Summary: Jesus and his family went to the Passover Feast according to custom. It was a helpful routine and not an empty ritual for them. This talk offers four helpful routines for the Church: Praying, Eating, Worshipping and Serving Together (PEWS).

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Luke 2: 41-52

Midnight mass – Church on Christmas Day – Presents all opened before 6am – No presents until after Christmas lunch – Turkey with all the trimmings – A family walk in the afternoon – A football match on Boxing Day – Turkey sandwiches for a week – New Year resolutions – A special diet during lent – A special time and a place to pray – A family get together for Mother’s Day.

What family customs do you have? What family routines are you thinking of? Are they empty rituals or are they helpful routines?

This week’s reading from the Bible is 12 years after the birth of Jesus. So if you are a fan of Doctor Who – travelling in time – then since Christmas two weeks ago we have travelled 12 years into the future. Mary is no longer a teenager; and although I have no proof Joseph is perhaps starting to go a little grey on top.

The family are on holiday together. They have travelled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Festival ‘according to the custom’ (v42). Jesus is aged 12 and the family has made its customary trip to the Feast. It was part of their family routine to do so (2:41-42). However, they did not just do it because it was an expected tradition for the ‘Holy Family’ to visit Jerusalem! It was a custom associated with being Jewish. It was to do with being a part of the community; it was an Annual remembrance of the time when God (Yahweh) rescued The Nation from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12).

As I’ve studied this event in the life of Jesus I’ve been challenged. Are my customs empty rituals or are they helpful routines? For Jesus and his family the Feast of Passover was no empty ritual. It was a helpful, meaningful routine. When we come to Church is it a helpful routine or is it an empty ritual? Jesus shared bread and wine and said, “Do this and remember me”!

Remembering Jesus as I receive bread and wine is a wonderful, healing, helpful routine!

For many people in our community the Christingle Services were a very helpful routine on Christmas Eve. About 550 people came through our doors, many of them for the first time, and several people told me that it helps them to remember what Christmas is really all about; and if that is what it does for people then it’s no empty ritual it’s a helpful routine!

For Jesus at the age of 12 being at the Passover Festival was a very helpful annual routine to be in; and it led to a deep desire within him to ask questions and to search his heart. I wonder if he had any inkling that 21 years later – again at Passover – the sacrificial lambs would be joined be The Sacrificial Lamb; and that He himself (Jesus) would be that sacrificial lamb.

Later we learn that Jesus developed another helpful routine. It was his custom (6: 12) to regularly withdraw from public ministry to pray. In Luke 21:37-38 we read that in the days leading up to Passover when Jesus was 33, he spent the days teaching at the Temple, and evenings were spent on the Mount of Olives – the place where Jesus prayed before his arrest a few days later (22:39).

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