Christmas Day has come and gone. Today might be a little bit of an anticlimax. I wonder if it was an anticlimax for Mary and Joseph?
The angels have all gone. The shepherds have returned to their sheep. Mary and Joseph don’t know that the wise men are on their way. As we read what Luke says about the events of Christmas we find that nothing much has changed in any practical sense, except that the couple now have a baby to care for. “Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.”
She went about her daily tasks and lived a relatively normal life, but she kept thinking about the amazing events of that night. Do you keep thinking about the amazing things of Jesus birth even while your life itself is boring and normal? How likely we are to already be thinking about the next year and what we want to do.
Luke says that he carefully wrote an account of Jesus life for us. Luke wrote what was important and left out what was not important. He wrote a great deal about the end of Jesus’ life, with many details. In just 52 verses in chapter two of his gospel Luke covered thirty years of Jesus life. He wrote what was important about those years.
Luke first tells us that Jesus was circumcised when he was eight days old according to the custom of the Jewish laws. When Jesus was 40 days old his parents took him to Jerusalem to make the Purification Offering for a child, offering two turtledoves or pigeons. Again they are acting according to the custom of the Jewish laws.
Luke doesn’t think it is important to tell us that Jesus was whisked away to Egypt after the visit by the wise men. They stayed there for a few years and then his parents took him to Nazareth.
The next thing Luke mentions is that Jesus is 12 years old. His parents have been taking him to the temple in Jerusalem every year for the Passover Festival. Some people have felt that there should be more information about the young Jesus, and have made up stories. But the Bible tells us that the only important thing is his visit to Jerusalem when he was twelve. It isn’t just an anecdote, an amusing story without deep meaning.
The first thing I see in this story is all the people who are missing. His family is missing. His parents have left him behind and gone on their way to Nazareth with their other children. His aunts and uncles and grandparents are missing. His friends are missing. The Jesus we see in this story is alone. But he is alone because he has chosen to be alone.
Perhaps not alone exactly. He is with the religious teachers in the temple. He stayed behind to be with them. He wasn’t lost. Jesus knew what he was doing. It was deliberate.
There is nothing here about miracles. In all other ways, Jesus is an ordinary 12-year-old.
Here is point one. Jesus grew up in a normal religious family. Let’s listen to what is written in Philippians 2:6,7.
“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.”
An ordinary family is God’s choice and his design for raising up people to be holy and sinless.
Jesus’ parents took three days to realize they had lost him, return to Jerusalem and find him in the temple. Luke says, “His parents didn’t know what to think.” Their precious lost little boy was sitting in the middle of a crowd of religious teachers in the temple. These theologians “were amazed at his understanding and his answers.”
Jesus was 12. He knew enough of the Scriptures to talk to experts. He may have been a genius, but the sense here is that he was special because of his understanding. Jesus understood God.
His mother doesn’t stay amazed for very long. She quickly expresses her fears and frustrations at this wayward son. What were you thinking of? Why did you do this? “Your father and I have been frantic.” Poor Mary has been terribly worried and is quite upset. She is a normal mother.
Jesus gives an amazing answer. He had to be in his ‘Father’s house’! Do you see the word he uses here to describe the temple. He is telling his mother and father that he is not really their son. He is reminding them of the events 12 years before that Mary has kept in her heart. Jesus is God’s son.
This is actually a radical concept to see God as a father. It is not how God was thought of in those days. Jesus introduces us to the concept of a dear daddy who is always close and caring. He also reminds us that even from a young age his first priority is to obey daddy.
God has hardly ever been called a father before this, and never in such an intimate way.
Jesus also shows us that he has no choice. As often as he refers to God as his father, he also says ‘I must’. Must preach. Must suffer. Must be lifted up.
Verse 50 says, “they didn’t understand.” So Jesus submitted to them and went home to Nazareth with his parents. For the next 18 years there is no word from him.
Like tells us that during these 18 years “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.”
That is our third point. Jesus grew. It is boring and unexciting, but we need to grow up.
Luke shows us that Jesus was a normal boy born into a normal family.
That Jesus saw from an early age that God was his daddy and he must obey him absolutely in all things. And that Jesus grew.
Jesus didn’t spring into action as the messiah the day he was born. We see from verse 52 that Jesus needed to spend 30 years growing up. He grew up in three main ways. The word that is translated ‘grow’ is prokóptō. It means to go forward, advance, proceed, increase, make progress.
First, he advanced intellectually. It says that he ‘increased in wisdom’. But the wisdom here is more than mere knowledge, just an understanding of facts. We should be making progress in gaining wisdom all of our lives!
Second, he advanced physically in stature, which suggest both maturity and physical growth. Jesus did more than just grow physically, he advanced in maturity.
Third, he advanced spiritually, in favour with God and men. Favour is literally ‘charis’ (grace). The idea here is not that as he grew up that he became more and more in favour with God and men. He exhibited grace in his dealing with both God and man. As God has graciously dealt with us we should extend that same undeserved grace to each other.
I think that we can learn from this. I think the reason that Luke included it in his Gospel was to show us the importance of a family that lives with God at the centre. Just an ordinary family.
How could God have better demonstrated the value of family than by his son becoming a baby and submitting him to the safe keeping of a human family. It was God’s choice for Jesus.
Being parents is tricky. Being in any parental role is tricky. We need to understand that God could easily lead our child in ways we do not understand. It may even be painful and costly to us, as it was to Mary, but it’s nevertheless God’s will for their lives. As such we should never stand in the way of our children following God. Or of anyone who is under our care.
Perhaps we should think about it this way. You and I respond to God at work in our lives the same way that Joseph and Mary responded to this event. Whenever our lives are touched by inconvenience or delay, much less pain or distress, we all too often become angry. We want God to explain his reasons and his purposes to us, just as Mary and Joseph expected Jesus to justify his actions.
Spiritual growth was important to Jesus. Shouldn’t our spiritual growth be important to us? God has given us some wonderful things for our spiritual growth, if we do not allow other things to crowd them out.
We have Scripture, involvement in a body of Christ, prayer and obedience to what we know is the will of God. Nothing should ever be allowed to keep us from these vital means of spiritual growth. Let’s vow that in 2016 we will try to grow up just like Jesus.