Canon Roy Arnold
Well that was quick wasn’t it? He was only born on Friday and now he’s 12 years old already. Jesus I am talking about. Actually – although slightly accelerated in the case of Jesus in the Gospel – it is only what most parents experience with their children. It seems no sooner are they born they are starting primary school and then sitting their GCSEs. And then wanting a car and then getting married (or at least a partner) and leaving to live in Exeter or Hong Kong or even Rainow.
With Jesus we see him – so soon after Christmas – as a 12 year-old visiting Jerusalem for the Passover with his parents after a normal Jewish childhood. Now at 12, coming of age according to Jewish Law and at (at that age I believe) realising for the first time about his special relationship with God; that it God who was his Father and not Joseph. To be fair, we are all God’s children but Jesus was especially God’s son and he came to live with us on earth to teach us about God and heaven.
As our Collect for today reminded us, he came to share in our humanity so that we might share the life of his divinity. In the meantime, in our Gospel story we hear of his not being on the coach back to Nazareth, about his earthly parents’ anxiety; about him being in the temple – like a student – with the wise men of the faith. And eventually having a good telling off by his Mum and going back home with his parents to Nazareth, but with Mary treasuring all these things in her heart.
And then Jesus himself (back in small town Nazareth) getting on with everyone and especially getting to know his father God, and generally getting on with experiencing the up and downs of human life, and so (as our Post Communion Prayer reminds us) sharing the life of an earthly home and bringing us all at last to our home in heaven.
All this was to the be the task of this baby born so long ago but in our memory and the memory of the Christian Church born just last Friday. And then, when he was about 30, starting his ministry of teaching and healing and so infuriated by his popularity, the self-righteous and those who thought they knew all about God (and loving the power and social standing that went with that knowledge) they had him tried and crucified. But then he rose again on the third day and continued his teaching and healing by living on in his disciples and in me and you.
One of those early followers, whom he called on the road to Damascus – in Syria no less – was St Paul who (in his letter to the Colossians and to me and you) left us an excellent summary of what was and is expected of us if we are to follow Jesus and to get to that home in Heaven. St Paul says we must clothe ourselves with compassion and kindness and humility, with meekness and patience; and if anyone has a complaint against anyone we must forgive them because we (by God) nave been forgiven so much. For that forgiveness and for so much else as well we must always be thanking God. Perhaps practising singing for when we join the united choirs of heaven… And whatever we do, doing it the name of Jesus, giving thanks to God who is his Father and ours through Jesus. And yes we must love him as the baby born as of last Friday (we cannot help but love a newborn infant) but especially we must follow the adult Jesus up hill and down dale, until we come within sight of the New Jerusalem. And in the words of an ancient prayer “….with Christ as our morning star, when the night of this world is past he will bring us to the light of life and to the opening of a new and everlasting day.” And so – if we deserve it – we shall find ourselves with Jesus and home at last. Our earthly journey done.
Through the New Year of 2016, almost upon us, let us – me and you – try to follow the Jesus way.