“Jesus is Born….Now What?”
Luke 2: 41-52 & Ecc 3:1-8 ~ Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook ~ December 30, 2018
We have prepared…and Jesus has been born…once again in the ‘Bethlehems’ of our hearts he has been born…amidst all the glitz and the glamour that some of us felt…he was born. Amidst all the turmoil and upset that others held…he was born. Amidst the myriad of emotions that rest in our hearts, the Son of God was born into our hearts and lives and we sang “Joy to the World” for he finally came! And now what? After he is born…now what? Now what is what happens ‘this week’: the 12 days of Christmas begin ~ we begin ‘Christmasing’. Did any of you have that odd disorientation occur through this week between Christmas and New Year’s? Offices are closed and regular activities have been placed on pause and we wake up in an egg-nogg infused turkey haze and we wonder… What day is it today? What should I do today? Christmas has happened…now what? First of all, we defer to the calendar to see what day it actually is and then we realize that the normal activities ascribed for a Thursday are not available. Now what? We find ourselves caught in this Christmas haze pondering what to do? You have experienced the most wonderful gift ever offered ~ the gift of God’s love birthed in the flesh. God has come and is fully with us ~ Emmanuel ~ meeting us in our humanity. And we look at the manger and we behold this miracle and we ask … now what?
And, friends, that’s what I think this brief 12 day season of Christmas is really all about. I know it might have seemed like all of December was Christmas ~ certainty the radio stations thought Christmas started on December 1st, but most of December was really about preparing for Christmas. It was Advent. But between the 12 days ranging between Christmas and January 6th’s Epiphany visitation of the Magi next Sunday, THIS is the Christmas season. And during this Christmas season, people of faith consider the nature and meaning of Christmas. This is the time of ‘Christmasing’…this is ‘so now what?’ time.
In this morning’s gospel text from Luke, we leap ahead from the Christmas story of Jesus as a newborn by 12 years. Jesus is now a young man in the temple. The Holy Family ~ Mary, Joseph and Jesus have returned to Jerusalem for Passover ~ their son. Jesus is, where he should be, teaching in the Synagogue. After the people had left; after the ceremonies have come to an end; Jesus stays behind ~ even his parents have left and gone homeward ~ yet unbeknownst to his parents, Jesus stays behind. The text says that he is there sitting among the teachers. Imagine that…this 12 year old young man sitting among the elders. And not just sitting among them ~ which would have been a place of esteem, but he was also “listening to them and asking questions”. After the first Christmas, in Luke’s understanding of Jesus, he is there among the religious leaders, listening and asking questions. And THEY were…. amazed! Were they amazed that Jesus remained in the temple after everyone had left ~ yes. Were they amazed that Jesus was sitting among the religious leaders, as one of them ~ yes. But what amazed them most of all was that Jesus was challenging them and asking them questions! This story is a revelation into who Jesus would be. The one who would cause a revolution among the religious establishment of his day.
And that’s what leads us to, what I would like to suggest, one of the most significant parts of the story. It might have struck you that Mary and Joseph were terrible parents ~ heading home after Passover only to realize that they had forgotten to put their young son in the back-seat before setting off (‘I thought you had him…I thought you did) But there was a lot more going on here than poor guardianship. After the Passover festival had ended and everyone had left Jerusalem and were heading home, Jesus’ parents realized that they had forgotten something…they had forgotten Jesus! And so, they searched and they searched and later found him where… but back in the temple. And did you catch how many days it took them to find Jesus? It was a very significant number: it took them THREE days…the same number of days it would take for Jesus to rise from the grave…the same number of day it would take him to transform death. And here as people were first coming to realize Jesus’ purpose, to first realize his message, it occurs in three days. In three days they realize who he will be!
Aside from this being a time of Christmas pondering, this is, of course, is also the time that many in the world are making their New Year’s resolutions. And if you aren’t pondering the meaning and call of the Christmas miracle, I suspect many of you are spending a little time quietly pondering our hopes for 2019. Some of the top New Year's resolutions that I hear about tend to be grouped in a few areas: wellness ~ a resolve to lose weight, to increase our fitness level, eat better and reduce our stress. A resolve to reduce alcohol consumption or levels of smoking. Others resolve to grow in new ways: learn something new, volunteer in their community. And sometimes, those resolutions last until they finish their first cup of New Year’s morning coffee. Sometimes they may even last a few days or maybe even longer and sometimes they become life changing. And as significant and important as New Year’s resolutions are, I would suggest that, from a spiritual perspective, the living out of the Christmas story out is even more important.
While New Year’s resolutions are a good idea ~ I think from a spiritual perspective, however, the important thing to be doing is to focus on making, not resolutions, but rather making Christian revolutions for the coming year. In Jesus’ birth, he came to bring a revolution. In those three days, his parents discovered a young boy who was birthing a new way ~ who would challenge the ways of the religious establishment of the day. He would sit with the elders ~ in a place of equality with them. Then he would listen intently ~ in a way of deep respect for his tradition. And then….he would question them ~ challenging the ways of their teaching. Asking why are some loved and some not; why are some cared for and some not; why are some beloved and some cast-off. Jesus birthed the beginning of a revolution. Living the ‘Christmasing’ revolution is about embracing the sacredness of this life that we are given, the fragility of our time on earth, the gift of this life and living it out in faithful lives of gratitude and grace. Jesus is born…now what? Now is the time to start a Christmas revolution!
I wonder what the church might look like if we truly started a Christmas revolution in how we lived out our faith. As we move into the new year, can we allow Christ to be born into our hearts in a fresh new way that allows his Way to be lived out in our flesh? Are we willing to stand up to injustice? Speak truth to power? Focus on his revolutionary ways being lived out through ours? Mahatma Gandhi is famously remembered for saying “I like your Christ, its your Christians I do not like. They are so unlike your Christ”. People that say politics have no place in the pulpit have really never taken these stories of Jesus to heart. While we all love the kind and gentle Jesus, there is also a revolutionary Jesus who is also born in Bethlehem ~ who challenges the temple authorities ~ and yearns to be born in your living.
And so may we make resolutions this New Years to live out Jesus’ revolutionary Way of life.