wanted the original audience to compare Jesus to Emperor Augustus. Luke Portrays Jesus as very confident and already wise enough to take on an adult role, conversing with the teachers of the law. So, this Christmas let’s not assume that we know who Jesus is: a sweet little pussy cat that we can domesticate. If we dare to get to know Jesus we will discover someone more like a lion with the capacity to transform our lives, the life of our community, and someone who is already transforming the world.
Lets look deeper at Mary’s response to Jesus. The Biblical Commentator Karoline Lewis invites us to keep company with Mary as we draw to the end of our Christmas season. She says:
Mary is a thoughtful person. Nothing that is happening is getting past her attention. As such, her pondering, her treasuring, her keeping all of the words, considering all of these events, should tell us something, something very important about our own responses and reactions when it comes to major faith events.
Mary, of course does have some pretty amazing things to ponder. As Luke tells the Gospel, Mary is visited by an Angel who tells her she will give birth to a baby whom she will name Jesus. Soon after the birth Mary and Joseph are visited by the shepherds who speak of an Angel speaking to them of the birth. Now in the temple her son holds audience with the teachers of the law who are all impressed by his wisdom. In spite of her anger at Jesus, running off to the temple without a word to her and Joseph, she holds or treasures in her heart these events.
I suspect most parents have special moments that they recall with joy or strong emotion. These moments come to mind from time to time. For me: being greeted by my daughter at the end of kindy running to greet me with outstretched arms; or carrying my 3 year old son on my shoulders after hearing news of my father’s impending death; and being called to the principal’s office so he could show me my daughter’s work of art he had placed on the office wall; each have significant emotions attached that I ponder from time to time. But may be as Karoline Lewis suggests most of us don’t take time out to ponder, to deeply consider moments of significance.
Both Christmas and Baptisms are moments of significance. I encourage you all to slow down enough to ponder, where is God in all the business, the planning, the family gathering, and the gift giving? What is it all about really? Where is God in all of this? Do we really have a sense of God at the heart of life or does the rushing around strip bare our capacity to even notice something deeper?
I want to finish with a few words to help us appreciate the letter to Colossians.
“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”
William Loader tells us:
The author is addressing people who should understand themselves as “chosen, holy and loved”
These people have an extraordinary starting point: they know that they are valued and loved. If only this could sink into their awareness fully, they would be finding that it would generate a whole new set of attitudes and behaviours and enable them to leave others aside as irrelevant.
Baptism is the moment in our lives when we are initially clothed with love. Hopefully Hailee-Rose’s parents and god-parents along with the church will help her to realise that she is valued and loved. We want Hailee-Rose and all who are baptised to be fully aware of the love that embraces them. And yes, clothed with such love, attitudes and behaviours of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience are naturally a part of that clothing. In baptism of little children they come all ready dressed in their baptismal clothing. When we have baptisms of full immersion, people have to get changed after the baptism. That is the time to put on the new clothing. As Paul says elsewhere, we put on the clothing of Christ Jesus. We are a new creation. In some ways that clothing fits us perfectly and in other ways it is ten times to big and we have to grow into it. That is why the Church has the wonderful job working alongside the parents to help children grow into mature disciples of Jesus. We do that by helping them to slow down in life enough to ponder what God is doing in our lives. We do that by helping them search for Jesus. When they discover the lion, who transforms their life we know our work is well on the way. We never stop nurturing and encouraging one another in the Church. Eventually that clothing we put on at baptism fits us perfectly we have grown into it and we shine with the love of God. That is what we desire for Haylee-Rose.
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