Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas 1C

I have a question for those of you who are parents, or have special young people in your lives: When you look at the children who are close to you, when you look into their eyes and ponder their futures, what do you hope for them? What dreams and what fears do you have for their life down the road?

Often, dreams and fears are two sides of the same Loonie. And sometimes we can’t tell which one is a dream and which one is a fear.

When I was in university I had friends who were business majors because that was the only program their parents would pay for. If they switched to an arts or a science - or gawd forbid - a philosophy degree, the parents would turn off the tap. These parents had dreams for their children. Dreams of prosperity and material comfort. But they also had fears, fears that their children would not have the financial security that they felt that a career in business would somehow provide for them.

And now that I’m a parent, I think about what I want for my kids. Their mom and I put them in french immersion because we felt that it was important for them to be fluent in  both of Canada’s official languages, which would open more doors, and more importantly, new worlds for them.

We carefully put certain books in their hands that convey specific values. We try to teach them to move through this world by relating to others with kindness and generosity, and we hope we model that way of relating to others. We bring them to church because we want them to know the God revealed in Jesus and found in community; a God who loves them, and asks that they love others in his name.

We do all these things because we have a dream of specific future for them in mind. But also a fear that our values will be lost to them, and we lose a little of our legacy, and our connection to them. And we know that there will come a day when we will have to let them find their own ways, and trust that we did our jobs well.

But Mary and Joseph had an extra burden when they became parents to Jesus. Not just because they had a specific future for him. But because he had a specific future for them.

I can’t imagine that it would have been easy for Mary and Joseph. Especially after reading what they went through in this story for this morning from Luke’s gospel. They experience every parent’s nightmare.

They lose Jesus thinking that he’s riding with some buddies in another caravan. But when they figure out that they he isn’t with the group they do what any parent would do - they FREAK out. Absent of an Amber Alert they spend the next three days - THREE DAYS! - tearing the city apart trying to find him.

And they find him in the last place they’d think of looking, but in the first place they should have thought of. He’s at the Temple. And he’s not there looking for safety. He’s not looking to get out from cold or asking for a hot meal.

No. Jesus takes over the place. He has seasoned scholars and learned priests sitting at his feet, hanging on his every word. He’s telling them all about the God they spent their lives learning about and praying to.

It was astonishing to them that this small boy knew more about God then they did. And what I like about this story is that they aren’t jealous of Jesus; they’re not threatened by a 12-year-old boy who knew more than them.

They don’t see some snot-nosed kid trying to push his way up the religious corporate ladder without paying his dues. No. They hear God speaking to them through him. They had eyes to see and ears to hear. To me, that says that there was something happening at that temple.

But what if you were Mary or Joseph? What would you have done when you finally caught up with Jesus and found him lecturing the finest religious minds of your generation about the intricacies of the Almighty?

While I’m sure that Mary and Joseph were used to strange things happening since this boy came into their lives. I also think they wondered what their jobs as parents were.

How do they guide a child into adulthood who has God’s wisdom living inside of him? How do they prepare him for a future that is so different from anyone else’s and nothing like they’d ever seen?

The story says that “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.” Jesus said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

I’m sure that their frustration was aimed both at this runaway kid and at their own feelings of inadequacy as parents. And while they were relieved to have him back, they probably looked at what was happening at the Temple and quietly asked each other, “What do we do now? Where do we go from here?”

And what kind of glib answer was that that Jesus gave his frantic parents? “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

How would you have answered that question? It’s not as clear an answer as it first appears.

Yes, he was in the Temple, but was that really his Father’s house? Yes, this was the place where the faithful gathered to pray and offer sacrifices.

Yes, they believed the Temple housed the power and glory of God. And yes, people gathered at the Temple to find God, to connect with the divine, to experience the holiness and majesty of God.

But, God house isn’t just in the Temple. Or the church. That’s not just where God is found. And that’s the whole point of Jesus’ birth. Jesus was born so that the whole world would be holy. Jesus was born so that every corner of the globe would be filled with God’s majesty. Jesus was born so that every person would be a house for the power and glory of God.

So, maybe, Mary and Joseph understood more than they realized. That’s the dream they had for their child. That was the vision they had for Jesus’ future.

They searched everywhere BUT the Temple because they somehow knew that in this child, God was set loose in the world. And they turned over everything to find where God was hiding. To find him in the Temple was to find him in a resting place; to re-group before heading back out.

When they found him in the Temple there they took him about as far away as you could get from the centre of religious life. They took him away into that backwater burg called Nazareth.

And it was there, it is said, that Jesus grew in wisdom and in years, and in human and divine favour. Not in the Temple. Not surrounded by the holy ground where the priests walked. Jesus grew in wisdom surrounded by those whom the world forgot. Those who toiled without recognition or reward. Those who prayed with no one watching but God. Those who gave without anyone noticing.

It was deep in the world where God grew in Jesus. It was where people needed him. It was where he could meet the world’s pain. He couldn’t have been the messiah we needed him to be if he were safely cloistered in the Temple.

He needed to be where people were living their lives, where they were sweating and where they were suffering, where they were celebrating and where they were labouring, where they were giving and where they were praying. He needed to have dirt under his finger nails and mud on his boots, he needed to smell like persperation rather than incense to be the saviour the world needed him to be.

That’s the point of Christmas. It’s not just that a child is born. It’s that a child is born for US. For YOU.

That’s God’s dream for YOU. That’s God’s vision for your future. That’s God’s desire for your life TODAY.

And God’s dream has come true. God’s vision is realized. God’s desire is met in Jesus.

Christmas means that in Jesus, God entered your life, God became one with your sweat and suffering and declares you holy.

In Christmas, God is immersed in your celebrations and your labour, and proclaims that you are a dwelling place for God’s majesty and power.

In Christmas God says that YOU - WE - together in our giving and our praying are his Father’s house. Because in Jesus, at Christmas, God comes to live in us. In Christmas, God is born in us.



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