A sermon preached on December 26th, 2021 based on Colossians 3:12-17 and Luke 2:41-52.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17)
In relation to the Gospel reading we are about to hear, the verse from the Epistle lesson that caught my attention was this one: “Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” See if you can figure out why.
Perhaps we imagine Jesus as a perfectly behaved child and that his family life was without stress. This morning’s Gospel lesson, telling the one story we have from Jesus’ youth suggests otherwise:
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. (Luke 2:41-52)
So, the “holy family” had at least on this occasion “complaints” about one another that required them to practices forgiveness.
*The 12 year old Jesus thoughtlessly puts his parents through terrible anxiety with which any parent can identify.
*The 12 year old Jesus felt exasperated by his parents for their failure to understand him. What 12 year old hasn’t felt the same thing?
We imagine Jesus to be walking perfection, but he was fully human, and as such he experienced times of inconsideration of others, conflict and the feeling of being misunderstood.
There is something comforting about the fact Jesus and his family dealt with this stuff. We can find encouragement to be compassionate towards ourselves and our families when we find ourselves struggling with these same sorts of things.
Every family deals with this stuff. Even the “holy family.” How could it be otherwise?
Luke tells us that over time Jesus grew in wisdom. The only way this can occur is by making mistakes and learning from them.
Following the whole stay-behind-to-hang-out-in-the temple debacle Jesus made a point of being obedient to his parents, implying he realized what his prior thoughtless disobedience had put them through.
Throughout the story of Jesus’ birth Luke highlights Mary as something of a model for us. She showed us how to say to accept that which can’t be changed, to say “Let it be” and embrace the life we have been given, trusting that God is present.
She also modeled pondering in her heart – the movement away from the shallows of life and into the depths. Her capacity to go deep, to reflect on the mystery of God’s presence in our lives.
But even as a model of faith, Mary’s imagination could run wild to scary places when her beloved son was missing. At the end of our story Luke tells us once more that Mary took time to reflect on her experience with her mysterious and sometimes confounding son.
Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The same thing can be said of the foolishness of immaturity – the failure to learn from our mistakes.
You are probably familiar with “The Serenity Prayer.” Perhaps it would be better called “The Wisdom Prayer”.
Lord, grant me the serenity to accept that which I cannot change, the courage to change that which I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Christmas can be a time of great joy when much love gets expressed. But it can also be a time when we experience disappointment and conflict, triggering more painful emotions.
If this was the case with your experience of Christmas take time like Mary to reflect on what happened, and to ask what you might have done to make it come out better. How might you have responded differently?
If there are things that need to change in regards to how family members interact, what is keeping that change from happening? Is there something in yourself that needs to change? Is there change that needs to happen in others? Have you clearly communicated the behaviors in others that lead you to feel sad or angry, or have you like the 12 year old Jesus just assumed that others will understand what you need?
Are there ways in which others simply aren’t likely to change that call for your acceptance so you don’t set yourself up for disappointment every year? Are there things about yourself that aren’t likely to change requiring a loving acceptance and forgiveness of your frailties?
Asking these sorts of questions is the path to wisdom. Jesus had to grow up and so do we. It’s a life long project. God is with us in this endeavor. We need not be afraid.