“And when His parents saw Him, they were astonished.  And His mother said to Him, “Son, why have you treated us so?  Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And He said to them, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  Luke 2:48-49; Christmas 2; 1/3/16

Every year it is customary to make New Year’s Resolutions.  I know some people who make them every year, and I know others who say, “I resolve that I will not make resolutions.”  While, It’s a good practice to make resolutions to change in a positive way,  I must admit that every year we generally tend to make the same resolutions over and over again, and then we sometimes feel even worse than before because we do not live up to them.  They could go something like this: “This year, 2015, I resolve to eat fewer late night snacks, exercise at least twenty minutes three times a week, drop fifteen pounds, and write more letters and thank you’s, and genuinely smile more often.  Realize, however, that resolutions are a “law” kind of thing and if we do not live up to them, there is always the beautiful Gospel of forgiveness, which makes life great!

But, this year, I want to make a New Year’s Resolution that is a bit different.  I will do my very best to keep this one.  I resolve this year to preach on the tough texts of the Bible.  You know, these are the texts of the Bible that may seem to present more questions in them than answers.  In the past, I will admit I generally have tended to choose the easier ones with the clearest application.  And I have stayed away from the harder ones at times.  But this year, I hope and pray will be different, because we all have a lot to learn, and it is God’s will that we all grow in wisdom.  So, to start it off, I am going to begin with a text that, for me, has held more questions at first than answers.

It is our Gospel lesson for the day.  This text from the Gospel of Luke has a lot of questions in it, that I have often wondered about.  So, I have sometimes stayed away from preaching from it.  What are the questions, you ask.  Well, imagine first of all, how is it that parents like Mary and Joseph, good and devout parents, can go all of the way up to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover and then turn around and forget about Jesus?  And what is more, they didn’t realize that they forgot about him until a day’s journey was over?  What were Mary and Joseph thinking about?  How could they do this to Jesus?

Well, it’s hard to say for sure, but I have to start it out with this disclaimer.  Mary and Joseph were not perfect.  They were sinful like you and me.  They needed a Savior like you and me.  And if there is a person in this congregation right now that has never lost something, including their own child, I would like to hear about that.  But, there are a few other things to consider about Mary and Joseph that may help you to understand. 

First, trips from Nazareth to Jerusalem and back at Passover time, were not trivial little things.  Usually at this time the devout believers would travel in larger groups.  Like pilgrims they were traveling “en masse” to the Holy City to observe the Passover.  Sometimes they would travel with other relatives and friends.  There would be psalms, hymns, and readings from the Scriptures as they went to, and returned from Jerusalem.  The point is, their whole first day walking back was likely filled with singing, and with prayer as they walked along the way.

But, you may say, still Jesus must still be their first priority.  And that is true, but also remember that, although this text does not say it, Mary and Joseph may have had other younger children to be concerned with.  There were likely James and Jude, his half-brothers and also the Bible records some half- sisters as well.  It is also plausible that Jesus, now twelve years old could have traveled back with an uncle or cousin or other relative. So, perhaps that question is answered.  But, what about the others, that are even tougher.

Like, why would Jesus, who was holy and perfect, not go back at first with His parents?  It seems, at first, that He is dishonoring His mother and step-father.  Especially with the question, “Why were you looking for me?”  But, it is precisely here that we begin to understand so much more about Jesus.  Because it is here, at twelve years old that we hear Jesus speak for the very first time in the Bible, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

It’s hard at the outset, to understand what Jesus is saying.  At first it seems almost to dishonor to Mary, but it is clearly stated in honor to His heavenly Father.  Jesus is saying first and foremost, that He is the divine Son of God.  He has come into the Temple at Passover, as the very presence of God to be God with us, Immanuel.  No longer did God just dwell in the Temple for the very presence of God is full and complete in Jesus, wherever He goes.  He is here for us.  Yes, here is the God-Man, the God-Child, beginning to display His divinity to Mary and Joseph and for all o us, and yet they didn’t understand.  The Bible tells us, “And they (Mary and Joseph) did not understand the saying that He spoke to them.

You might say, “Well they should have understood this more than anyone else.”  Mary had the angel Gabriel tell her who her Child was.  And Joseph had the angel tell him in a dream.  The Shepherds came and told them all about what the angels had told them, and Simeon said in the Temple, 40 days after Jesus’ birth, that this Child is a “light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory to your people Israel.” And yet, they didn’t understand.  The New Testament is filled with people who didn’t grasp who Jesus really was.  A good man?  A prophet? A revolutionary thinker?  Yes, but God in flesh and blood.  Even His closest disciples had the hardest time with this.

But, what about us?  On this first worship service of 2016 AD. (In the year of our Lord) Do we always get it?  Do we understand that God sent His Son down from the majesty of heaven to live in flesh and blood for us?  He sent Him to be human for us, which means to understand hardship, and suffer because of sin.  But, it wasn’t His sin for which He suffered.  It was ours.  Jesus came to be the solution to our problems, to straighten out the tangled mess of the sin of our lives.  He came to bring God’s full presence to the world. 

Dear people of God, some 21 years after this event, this same Jesus went to this same Temple at Passover time as well, to suffer and die for us.  He came to be the spotless, sinless Lamb of God.  He was the One whose blood was shed to release people from the bondage of sin.  This event in our text for today foreshadows it.  Jesus said, “I must be in my Father’s house.”  This gives us hope in a world that seems to be without it, and for the year 2016, gives us a reason to live, and to love, and to forgive.

And if there is something more, that can be spoken of from this wonderful text, (and I believe that there is plenty) I believe that our Lord shows us Jesus as a twelve year old, to give us an example for the New Year and New Life as well.  Many times when we think of the boy Jesus in the temple, we think of the pictures showing Jesus standing and teaching the teachers.  (He is the all knowing, omniscient Son of God.)  But, that is not what the text says.  The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus was found sitting among the teachers and listening to them and asking them questions.  Jesus, the sinless Son of God,submitted to the Word of God, and to His earthly leaders.

Let this be your example for the year 2016, to grow in wisdom…in favor with God and man as did Jesus. To submit yourself to the Word of God.  To let the Bible and your worship of God to be your first priority.  To not give in to the temptations of Satan and this dark world, which says, we don’t need to go to church, we don’t need to have devotions, but instead keep “First things first” and delight yourself in the Lord, and in His presence and say with joy, like Jesus, “I must be in my Father’s house.”

God grant it…