C Cycle – Feast of the Holy Family 18
We have just spent the better part of December, the liturgical season of Advent, preparing for the coming of Christ. For four weeks we have had an intense focus on the promise of God to send us a messiah to redeem us and restore our glory as sons and daughters. Why in its wisdom has the Church planned it this way? During those four weeks we were being taught, prepared for one purpose and that was to embrace the person of Jesus – the Messiah. We were not preparing to celebrate a memory of an event. We are to celebrate the coming of our Savior and God’s love. In gratitude, knowing Jesus was willing to set aside his immortality to become mortal so that we might become the very righteousness of God, not by our effort but by his birth. death and resurrection.
Then Christmas day came, and we did celebrate his birth, his coming to earth and now suddenly he is twelve years old, traveling with his parents to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem. Think about that for a minute, the Lamb to be sacrificed for our sins has been making this journey to Jerusalem each year to celebrate and remember how the blood of the Lamb place on the lintels of the homes of the slaves saved them from death. Jesus celebrating an event he would have witnessed is moving daily toward being a participant in the final act of salvation, God restoring his people.
We do not know what has been happening in the life of Jesus during those 12 years from his birth beside the flight of Joseph and Mary to Egypt and their return after the death of Herod. No mention of Jesus during those years nor will we learn anything about his life over the next 18 years of his life with Joseph and Mary.
Apparently those early years of Jesus are not important for our salvation or our understanding of God because God did not inspire anyone to include them in the scriptures. What we are given today is important for us to grasp. In John’s epistle we are at this moment identified as children of God and more is to be revealed, meaning God has yet to do something in each of us.
It is obvious God desires us to grow up. We are not to spend our life as children and Paul stresses this and reminds us to press on to maturity and leave elementary teaching behind (Heb. 6:1). It is time for us to move beyond the basics of our faith and that is one thing the scriptures are telling us today. Jesus is moving toward something no one yet understands and at the age of 12 he gives us a glimpse of what we must do to know our destiny.
Jesus at 12 is approaching the age of the modern-day bar mitzvah intended for every Jew, male and female (bat mitzvah). That modern ceremony, celebrates an ancient act of transition where a child becomes a “son or daughter of the commandments.” The bar mitzvah ceremony is a modern-day addition. Prior this modern-day addition this transition to maturity happened at age Jesus is approaching. The ceremony is not necessary to become a son or daughter. What is important is for the person is to have an internal move of the heart, a desire to achieve their destiny as a son or daughter. What is happening within the person is a transition from no obligation to embracing their destiny as a son or daughter.
Beyond the obligation to keep the commandments at this age they are to read the blessing over the Torah and read the opening portions from the prophets. So here we have Jesus at this transition age, listening to the teachers and asking questions.
The God who became flesh is teaching us about our own journey toward maturity. It would be easy for us to latch onto Jesus listening and asking questions – the learning portion of growing to maturity however, Jesus’ response to Mary points us to the author of the scriptures – his father’s house – not to the questions he wanted answered. Paul, in Hebrews, is making this point about moving beyond childhood things when he says “we must move on to tasting the Holy Spirit and the word (Heb. 6:4-5).
After this account of Jesus in the temple, the scriptures tell us he returns to Nazareth with Joseph and Mary and was obedient to them. The second person of the Trinity through whom all things were made disappears from the scriptures until he is baptized by John. There had to be other Passover celebrations he attended with his family. There had to be other times he sat and listened to the teachers, but we do not have any revelation about them. We have only this one moment just before he was to become a “son of the commandments.” When did that one event happen for us when we become sons and daughters of the Father, or is it yet to come?
There must come a time in all our lives when we have done all the foundational things, we must do to be considered Christians. We have listened enough, asked all the questions on our minds, participated in the rituals and yes even active in leading them. How much time have we taken to reflect on all these things in our hearts before we take the next step? John tells us, we are children of God now, but what we will become is not yet known.
Did Mary know what he would become? This account of Jesus at the age of 12 tells us she did not understand what he said to them, so let’s take that for what it says, they did not understand what Jesus meant when he said he must be in his Father’s house.
Do we understand what it means for us to be in this house of the Father? Do we understand this is foundational for what we must be doing for the kingdom of God? This is about us and our willingness to move beyond listening to become doers of the word. Active in building the Kingdom of God, using the unique gifts and talents we have been given by God to help others come to know who that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. John in his letter is encouraging us to move beyond just keeping the commandments for we must “believe in Jesus Christ, act on that belief and stop trying to earn salvation instead invite salvation into our hearts. We must then allow the Spirit to help us grow in living as sons and daughters of God as part of the family of God.