I’m going to be honest with you: I don’t really want to be here today. Let’s keep that between us. I know it’s historically a small crowd the first Sunday of Christmas, but it’s true. I’d rather not be here.
Don’t take that the wrong way. It’s certainly not you, or this job, or this congregation, or this beautiful city. It’s me at this moment in the year. I’d just rather be somewhere else for this first (and only) Sunday of the 12-day Christmas season.
I’d rather be worshiping far from here with my family, huddled in a row singing Christmas carols perhaps in Houston, listening to Dad do the preaching, sharing a hymnal with Heather or Micah; or maybe overseas with my brother and sister-in-law, who are in Ireland with her family right now; or maybe tucked away in some little Lutheran church in some snowy mountain basin up in Rocky Mountains, huddled with the faithful few, sitting and singing carols and praying next to my kids, before we hit the slopes this afternoon…
Don’t take this the wrong way – I can’t wait to be here next Sunday – but I’d just rather be somewhere else today. Ever feel that way?
Just being honest…and not to make you feel sorry for me, or complain, even if it might sound that way: I’m thinking about the Gospel text from Luke, that’s before us. Jesus traveling with his family every year at Passover time, up to Jerusalem, from their hometown of Nazareth, a 32-hour walk. And our text picking up after the celebration is over.
Timely isn’t it? We get this story in the lectionary, about the same time many folks are packing up their donkeys and headed back home after the holidays, with a trail of ribbons, and droopy eyelids? (By donkeys, I’m referring to all the dads lugging new presents, and suitcases through our airports, or stuffing them into the trunks of cars. Have you seen them? They’re almost like Eeyores: “Thanks for noticing me.” – I mean, where’s Joseph in the story? Boy, I’m just full of whining today, huh?)
And here in the midst of the journey home, here in the midst of any leftover whining and complaining – anyone let down this Christmas? Not just because of that certain present you were hoping for but didn’t get, but also because, Christmas this year wasn’t like it used to be? (someone didn’t show up, or someone said something inappropriate, or it was all just too overwhelming this time around and you couldn’t enjoy it)
Yet right here in the midst of the journey home, the journey back to our regular day-to-day, right in the midst of our wishings, our complaints or our feeling sorry for ourselves, something happens to snap us out of it. “Boy Jesus” has gone missing!
Ever been in a situation where you’re feeling sorry for yourself or just trudging along, but then something suddenly is far more important…like your child is suddenly lost?
Play this scene through in your head: Mary and Joseph going from cluster to cluster of their friends and relatives “assuming” he must be with them. (Isn’t that a wonderful image of community, even if they did accidentally loose Jesus? For a whole day, the text says, they didn’t even worry about where he was? That’s actually how it is here with our kids, and I hope for other young parents too – it’s the only place, in fact that I have no idea where my kids are, but I’m not worried.) That’s how the community was too, even more: the whole community not only travelled together, they raised their children together. Everyone looking after the kids.
But Jesus slips through the cracks of that community-parenting model, and stays back at the temple.
And here’s the real main course of our Gospel feast for today: The image of Jesus asking questions and listening, back at the temple. Jesus lingers after all the celebration is done. He sticks around, helps clean up, keeps the conversation going (despite it being pretty less-than-thoughtful to his parents). But Jesus lingers near the Holy Scriptures, near the rabbis, near the sights and the sounds and the smells of the house of prayer, and near the other lovers of the Scriptures. Jesus is showing some “church mouse” tendencies, as a child! A rare species today, but certainly not an extinct one – those blessed members of our church families who linger, and ask questions and come around during the week, and search and hunt and ponder and marvel…and just plain love being in the presence of the Word of God, in the church. They bathe in it. They both wrestle with it, and find comfort in it.
“Church mice” – have you heard that term? – often I think of it synonymous with church LOLs (little old ladies). But I’ve also seen some wonderful church mouse tendencies in our young people – and this text reminds us again today: they must not be overlooked – young children and young adults. They ask the questions that make us stop and think…like “Why do we always say the Lord’s Prayer in church?” Or our bishop tells a story about a child that came to a pastor and said, “Pastor, when we pause at the beginning for the confession and forgiveness, why do you always start talking again so quickly? I hardly have time to confess all my sins.” Theological church mice…young people. Perhaps these were the types of questions Jesus was asking as he lingered in the temple after Passover. “But why? But why?” I hope he drove those rabbis crazy.
Today, Jesus snaps us out of our post-celebration funk, out of our whininess, and tendencies to mope along after the holidays – and this is how he does it: He gets lost in Jerusalem.
And in so doing, he leads us back to Jerusalem too, back to the temple, back to the Holy Scriptures. Don’t go just yet, after Christmas. There are 12 days of Christmas and then Epiphany and then the whole year of 2013 to linger around God’s Holy Wisdom, Holy Word! Let’s get lost in it together here at SVLC. Talk about a New Year’s resolution. Let’s bathe in the Word of God. Let’s bathe in that 2nd lesson from Colossians. [read it] Let’s ask questions together. And let’s just hang around God’s grace and favor this 2013. Let’s sing another Christmas carol, praise God, and celebrate Emmanuel, God-with-us a little longer: the Word made flesh, come to dwell in our midst for all eternity! Let’s linger in God’s love and presence, both here in the church and out in the world…let’s stay with Christ and grow in wisdom. For Christ is staying with us, whether we’re overwhelmed with thanksgiving or feeling sorry for ourselves, Christ is here to stay with you, today and forever. Amen.