Second Sunday after Christmas (C)
January 2, 2022
Text: Luke 2:40-52
Where are you looking for Jesus? Mary and Joseph were looking for Him in all the wrong places. They thought they had lost Him. 12 years old, He had travelled with His parents and the throng of pilgrims to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Now on their way home to Nazareth, they supposed that He was somewhere in the group, among family, with friends, playing with the other children, that He would catch up with them at the night’s lodging place. But when He wasn’t where Mary and Joseph expected Him to be, where it was their will for Him to be, they panicked. Back to Jerusalem. Three days they searched. The holy sites. The favorite family stops. Then the streets and back alleys. Where could He be? Three days of an anxious mother’s heart and a father’s desperation. Three days. After three days… they found Him. And they should have known. They should have looked there first. There He is, in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them, and asking them questions. There He is, immersed in God’s Word, in the place of sacrifice, where God dwells with His people. There He is in His Father’s House, or, as we may also translate it, about His Father’s Business, or, among the things of His Father. Did you not know, Mary? Do you really not understand, Joseph? Jesus is right where He belongs. The Lord has come into His Temple, present in the flesh, the fulfillment of the Torah and the Prophets, the true Sacrifice of Atonement for the sins of the whole world.
And you? Where are you looking for Jesus? It is fashionable for Christians these days to presume Jesus is wherever families are gathered together. Family values, and all that. That is why many Christians, and Christian congregations, boycott Christmas services, because “Christmas is a time for family,” we are piously told. Of course, family is good, God’s own institution by way of holy marriage, and we are all for family values. But that is not where Jesus has promised to be for us with His saving gifts.
Likewise, we expect to find Jesus in other places where we will Him to be. We seek Him under the guise of outward prosperity. If we’re healthy, wealthy, and movin’ on up, Jesus must be with us, giving us special blessings, because we’ve shown Him that we’re worth it. We seek Him in our politicians. We all know that my candidate is God’s chosen one, the embodiment of righteousness and godly zeal, while the other candidate is undoubtedly the beast from Revelation that serves the great evil dragon. We seek Him in our patriotism. I love America, and I’m very patriotic, but we have been guilty of actually equating America with Christianity, a new chosen people of God. That is probably the sin of most of us here today. Others also equate America with Christianity, and therefore hate America with the same zeal with which they hate Christ and His Christians. In either case, it’s false. Neither America, nor any other nation on earth, is God’s chosen people in the way that Old Testament Israel was.
One of the devil’s favorite tricks is to get us to look for Jesus deep within us. In our experiences. In our feelings. In our hearts. I have read an awful lot of purportedly “Christian” literature in recent days that would have me look for the Christ Child to be born deep within me this Christmas, like some sort of intangible “Christmas spirit.” Come to think of it, that may be the gist of some of the Christmas cards I’ve received this year. (Actually, that may be why I don’t receive very many Christmas cards anymore, because you’re afraid they’ll show up in a sermon.) But seriously, look for this. This is always the evil one’s tactic, but it is especially prevalent at Christmas time. Get you to look for Jesus… by looking at you. But that is the very definition of a fallen human being. Incruvatus in se. Curved in on the self. Why on earth would you look for Jesus there?
There are many other places we look for Jesus, but they are all variations on a theme. Holy works. Holy places. Even Protestants have their pilgrimages and relics, and a rose by any other name is still a rose. Dreams. Ecstatic spiritual experiences. Miraculous revelations. The immediate answer to prayer in the exact manner prescribed. And when Jesus is not where we expect Him to be… when He is not where we will Him to be… like St. Mary, we get a little upset. “Son, why have you treated us so?” (Luke 2:48; ESV). Jesus, what’s the matter with You? Can’t You see we’ve been searching for You in great distress? Don’t You see us in our misery? Don’t You see us in our sin and death? Don’t You see the great evils Your people suffer? Is it too much to ask You to appear where and when we want You, to do the things we want You to do?
I’ll tell you one thing, that is what the disciples were looking for some years later on another Passover night in Jerusalem. It’s go time. Two swords. We’ll die with You if we have to. One Last Supper, and then… the Romans will never know what hit them. Jesus, though, sits with them, His chosen Twelve, and He teaches them God’s Word. He serves them… Divine Service. He washes them. Gives them a Meal. And bids them love one another. He sings some Psalms with them. And then… He goes and gives Himself into the hands of His enemies. This is not what the disciples were expecting. This is not where they willed Jesus to be. But it must be. It is divinely necessary. This is the business of His Father, and Jesus must be about it. It is the business of redeeming sinners and forgiving sins. It is the business of becoming the great Sacrifice of Atonement that will reconcile God with sinful humanity. Thus the cross. Thus the death of God’s Son.
They thought they’d lost Him, the disciples. They panicked. They went and hid. For fear. Anxiety. Desperation. Great distress. But they should have known. After all, had He not told them? After three days… After three days, they found… an empty tomb. And then they found Him, risen, and living, and speaking His peace. And He sent them out to preach the Good News. He sent them out to speak His Word. And, as He made clear especially to the Emmaus disciples, but also in every resurrection appearance… you will recognize His presence from here on out in the Breaking of the Bread. That is, the Holy Supper of His Body and Blood, where He gives to us the Sacrifice of Atonement He made once and for all on the cross, and where He is present with us in the flesh, our Emmanuel, Jesus Christ.
So where are you looking for Jesus? Stop looking wherever you will Him to be, wherever He has not promised to be. You really should know better by now. Look for Him immersed in His Word. Sitting among the teachers. In the place where the Sacrifice is given us as Sacrament. Where God dwells with His people in flesh and blood. In the Father’s House. About the Father’s business. Among the things of His Father. That is where you will always find Him. That is where He has promised to be for you. To forgive your sins. To give you life. To teach you. To impart wisdom. To give you His righteousness. You will always find Jesus and His saving gifts in the holy Word and Sacraments. To look elsewhere only leads to more desperation.
After three days, Mary and Joseph found Jesus sitting among the teachers, fulfilling the Third Commandment for us and in our place. Isn’t it a wonder that the Word made flesh, the eternal Son of the Father, eagerly studies the very Scriptures He has given? He does not despise preaching and God’s Word, but holds it sacred, and gladly hears and learns it. And then He goes down with His parents to Nazareth and is submissive to them, He who is their Lord and Master, thus fulfilling the Fourth Commandment for us and in our place, to honor father and mother. He does not despise or anger His parents, but honors them, serves and obeys them, loves and cherishes them. This, and His fulfillment of all the Commandments, God imputes to us as righteousness, even as our Lord’s blood and death on the cross wipes away our sins. Mary treasures up all these things and ponders them in her heart. Which is to say, she receives them by faith. And so it is with you and me. Finding Jesus in His Word and in the things of His Father, we believe, and so believing, we receive. Merry Christmas. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son X, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.