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Dear friends in Christ,
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” Jesus said that as part of his very famous Sermon on the Mount. Was he really serious? “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy,” God commanded his people fromMount Sinai? Did God really mean that? But then, doesn’t God mean what he says and says what he means? If he doesn’t mean what he says and doesn’t say what he means then he is a liar.
Maybe when he says that we need to be perfect he is just saying that we need to try hard. That will be enough! But then if that is what he meant, why didn’t he say that way?
Maybe what he meant when he said be perfect is that as we get older we get better at it. Someone like St. Augustinewas a real playboy when he was young but at the age of thirty three he got in contact with the Word. His life changed. Kind of like Paul! Paul wasn’t a playboy but persecuted Christians and approved of their deaths. But then he got Jesus. Maybe to be perfect is where we need to be at the end of our lives. But neither Augustine nor Paul would have said they were perfect in the end. But how was it working out for Paul? “The good that I want to do I don’t do and the evil that I don’t want to do that I keep on doing.”
Be perfect? Be holy? What does he mean? I have actually met a couple of people in my life who claimed that God means what he says and says what he means and they accomplished it. They said they never sinned. I am not talking about five year old immature children. I am talking about adult women who were married and mothers of a few children.
Still others have said that God means what he says and says what he means and because of that they were destined to go to hell. They knew they were not perfect.
It may look like reach but this story of the twelve year old Jesus helps us understand and know with absolute certainty that in Christ we are perfect in God’s sight. Today we learn about the twelve year old child Jesus – “O Perfect Child…For You.” 1) We see how parents took care of the perfect Child; 2) We see how the Perfect Child takes care of parents.
Jesus was twelve years old. This is the only story from a lot of silent years between his birth and the beginning of his ministry at the age of thirty. The Lord picked a very devout couple to be the parents of the Word who became flesh. “Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom,” Luke says. There were three church festivals that showed up on the Jewish church calendar. They were to be celebrated at the temple. “Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel.” One of those festivals was Passover. Joseph, the devout foster father of Jesus, obeyed the command of the Lord. He packed up his family and took them the sixty miles to the south.
Devout Jewish families were interested in religious education. It usually began in earnest when children were four and five when children would be taught certain psalms. Next would come the first trip to the local synagogues; then came the trip to the temple inJerusalemat the age of twelve. That’s when twelve year olds were considered Ben Hathora – a son of the covenant. It was comparable to confirmation as young people assumed the obligations of adult membership among the people of God.
So Joseph and Mary, the family traveled fromNazarethto the city ofJerusalem. Four or five days on the road together, seven days inJerusalemtogether and four or five days back. Not a time to be anti-social but a time for fellowship, good conversation, spiritual renewal and singing. I am sure good memories were made. This was a time to prepare and focus on worshipping the Lord. Mary and Joseph took their job so seriously. The Lord was front and center in their house. They took care of the Christ-child.
What kind of memories do you have of your life with Jesus? I remember my Sunday School teachers who were so faithful, the Sunday School picnic and softball game when the pastor pitched for both teams and umpired. He cheated equally for both sides. I remember the VBS and catechism classes, the Christmas services as a kid. I liked the nightly devotions we had with our children when some of the things on their minds spilled out at the dinner table right after dessert. There were the devotions we had on the beach from vacations we enjoyed. It was fun applying the Word of God to their situations. Parents, what kind of memories of your life in the Lord are you creating?
I wonder if Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Seung-Hui Cho, Jacob Tyler Roberts, James Holmes, Adam Lanza had any good memories of God or even had an opportunity to have a memory or two. Who are they? They are the names connected with Columbine, Virginia Tech, aPortland mall, anAurora,Colorado theater andNewtown school. News media don’t dig up that part of the story, do they? .
Parents, I saw an article on the minimum daily spiritual requirements that should be part of every home. It was put out by Focus on the Family.
- Hang a picture of Christ in each child's bedroom. Children respond to pictures more easily than to words.
-Teach your child how to pray. By the time a child is four that child will be able to speak one-sentence prayers.
- Bless your child each morning. I thought this was interesting. I admit it sounds formal, but place one hand on the shoulder or head and repeat a blessing from Scripture. "The Lord bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you and give you peace." Explain this is a promise that God gives. They will understand that the Lord is so important.
- Take short walks with your child. Let creation declare the glory of God.
- Display your child's Sunday school lesson. Put it on the refrigerator. Let your child know it is important. Too often I notice how it is left here at Church. Perhaps it is left in the car on the floor. That makes it look like Sunday School is not important. Of course, none of these efforts are a guarantee that your child will remain faithful to the Lord, but doing nothing will guarantee they won’t.
Lots of people posted things on Facebook on the day of and days after the tragedy at Newtown. There was outrage to parents wanting their children home to hug them. Someone whom I remember as a little girl when Judy and I came to Atlantathirty five years ago and now a mother wrote this: “I’ve been reading posts all day about hugging your kids. But I have to be honest with you, that wasn’t my first thought. My first thought was you don’t leave “a life lived for Jesus” for your children to decide when they are older. What if one of those children had parents who didn’t share Jesus with them? Do more than hug your kids – tell them about Jesus. May God forbid that such a thing happen to us; however, if it did, there is peace in knowing that the child is with their Savior in heaven. In the same way you make sure they wear seatbelts, take vitamins and eat their veggies, take them to church. Grow them up with Jesus! Don’t wait! You don’t know if a car accident, illness or some other tragedy will strike. It could be tomorrow for any one of us.” Mary and Joseph took care of their perfect child; parents take care of their children.
Yet no parent is perfect. There are countless times that parents contemplate and wish they could have a “do-over” - even Mary and Joseph. “After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.” I am sure that Mary and Joseph wanted a do over here. They left the Passover Feast making the assumption that Jesus was there somewhere. After a day’s journey they realized they had left their God-given son behind. Home Alone was a funny movie about a child left behind. It was so funny that they did a sequel. Anyone who has lost a child at Disney or even at Wal-Mart understands the panic that overwhelms. If DFACS had known about Mary and Joseph I am sure there would have been an investigation. Imagine what it must have been like. Three days passed. Jesus wasn’t just down the frozen food aisle. He was in the city ofJerusalem with a lot of strangers. A huge mistake and error in judgment!
Being a parent is 24/7 – there is always a need to be on duty. Yet we make mistakes. Maybe you expected too much of your child. Or maybe you suddenly thought very selfishly your time was more precious than the responsibility you had to your family. Maybe you should have spent more time helping or checking on the homework or more faithful in making sure the memory work was done and done well. It doesn’t take long to think of all the do-over’s we would like to have as parents. But then, that’s another reason why Jesus came. He came to take care of his parents, all parent, for everyone.
“After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” I have to say that this section of the story boggles my mind. This is Jesus, eternal God and finite twelve year old young man in one. He is the one who knows all things and yet emptied himself of the full use of his power and knowledge to become one of us to be obedient unto death so he could pay the wages of sin. There he was awing teachers with his questions and insights.
“When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” Hey Mary! Hey Joseph! Who is the parent here? Why should there have even been a desperate search in the first place? Why are you blaming your son? Why did you even have one of those “I thought he was with….moments” in the first place? Adam and Eve didn’t want to accept responsibility either. How many generations had come and gone and people shifting blame for sinful acts done?
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.” A more literal translation would read like this “Didn’t you know I had to be about the things of my Father?”
Jesus had lived with his parents for twelve years. Never once did he give them trouble. Never once did he sin. They did indeed have the perfect child. He would continue to do so. I kind of wonder that for twelve years they had gotten so accustomed to Jesus, they really forgot why the angel announced his birth; how she as a virgin conceive the child; the whole thing with her cousin Elizabeth and the son she bore at her advanced years. She needed to be reminded that Jesus was not only the Son of man but also the Son of God. He was not here to be a chariot driver or a Pharisee in the temple or even a carpenter like his dad. He had come to save. His name, Jesus, was given him, not because it sounded nice, but because the heavenly Father had named him. His name means Savior or Deliverer. He had come to save.
How? The last verse gives us an answer. “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” He was obedient to them – perfectly! You must be holy because I the Lord your God am holy. While God commanded it, Jesus provided it for you and for me. He is indeed the perfect child and adult to save parents and single people, the young and old, men and women. He is the perfect child for you and me.