December 26, 2021, Second Day of Christmas, Year C
the Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 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. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
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.’
He said to them, ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he said to them.
Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
| Centering Prayer |
Childhood waxes and wanes
in the early teens
when hormones give moxy
and a growth spurt gives
It is an awkward time.
and good judgment
have yet to be threaded and sewn
into the neural network
by biology’s hand.
Females lead the way
and are the first to make
from a child
to a woman.
Males are slower to mature
insisting on holding on
to childhood’s last vestiges;
refusing to part with toys and immature behavior
from ages past.
Contemporary developmental psychologists
report insightful treasures
unlocked by years of research and study.
They tell us that
it is during these vulnerable years,
between when a
child is transformed
from a completely and wholly dependent individual
into an adult of legal
obligation and responsibility
that the ability to understand metaphor begins to take root.
this is a time of great awakening,
a multi-year “ah, ha” moment
when one becomes aware
of deeper, additional meaning
to otherwise simple, ordinary stories.
Metaphor transforms a simple
into a multi-dimensional place
filled with texture and richness.
metaphor transforms the Ten Commandments
from a list to be memorized
by rote recitation
into God’s greater plan
for humanity to live together
with peace and justice with one another
and in harmony with a loving Creator.
Metaphor allows the
artist to mix primary colors
to unlock a whole new pallet
of infinite color and beauty.
Metaphor is the Spirit’s means
to breath new life
into otherwise suffocating
It was at this very time
at this great junction
in the life of the boy, Jesus,
when he and his parents
made the pilgrimage south
for the annual celebration of Passover.
They traveled a curculios route
(like a backward “C”)
to avoid Samaria
round and down the Jordan valley
and up the mountain
to Jerusalem’s Temple mount.
This was a family
and extended family event.
Tribal, if you will.
Some of the food was still on the hoof
along with cart and wagon
carrying tent and supplies
for a multi-day adventure
for these relative country bumpkins traveling to the big city of Jerusalem.
aunts planned and cooked,
and uncles talked politics and taxes.
Camped with the swelling
crowds, at, perhaps, Bethany
– a mere stone’s throw across the Kidron valley –
the family would return
to the Temple towering
over the ancient city.
Up the magnificent staircase
all would ascend,
stopping at times to rest
or to dip in the cool pools of water
placed to give
pilgrims ample opportunity
to become ceremonially clean
before setting foot
inside the sacred Temple courtyard.
The crowd’s gate and pace
would have been slow
and tempers would be tested
by squirming children complaining.
“Are we there yet?”
“How many stairs are there left to go?”
At the top of the two grand
staircases would be
an expansive outdoor plaza
filled with the hustle and bustle of
banking and commerce.
Currency would be exchanged into the common Temple coinage
(Undoubtedly at an inflated rate).
Live animals would be sold by
at premium prices,
guaranteed unblemished and
raised in a sheltered flock,
to be used for slaughter and sacrifice
to a quiet and unseen God.
Men and boys would queue to the right
Women and girls to the left
to enter the indoor inner courtyard
where the Temple tax would be collected
and the animal would be sacrificed
by a member of the priestly family
the Holy of Holies
housing inside and out of view
the Arc of the Covenant.
Noise would be hushed
inside the Temple’s inner courts.
Holy men would be giving guidance and council
to those who sought them out
in quiet, reflective whispers
in a darkened room
lit only by the flicker
of candle and lamp.
It was here
that the young Jesus
had engaged in conversation
with teachers from the Temple’s court,
listening for answers
applying his newly discovered tools of adolescence
to his budding faith.
It was here
in the midst of the
atonement substitution of animal sacrifice
– of personal sins in exchange for the life of the animal –
that Jesus began to construct
a faith built upon history,
tradition, scripture, and experience.
Jesus turns up missing.
His parents and family search
For him for three days
(I can’t even imagine.
Today, three amber alerts would have gone out and he’d be the lead story on the local news.)
His mother finds him
‘Child, why have you treated us like this?
Look, your father and I
have been searching for you
in great anxiety.’
In his mother’s eye
he was still a child
unconcerned and irresponsible.
But God was doing
Jesus said to them,
‘Why were you searching for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’
But they did not understand what he said to them.
In three short days
dependence for the child Jesus
had been transferred from earthly parents
to an adult Jesus
who recognized that his dependence
was now wholly, and exclusively
upon a heavenly Father.
Guidance and direction would come
less and less from Mary and Joseph,
and more and more from God above.
Many of us never make this connection,
and if we do,
it usually comes well into adulthood,
with wisdom and experience.
Some of us might recognize
these same feelings
on the occasion of a death of a parent.
Few, if any, of us
come to this understanding
Being in “my Father’s house”
is more than being under the same roof.
It is about
wherein one places their dependence,
It is about
Wherein one decides to abide.
Consider your own faith history.
When did you enter your Father’s house?
When did you become aware
of the reality
that God had already established?
Perhaps you are still in the process
of connecting the metaphorical dots
that all of life
is wholly and completely dependent
upon our loving God.
Perhaps you have already arrived,
And have lived comfortably in the Lord’s dwelling
For years or decades.
it didn’t come with baptism, confirmation,
though I suspect this is where
the seeds were first sown.
My awakening really took hold
when I walked
the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
I was juggling too much.
There was too much tragedy and death in my life.
Crisis begat crisis.
My emotional and spiritual health suffered.
The confluence was a wake-up call
for me to accept the fact that I was
no longer independent or self-reliant.
Neither was I dependent
upon my parents,
my father recently deceased.
I was no longer dependent
upon a church bound by appointment obligations.
I was no longer dependent
upon popular opinion.
When I woke to the fact
that my life is lived
completely supported and upheld by the grace of God,
my life and ministry turned a vital corner,
one that can’t be taught
but must be experienced,
one that John Wesley described
in his life
as when his “heart was strangely warmed”
while walking on Aldersgate Street in London.
Here we stand
perched on the precipice
of a new calendar year.
Let the new year ring!
Is the year to
Abide in our Father’s house.
For some of us
Let the new year inspire us
To make the decision to dwell with the Lord,
To abide in God’s house,
And, like Jesus,
to more deeply inquire of God’s ways.
For others of us
Let the new year spur
a thankful memory of when we
took that developmental leap of faith,
entered our Father’s house,
and decided to stay.
May all of us be at home with the Lord
This new year,
To abide in his presence
And to partake of his grace.
Let the changing of the guard spark
a new and heartfelt desire
to sit and stay awhile
and inquire further.
We reside this day
in a sanctuary built of lofting wooden spars and trusses.
Yet, our Father’s house
isn’t found in these boards, carpeting, furniture, or candles.
Our Father’s house
can only be found
in the heart.