Luke 2:41-52 “Nurtured in the Faith”
Have you noticed how quickly Christmas is celebrated and then forgotten? The stores have already started removing their Christmas decorations and replacing them with Valentines Day. The radio stations have stopped playing Christmas Carols, and we won’t be able view a broadcast of “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Home Alone” for eleven months. Soon Christmas trees will be down, and decorations will be boxed up and stored in the garage for next year.
This isn’t very different from what happened after the first Christmas. The shepherds went back to their sheep after seeing Jesus. The magi dropped off their gifts and then returned to their home in the East. All too soon, Mary and Joseph were left alone to cope with dirty diapers, night feedings, spitting up, and—contrary to the carol “Away in the Manger,”—crying. Ahead of them was the awesome task of raising and nurturing the Son of God.
The gospel lesson for today gives us the only glimpse that we have in the Bible of Jesus’ childhood. In this story, we not only learn the importance of the parenting ministry, but was also are taught a course in Christian ethics.
MARY AND JOSEPH’S ETHICS
We do not know why God chose Mary to be the mother of his son. It wasn’t because she was sinless, or in some way better than others. All we can say is that God exercised his free will and chose Mary—because he wanted to.
God made a good choice, though. Mary and Joseph were committed and involved in their faith. Their involvement in the religious activities of their time certainly had an impact on Jesus.
Luke notes that when Jesus was twelve years old Mary, Joseph and Jesus (and probably Jesus’ younger brothers and sisters), went up to Jerusalem—as usual. The word translated “as usual” is the word ethos from which we derive our word ethics. We usually translate ethics as meaning principles, or moral values. In its original meaning the word would be better translated habits. Thus we could read, “Mary and Joseph went up to Jerusalem as was their habit.
When we talk about Christian ethics, we often talk about the lofty concepts of the sanctity of life, the importance of standing against injustice, sharing the necessities of life, forgiving the unforgiveable, and loving the unlovable. While these are important elements of the Christian walk of faith, Luke is much more practical.
Christian ethics is worshipping regularly. Christian ethics is being involved in religious activities. Parents and adults living out their faith in their everyday lives so that the children can observe what it means to live in a relationship with God and what habits are important in that relationship. And, notice that Mary and Joseph traveled with family and friends—a good reminder that children are raised by a community.
Jesus realized at an early age that there were other important elements in a walk of faith. Specifically, there was the need to study, debate and discover.
Mary and Joseph lose track of Jesus. They assume that he is with their traveling group when they head back home. Later that day they discover that Jesus is not with them and they rush back to look for him. They find Jesus in the temple discussing and debating with the great teachers of the day. Mary confronts Jesus and scolds him for causing his parents great anxiety. Jesus replies with a rather cryptic statement, “Didn’t you know that I needed to be in my father’s house?” This phrase is probably better translated, “be about my father’s business.
The business of God is to question, debate, discuss, and expand one’s understanding of God, humankind, and the world in which we live. This activity is as much a part of Christian ethics (habits) as singing praise songs on Sunday morning, and giving food to the food bank.
We have a multitude of reasons why we simply don’t have the time, ability, or inclination to participate in Christian education. The cost for neglecting our education is high. We limit our experience of the divine. We try to address the complexities of the world with a simplistic faith, and we open ourselves up to allowing others to think for us, and bring us under their control.
Desert Streams is offering several opportunities to expand one’s knowledge, understanding, and wisdom—from Christian financial management, to comparative religions, to fearless living. I encourage you to nurture your faith and take advantage of one of these offerings.
Jesus didn’t stay in Jerusalem. He went back with his parents to his hometown, Nazareth. Luke also notes that Jesus obeyed his parents and continued his education. In this gospel lesson, we see the ethics of Mary and Joseph, Jesus, and also the family.
As a religious family, Jesus obeyed his parents. Their relationships together were based on love and respect. Their family ethics sought to live out the religious teachings of the Scripture—to allow their faith to be a reality in their lives.
Jesus also continued to study, to debate and discuss. This process allowed him to increase in wisdom and prepared him for his ministry. Our ethics, whether they be our religious practices, family relationships, or study habits, strengthen or back up our witness and our service to others. In all things we seek to obey the Lord and honor him.
TV evangelists, and mega-church pastors sometimes seem to get all of the attention. It may seem that their ministries are in some way better than the rest of ours. The truth of the matter is that Christian ministry, service, and witness, is live out in our everyday relationships with others, as we practice our ethics before God and others.