Sermon by Rev Sydney Maitland for Sunday 26 December 2021.
• First Reading: 1 Samuel 2: 18-20, 26 (Samuel ministered before the Lord, even as a child)
• Psalm 148
• Epistle: Colossians 3: 12-17 (Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom)
• Gospel: Luke 2: 41-52 (Jesus in Jerusalem)
It is not usual for the Sunday after Christmas to follow the Christmas lessons so closely but that is what we have.
Yesterday I was thinking about how easily we pack Jesus Christ away – the baby of the Christmas crib, until required 11½ months or so later and then he is brought again out for display.
It is the same baby in a manger, and nothing has changed. We might change and the world will certainly change but the infant Jesus is as infantile as He was the last time we looked.
But the lessons for today show us something quite different and the gospel repeats the words of the Old Testament lesson, that the boy grew in stature and in his relations with people and with God. He was growing up socially and spiritually and was becoming more like the person he was called to be in the first place.
And so also with Jesus. The gospel tells of His journey to Jerusalem for His bar-mitzvah or coming-of-age. This was when he was 12 years old and still living at home and dependent on His parents.
He may not have quite understood that He was not really ready for the ministry of preaching and teaching and finally of the atonement that God had intended for Him but He was well on the way.
When the drama of staying behind in Jerusalem was resolved, Jesus continued to live at home and was subject to the oversight of Mary and Joseph.
But He was also growing up into the man God wanted Him to become and to be.
He was growing up spiritually, in His relationship with God. He was growing up intellectually as He learned His lessons and became confident in the methods of argument and presentation.
He was of course growing physically and would shortly enter His adolescence with all the questions and pressures that it brought.
And yes, He was growing socially – in favour with people as He learned how to relate to them and what people were like.
All of this would be needed as Jesus pursued His ministry.
But there is something here for us as well. The Christian faith does not require us to be stunted in any area of life and we also are expected as we continue in years to grow in our relationship with God as we pray to Him and trust Him more and more deeply.
We are expected to grow in our understanding of the gospel and how it relates to our culture and society, how the culture tries to suppress the gospel and how the gospel message can be kept consistently while being interpreted and applied in any era.
And yes, we are also expected to grow socially as we relate to one another in the Body of Christ, how we respond to each others’ strengths and weaknesses.
This is where Paul’s letter to the Colossians is important.
It is about putting on things – acquiring attitudes and outlooks that may be remote to and even foreign to our social situations.
But that does not stop us from making the effort to live in the qualities of life that were in the character of Jesus.
It means putting on love and letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts especially when the contest and the scoring of points, the humiliation of the other person, the establishment of our own persons as points of reference, is or may be more attractive.
It also means letting the Word of Christ dwell in us, richly and in full wisdom. This is at a time when the scriptures are more fashionably regarded as being unreliable and those who hold to them as being intellectually backward.
All of these aspects bear on how we might continue to grow into the fulness and the maturity that God wants us to enter and live within.
In other words, we dare not pack Jesus away after Christmas as a moral, social and intellectual embarrassment.
Rather we also are called upon to grow in the things of the gospel – in our faith and relations with God; in our understanding of the life of faith down the ages; in our relations with one another and in society – and finally as we grow in years.
For some this is a time of growing up and going forth.
For others it is an understanding that as some faculties of the body wane, God is still preparing us to enter that realm which is His and His alone, in eternity, and where letting go of some faculties may be part of that process.
But in all these things it is about letting the wholeness of Jesus rule in us, dwell in us and lead us out into realms that we never even imagined.