NOTE: Last Sunday was in Advent, and this Sunday is after Christmas. Maybe you went to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. But if you didn’t, you missed the climax of all that waiting and watching—the birth of our Lord. If you haven’t already done so, I suggest that you read the gospel lesson for Christmas, Luke 2:1-20.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The birth of Jesus is called the Incarnation. That word means “in the flesh”. God appears to us “in the flesh”. He lives with us and for us. What does that mean to you? Here’s one suggestion. Read the familiar bible passage below, and meditate on its full meaning. I’ve printed it here for you in a very different translation. I’ve done this to help you to think about the meaning of the words rather than the words we’ve all memorized so many years ago.
John 3:16-18 (The Message translation)
16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.
What do these words tell us about God?
What do these words tell us about ourselves?
1 SAMUEL 2:18-20, 26
Eli was the high priest for God’s People. By tradition, this position should have gone to one of his sons. But they were rebellious, and did not serve or respect God. Hannah was a righteous woman who was not able to bear children. She promised God that if she conceived, she would dedicate her son’s life to God’s service. Once the baby was weaned, she took her son Samuel to Eli, to be raised in the synagogue. She and Elkanah, her husband, visited Samuel once a year.
- Our story starts out by us learning that Samuel is performing his duties, “ministering before the Lord”. He is wearing a linen ephod. An ephod is an over-garment, like an apron, worn by clergy during their service to the Lord. (v. 18)
- Looks like his mother would make him a robe, and bring it to him each year. Whether this was the ephod or something else, we do not know. (It doesn’t say.) (v. 19)
- The high priest Eli blessed the parents, Elkanah and Hannah for the gift of their son. His blessing included wishing for them “many children”. (v. 20)
- In the verses that the lectionary skips over, we are told that Hannah bore three sons and two daughters. (vv. 21-25)
- The story concludes by telling us that Samuel grew up tall, strong and righteous in the eyes of the Lord. (v. 26)
Samuel honored his parents’ wishes, and devoted his life to divine service. In today’s gospel, Jesus follows a similar path.
Paul’s letter to the faithful in Colossae is a loving letter of how to live as Jesus’ disciples. Before their baptism, most were pagan Greeks. When they were baptized, the new Christians wore a robe of white. Their lives were changed forever.
- In the verses previous to this passage (vv. 5-11), Paul tells these new Christians to “put to death” the evil practices of their former lives.
- They must now “clothe” themselves in the Christian way of love and caring for one another. The words “clothes yourselves” would have been a reference to the new white robe they robe in their baptism. This should be a reminder to us all of our baptism, and the new life in Christ into which we are all called. (v. 12a)
- What follows is a long list of Christian virtues. I’ll give you an assignment in “Food for Thought”. (vv. 12b-16)
- All of these virtues are summarized in the verse 17. “Whatever you do, do it in the name of the Lord.”
During this Advent season, John the Baptist has called us to examine our lives, and change. We, too, should put to death our former lives, and “clothe ourselves with these Christian virtues. Here in this passage, Paul gives us the new direction; a new way to live our lives.
Two of the virtues mentioned are meekness and humility. In our modern culture, these might be considered weak or wishy-washy. I believe that a person who is strong in faith that still be meek and humble; it’s more of having a loving, gentle approach to life rather than a measure of strength.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Make a list of all the virtues listed in verses 12b-16. Then, prayerfully reflect on your own behavior. How do you measure up to each of these?
In “bible times”, it was customary to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for celebration of the Passover. Elkanah and Hannah did this in our first lesson; Mary and Joseph are doing the same in today’s lesson. They usually traveled with a large group with other pilgrims. They did this for safety and protection.
- The story begins by telling us that Jesus’ family went to Jerusalem every year for the Passover. This year was no different. Oh, by the way, he’s 12 years old. It is good to know that he will have his Bar Mitzvah within a year. After his Bar Mitzvah, he will be considered a man instead of a boy. (vv. 41-42)
- You know the story. Mary and Joseph leave Jerusalem, thinking that Jesus is with the group. They head out on foot on a three day journey back to Nazareth. At the end of the first day, they look for Jesus. He is nowhere to be found. They are beside themselves with anxiety. They return to Jerusalem. After three days, they find him in the temple asking questions and learning. (vv.43-46)
- They are upset. Jesus calms them by saying “where else would I be, but here in my Father’s house?” (vv. 47-49)
- I find the next verse very interesting. They did not understand his answer [at the time]. (v. 50)
- The happy ending is that Jesus went home with them, and was obedient to them. Even though she did not understand all of this at the time, Mary treasured these things in her heart. That’s what moms do, isn’t it? (v. 51)
- This is we last story we have of Jesus’ childhood. Luke summarizes it by saying that Jesus grew in wisdom and favor over the years following. (v. 52)
- The first and last verses of this passage sound very much like those of our first lesson. Perhaps this was intentional, or maybe not.
- It is interesting to me that Jesus is already aware of “his Father’s” mission for him, even at this age. It is also interesting that his earthly parents did not understand what he was saying. They knew that he was special. But maybe they did not know that whole story, like many of us assume.
- We consider the age of 12 to be pre-adolescent. In Jesus’ culture, we was within a year of becoming an adult. It was right for him to be in the temple, asking questions, wasn’t it?
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Who were Jesus’ real parents? Mary? Joseph?
Were Mary and Joseph strict parents, or did they give Jesus a lot of freedom?
Jesus was very aware of his Father’s intent, even at age 12. Are we clear about God’s mission for us in life? Are we walking that walk”?