Dec. 26, 2021

Prayer of the Day

Shine into our hearts the light of your wisdom, O God, and open our minds to the knowledge of your word, that in all things we may think and act according to your good will and may live continually in the light of your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.Amen.

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26

18Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19His mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the Lord repay you with children by this woman for the gift that she made to the Lord”; and then they would return to their home.
  26Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.

Psalm 148

1Hallelujah! Praise the Lord| from the heavens;
  praise God | in the heights.
2Praise the Lord, | all you angels;
  sing praise, all you | hosts of heaven.
3Praise the Lord, | sun and moon;
  sing praise, all you | shining stars.
4Praise the Lord, heav- | en of heavens,
  and you waters a- | bove the heavens.
5Let them praise the name | of the Lord,
  who commanded, and they | were created,
6who made them stand fast forev- | er and ever,
  giving them a law that shall not | pass away. 
7Praise the Lord| from the earth,
  you sea monsters | and all deeps;
8fire and hail, | snow and fog,
  tempestuous wind, do- | ing God’s will;
9mountains | and all hills,
  fruit trees | and all cedars;
10wild beasts | and all cattle,
  creeping things and | flying birds;
11sovereigns of the earth | and all peoples,
  princes and all rulers | of the world;
12young | men and maidens,
  old and | young together. 
13Let them praise the name | of the Lord,
  whose name only is exalted, whose splendor is over | earth and heaven.
14The Lord has raised up strength for the people and praise for all | faithful servants,
  the children of Israel, a people who are near the Lord. | Hallelujah! 

Colossians 3:12-17

12As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Luke 2:41-52

41Now every year [Jesus’] parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When 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.” 49He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he said to them. 51Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
  52And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus as a Carpenter – Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Who among us had not lived through or heard a story of parents losing a child and later, after a long search, finally finding them? I cannot remember how old I was, but I was still in elementary school so maybe I was 7 or 8. I was with my mom at Wild West World in Custer, South Dakota, my hometown. West World was a small sort of amusement park with rides behind what was then the Chief Hotel and Restaurant. 

In her capacity as Chamber of Commerce director, my mother was deep in conversation with someone important and I was having none of it. I left her and the other person on the boardwalk and defiantly walked away. Of course, when I returned, she was not where I had left her. 

I have never revisited this incident with my mom but if her terror and not being able to find me matched my own, it was awful. Time felt like hours instead of minutes, until we finally saw each other and fell into a big hug. My actions were as far from Jesus’ as can be. However, I assume my mom, and any parent who has lost a child, can resonate at least a bit with Mary and Joseph. Their reaction to their twelve-year-old son seems completely reasonable and downright human.

Today we continue to rejoice in the birth of Jesus, the coming of the Messiah, of Immanuel, God with us. And yet, this morning’s gospel story invites us to already begin learning more about who Jesus is. For example, up to this point in the gospel, the child has been named Jesus and designated as holy, but only in this morning’s passage does he appear as God’s son.

Tension is also introduced at this early stage. On the one hand we know already that Jesus’ earthly parents Mary and Joseph are exemplary in their piety. There is no doubt that Jesus is reared in a household that sided with the purpose of God. This pious Jewish family pilgrimages to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, not surprising. 

So, Jesus is being raised in a pious environment. And yet, his commitment to God’s purpose transcends that piety and that environment. Jesus does not stick by his parents’ side but goes on his own to his Father’s house, to the temple. In this case at least, acting on behalf of God’s aim places Jesus’ behavior in opposition to his parents’ expectations. This is not the last time that Jesus’ behavior will go against traditional authority. This morning it’s his parents; later it will be religious and political authorities. 

And there is more turning and foreshadowing in today’s passage. As our story opens, Mary and Joseph are the subjects of the action. But as it unfolds Jesus takes on an active role, for the very first time in Luke’s gospel. In fact, as the scene closes, Jesus goes to Nazareth accompanied by his parents, the text reads. In other words, he has become the subject, the main actor. 

The pivot happens in verse 49 in which Jesus responds to his mother, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” This verse is the center and the nexus of this morning’s story.

Here is that tension again. The story makes clear that it is a good thing to keep the Passover. However, the sort of pious environment to which Jesus has become accustomed at home serves and must serve the more fundamental purpose of God. Not even familial claims take precedent over aligning oneself decisively on the side of God’s purpose. 

This story also makes clear that Jesus’ recognition of his identity as God’s Son does not begin at his baptism, something I had never noticed before. It is already present here in the temple when he is still a child. Jesus was fully human, but he was also fully aware that God was his Father. Jesus finds his own identity by affirming this relationship. 

The public ministry of Jesus remains in the future. But the occasion of his remarkable interchange in the temple provides us with a foreshadowing of what is to come. For the present, he will return with his parents to Nazareth. 

If we can relate most easily to the fear of the parents at the beginning of the story, that may be a hint to return to his parents at the end. They, like us, are the onlookers, trying to interpret the event and understand Jesus more deeply. 

Throughout the season of Advent and then on Christmas Eve we had very clear signs of what is ahead in the gospel. There was John the Baptist calling us to repent, to have a new perspective. There was Mary’s song in which she sang of God’s mighty acts, or God’s bringing down the mighty and lifting up the lowly. There was the baby wrapped in bands of cloth and laid in a feeding trough. And there was the light in the darkness, the heavenly host bringing the news to the lowly shepherds. 

And between Christmas Eve and the child Jesus leaving his parents, infant Jesus was presented in the temple and the priest Simeon sang, “my own eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory to your people Israel.” 

The stage has been set for Jesus to usher in something new, fully in God’s character. Today Jesus starts to own all of his identity–Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God, teacher, Savior. Again, just imagine Mary and Joseph, witnesses to his birth, dedication in the temple, and now this morning’s scene in the temple with the teachers.

We read that “Mary treasured all these things in her heart.” This phrase is reminiscent of her response to the birth of Jesus and the visit of the shepherds earlier. We might also recall Mary being perplexed and pondering when the angel Gabriel first visited her or when mute Zechariah wrote that his son should be named John; the whole neighborhood talked about these things and “All who heard them pondered.”

As with those events, we are invited to respond in kind. Might we put aside hasty conclusions? Instead, could we maintain an openness to the course the narrative will take? There are many questions that remain as Jesus’ birth and childhood conclude. What shape will God’s redemption take? How will it be accomplished? What will the human response be to God’s purposes? And, to bring this a little closer to home, what might redemption and healing and abundant life look like in Canyon County in 2022? What difference does Jesus make for us and the neighbors and strangers in our midst today? Like Mary, we might be served well to ponder such things.

Pondering is not a verb that is used often or an action that is nurtured widely among adults today. I think it is something of a mix of experiencing wonder and curiosity. I imagine Mary being overwhelmed both by the birth of Jesus and by watching him in the temple. This wonder surely inspired in her the wish to understand. And this led her to be curious. 

To quote Brene Brown again, as I did Christmas Eve, “Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty. We have to ask questions, admit to not knowing, risk being told that we shouldn’t be asking, and, sometimes make discoveries that lead to discomfort.” 

Choosing to be curious about Jesus and curious about following Jesus is a pretty good intention for the first Sunday after Christmas, on the precipice of a new calendar year. We cannot predict what our pondering, wondering, curiosity about Jesus, Immanuel, Son of God might lead to, and it could look different for each of us. 

It might be trying to see Jesus in every stranger we encounter. It might mean reading the gospels or all of scripture with new lenses. It might be experiencing the natural world here in Idaho with new eyes, ears, and empathy. And this pondering, wondering, and curiosity could certainly lead to some discomfort. That’s okay. The Holy Spirit will walk with us, prodding us and encouraging us along the way. 

Prayers of Intercession (Sundays and Seasons)

Joining our voices with the heavenly host and Christians throughout time and space, let us pray for the church, the world, and all in need.

A brief silence.You come to us in gatherings of your church across the globe. Unite us with those who celebrate your birth even when they are weighed down by grief, loss, poverty, hunger, or injustice. Hear us O God. Your mercy is great.

You come to us in the diverse splendor of the universe. Grant us the humility to trust our place in the network of creation, that we live in service to you and the natural world. Hear us O God. Your mercy is great.

You come to us through relationships of many kinds: families, friendships, communities, and nations. Guide us in these relationships, that we recognize the Christ child in one another and show your love to those most vulnerable. Hear us O God. Your mercy is great.

You come to us through people whom the world forgets. Poor shepherds and an imprisoned Paul announced your good news. Send your Spirit to all who are imprisoned, struggling with addiction, unwell, or in any need this day (especially). Hear us O God. Your mercy is great.

You come to us in acts of justice and forgiveness. Open our hearts to forgive one another, without permitting injustice. Supply us with the wisdom to be clothed with love, binding all things together in perfect harmony. Hear us O God. Your mercy is great.

Here other intercessions may be offered.You come to us through those who have died yet live with you forever (especially). We give thanks for Stephen, deacon and martyr, who gave his life to tell the story of your love. Hear us O God. Your mercy is great.

Rejoicing in your Word made flesh among us, we commend these prayers to you, confident of your grace and love made known to us in Jesus Christ, our Savior.Amen.

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