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Epiphany 1 – Luke 2:41-52

by pastorjuhl ~ January 10th, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Just when Mary and Joseph thought they found their Son Jesus after He was missing for three days, it turns out the twelve-year-old Jesus found them exactly where they should be found: in His Father’s house.

You would think when Mary kept all these things in her heart she would easily connect the dots of the angelic visits, the shepherd’s visit to the manger, the Wise Men’s visit to their home in Bethlehem, and the words of Simeon and Anna at Christ’s Presentation in the Temple to this game of lost and found. Make no mistake. This is not a childish prank our Lord is playing on His parents. This event has important implications for Mary, Joseph, you, and me.

It is not Jesus that plays lost and found with us. It is we who sometimes play lost and found with Him. We rejoice when a child is born. We pray that the child is quickly brought to the font to receive Holy Baptism. When water and the Word are applied to the child, it seems as if an allergy to the Christian faith develops. We pastors often joke about the best way to keep people away from church is to baptize them, confirm them, and marry them. That way the next time they show up, at their funeral, they won’t really be here!

Infants and young children cannot drive themselves to church. Their parents must make the effort to bring them. But many parents decide to let the children decide how their spiritual life will progress. Making that kind of decision is like putting a cart before a horse. After all, the ones in the cart are going places. The horse just pulls them there.

If that’s the case, then why did Joseph and Mary bring the Child Jesus with them to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration? They could have left Him behind with Mary, for only the head of the household needs to attend the required festivals at the Temple. Mary and Joseph brought Jesus there because they were a family. The family that prays together stays together. It’s a trite statement but it’s true. Yet some families who call themselves Christian only bring their children with them when it’s convenient.

It’s sad to say that some children, like their parents, grow up hearing two Biblical accounts a year: Christ’s birth according to the flesh and Christ’s resurrection from the dead. When the child reaches a certain age the parents bring him or her for confirmation. We pastors have a short time to teach them the basics of the faith. We ask the parents to help us teach the faith at home as they grow up, but it seems some children only hear prayers when they come to Divine Service or when pastor comes for supper.

Saint Paul writes do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Children memorize video game “cheats” without a word of complaint. But when it’s time to memorize the Small Catechism, both parents and children groan about lofty expectations and too much work. Talk about being transformed by the world and refusing to be conformed to the good and acceptable and perfect will of God!

It’s not too late to repent. It’s not too late to stop seeking our Lord where He isn’t and let Him seek us again and bring us to His house. It’s not too late to let the Lord God conform our hearts and minds to His good and gracious will so the world won’t transform us into mindless consumers of things we cannot take with us to heaven.

It is mind-boggling that Jesus’ first recorded words in Scripture seem to be words that chide His mother. Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? What is the business of our heavenly Father? His business is to reconcile the world to Himself through His Son Jesus. That is more than likely what our Lord was discussing with the doctors of the Law. Matthew says Jesus was both listening to them and answering questions. Jesus doesn’t barge into the Temple and declare how He will do His Father’s will. He listens to what they say first then answers their questions. He corrects the teachers politely, for as a Child He is subject to them but as God He is superior to them.

Christ’s knowledge confounds the teachers and perhaps embarrasses His parents. When I was twelve I know I embarrassed my parents frequently by correcting people’s mistakes and saying things that shouldn’t be said publicly by a twelve-year-old boy. Mary and Joseph don’t need to be embarrassed. Their Son is hard at work changing hearts, minds, and lives even as a Boy. He is preaching forgiveness and salvation to those who need to hear it most: the teachers and doctors of God’s Word.

Though Jesus was subject to [His parents] and increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men, He gives a glimpse of what He will do for us when He finds His parents in the Temple. Epiphany is the season of manifestation: how God in the flesh reveals Himself to Jews and Gentiles as a man. The saints of the Old Testament saw God in splendor and awe, especially in the Old Testament reading from First Kings when the presence of God in a cloud overshadows the newly built Temple.

The pillar of cloud and fire, the burning bush, and all the Old Testament manifestations of God are found today in a twelve-year-old Boy who seemingly plays hide-and-seek with Mom and Dad. Yet to come is the greatest manifestation of all: Christ’s death upon the cross and His resurrection from the dead. These events are the content of Christ’s teaching to those in the Temple. These events are what Moses and Elijah discuss with the transfigured Christ. These events are foreshadowed in the miracles we will hear about over the next few weeks. The throne of God that Isaiah saw high and lifted up in the Temple is born according to the flesh to be raised up on the cross as a sin-offering and rise from the dead as the victorious Lord of all.

Christ’s epiphanies continue in the Church today, though not in as dramatic a fashion as before. Christ comes to us in humble ways: preaching, Baptism, the Holy Supper, and Absolution. The means of grace aren’t as eye-popping as a Child teaching adults in the Temple, changing water into wine, or healing someone simply by speaking a word. The means of grace deliver healing and joy to our souls and bring us gladness of heart knowing that Jesus forgives our sins and brings us life everlasting.

Jesus is here today in His temple built of brick and wood on the corner of Second and Pine teaching us, feeding us, forgiving us, and preparing us to stand before the heavenly throne of God as His blameless people. As we said in the Introit from Psalm 100: give thanks to Him; bless His Name! For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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