Christmas 1, 27 December 2015
I must be in my father's house
Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour (Luke 2:52).
Heavenly Father, tender and compassionate,
create in us, your family, love so true and deep
that in this broken world
we may be a sign of unity.
1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26 Samuel was ministering before the Lord and grew in stature and favour with the Lord and with the people
Psalm 148 Praise the Lord!
Colossians 3:12-17 Clothe yourselves with Love and let the word of Christ dwell in you richly
Luke 2:41-52 Did you not know I must be in my Father's house?
There has never been a child which has not given its parents some moments of anxiety. But few children have caused their parents anxiety by remaining in church longer than their parents! "Mum and Dad, stop talking to your friends, it's time to go home."
Jesus was clearly precocious. He not only had a striking devotion to being in his (heavenly) Father's house, he had an eager enquiring mind which sought out teachers, listened to what they taught and probed them with many questions.
Samuel, by contrast, took a role in devotion to God in the temple of his day due to his mother's striking commitment to God. In fervent prayer Hannah had pressed God to grant her a child, that prayer being answered, she now gave Samuel to the Lord, to be his temple servant. But something in Samuel's story catches Luke's attention: he draws on the impression Samuel made before God and the people to describe the impression Jesus made on God and the people (1 Samuel 2:26//Luke 2:52).
Our psalm overflows with praise to God. We could say it as part of our praise at Christmas time for the gift of Jesus Christ. We could also say it as an example of what constitutes the heart of temple worship, as experienced by Hannah and Samuel in one era and by Mary, Joseph and Jesus in another era: adoration of the Lord God of Israel.
Paul writing to the Christians in Colosse gives us a very rich or 'thick' passage: every verse yields a sermon (or two). Every verse is worth reading followed by a very long reflective pause. Do I understand that I am one of God's chosen ones, holy and beloved? If I understand that, have I clothed myself with compassion, kindness, etc? This is not some spiritual abstraction: with such 'clothing' we will bear with one another, forgive each other, doing so knowing we must because we are a frogiven people.
We could work through the remaining verses of the passage in this kind of slow way. Here we simply ask what connection we might find between this passage and the gospel reading? At least two connections spring to mind.
(1) When we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (v. 16), that word is the teaching of Christ which is grounded in a deep knowledge of the scriptures of Israel.
(2) For Jesus the temple in Jerusalem was a place of worship and of learning. Praise and preaching go hand in hand. Here in Colossians, Paul's exhortation to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly is a both/and instruction as he goes on in the same verse to write, 'teach and admonish one another in all wisdom and
with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.'
The Rev Dr Peter Carrell is Director of Theology House in Christchurch.