First Sunday of Christmas – Sunday, December 30, 2018

December 30, 2018  

Luke 2:41-52

The first words Jesus speaks in the gospel of Luke are these:

“Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

He was speaking to his mother, Mary. She and Joseph had been looking for him for three days. Three days!

Joseph and Mary were traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover with their 12 year old son. The Passover festival would have been an enormous gathering of Hebrew people, perhaps as many as 100,000 (The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible vol. 3, p. 664), all there to celebrate one of the most important events from the history of the people of Israel.
The story goes, when the Hebrew people were held captive in Egypt as slaves, Moses was sent by God to free them. God visited plagues upon the Egyptians, trying to convince them to free the Hebrews. Here’s the story of the final plague:

Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: About midnight I will go out through Egypt. Every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first born of Pharoah who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the female slave who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the livestock… (Exodus 11:4- 5).
Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb of each household… [Then] the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it (Exodus 12: 3, 6b-7).
The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you (Exodus 12:13).

Passover celebrated God’s passing over.
Passover celebrated Israel’s freedom.

When Mary and Joseph and Jesus joined thousands of other people celebrating Passover, the event was celebrated at the temple, where lambs were sacrificed and meals were eaten by entire families gathered together. Mary and Joseph and Jesus would have been with Joseph’s family. And there would have been a lot of them. It wouldn’t have been surprising that, when it was time to leave, they would have all traveled home together, perhaps with even more people from other families. If Jesus hadn’t been with Joseph and Mary while traveling, they probably would have assumed he was somewhere else in the group, with the rest of the family.

Then they discovered he wasn’t with them. He was lost.
That’s when the panic set in.
Mary and Joseph searched among their family. Mary and Joseph searched among their friends. Mary and Joseph traveled back to Jerusalem, looking for Jesus. Finally, finally they found him “sitting among the teachers, listening and asking questions” (Luke 2:46).

When they found Jesus Mary said “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety” (Luke 2:48).

And he said “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).

Jesus was Mary’s firstborn. Jesus was raised as Joseph’s firstborn. Jesus was God’s “only Son, our Lord” (Apostle’s Creed). At the age of 12 Jesus knew who he was, and where he needed to be.

Passover was a family holiday. Luke makes no mistake when he places the story of Jesus being found in the Temple in the context of Passover. Luke is telling us, there is family, and then there is family.
We have our earthly families, those who claim us or who we have claimed who we know as ours.
And then we have our family—those here in this place and those around the world who join us as brothers and sisters in Christ. Through baptism God claimed us—God continues to claim us, as God’s own. God protects us. God saves us. God frees us—just as God claimed, protected, saved, and freed the Israelites.

Jesus knew—at the age of 12 he knew—God was his Father.

We believe in “God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth” (Apostle’s Creed).
We know God as our divine parent; we know God as the one who loves and frees us.

Although we are never lost to God, certainly we might at times feel that we are.
When we have those feelings of being lost, of being alone, of wandering in our own wilderness of pain or confusion or grief or despair—
I encourage you to consider Mary and Joseph’s search for their son. God might always know where we are, but there are others who are always searching.

You are never alone.
You are loved and embraced by God—and by your family of faith.

You have a home here—in this place. In God’s house. You have a family here.
You are always welcome. Each and every one of you will always belong to us.

Amen.