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Second Sunday of Christmas Sermon — Luke 2:40-52 (LSB Christmas 2B)

January 4, 2009

January 4, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“And the Child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon Him.”

The wisdom of Jesus, the wisdom of God, is seen even in the midst of His youth. The favor of God is upon Him, for He is the very Son of God. So the Fourth Evangelist says: “We beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” The favor of God is upon the Boy Jesus, as His earthly parents conveyed the teachings of the Torah and the practices of the Covenant to their son, as you heard in the Gospel Reading: “His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.”

Though very little of Jesus’ youth is recorded in the canonical Scriptures, what is included in St. Luke’s Gospel shows His obedience to the Law and all its prescriptions. Jesus is circumcised on the eighth day. He is presented on the fortieth day. And when Jesus reaches the threshold of adulthood, He goes to the Temple at Passover: “And when He was twelve years old, they went up [to Jerusalem] according to custom.” Being raised in the teachings of the Torah and the practices of the Covenant, Jesus is a faithful Jew, a believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, an heir to what was promised even to Adam.

But unlike all the other faithful people of the Covenant who went before Him, Jesus’ obedience is done not for Himself alone, but for the benefit of the entire world. “The favor of God was upon Him,” as Jesus made Himself subject to the Law in order to be the substitute for sinful mankind. His obedience is also different, as Jesus’ actions are how He is “in [His] Father’s interests,” taking up the family business, so to speak.

As depicted in the Evangelist’s account, the Boy Jesus amazes those in the Temple as He sits in the midst of them as a twelve year-old: “After three days they found Him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. And even His parents saw Him, they were astonished.” This is the wisdom of God on display. The Boy Jesus who is full of the Spirit of truth and understanding demonstrates it in His speech, showing wisdom greater than Solomon’s.

But Jesus’ demonstration of wisdom is not for the purpose of astonishment. He is not a smart aleck or show off. Rather, His actions in the Temple show Jesus’ identity. It is how He begins to reveal His Father’s will for humanity. His first public audience is the teachers of the Torah and His earthly parents who overhear the last bit of His dialogue. As the Christ, Jesus’ destiny is to reveal what the Lord God’s true will for humanity is. Though humanity is sinful and depraved and unmerciful, Jesus will show perfection, virtue, and compassion to the world. He displays what the Eternal Father has always thought in His heart: a divine love for the world He created, even as it limps along in the effects of it own self-inflicted wounds.

The Boy Jesus tells His guardians Mary and Joseph: “It is necessary for Me to be in the interests of My Father.” That is why He became incarnate. The interests of Jesus’ Father are the plan of salvation, the redemption of the world. This is what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

Put a bit more succinctly, what the Eternal Father makes known to us through His Incarnate Son is the wisdom of salvation. God suffers and dies in order to reconcile us to Himself, as we say after confession and absolution: as we have been reconciled to the Father by His Son. That is an astonishing thought, one that would amaze even the priests and teachers in Jerusalem’s Temple. To speak about a deity who dies seems most unwise, even totally foolish. But this is what even the Boy Jesus can make known to those who hear Him. It is what He makes known in the act of crucifixion and resurrection. And it is what His Spirit given to the Church discloses to all the ends of the earth in our day.

That wisdom is what we pass down to another generation of Christ’s disciples. Like Mary and Joseph, we are called to hand over the teachings of the Scriptures and the practices of the New Covenant made with us. We are to speak about what the Lord God has done for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. We are to bring our children into the Covenant through Holy Baptism. We are to make it our custom to attend the Paschal feast that Christ has instituted. For through these things, we have been filled with the wisdom of our salvation. And like Jesus, our children can grow, become strong, and have the favor of God upon them.

This is the work of the Holy Spirit that takes place in our lives in the midst of our parish. It is what He accomplishes by having the Torah, the teaching of God, spoken and heard by those who “in love [the Father] predestined for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace.” So the Psalmist David, who himself heard and spoke God’s teaching can write: “Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. . . . I understand more than the aged, for I keep Your precepts. . . . How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.”

The treasured status that the Lord God’s Word receives from His people is a reflection of its value. This is how we have been made wise for salvation. This is how the favor of God has been made known to us. We can easily understand divine wrath, how the Lord God is displeased with our behavior. We know how angry we get at those who cross us. And by nature we know the laws of God and His expectations for us, the very things we transgress. But we would know nothing of divine favor had it not been for the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, revealing the Eternal Father’s love for us, and teaching us how compassionate He is. That is what the Christ and His Spirit have revealed: it is the reason for the Incarnation we celebrate as this Christmastide draws to its conclusion.

The Apostle Paul says: “In [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.” As you have heard the testimony of Christ delivered to you by His Spirit, so you also have grown and become strong, filled with wisdom. The favor of God is upon you. The constant repetition of the teachings of the Scriptures, belief of it, and practice of it will increase your wisdom and stature and divine favor.

That is the Father’s interest in you, how you have a place in His house. You also can astonish the world with your understanding and your answers about salvation. For you know the truth about the Lord God’s will for you—that you may share in the salvation that Christ has earned for you: how God became flesh and died, so that you might live and be transformed into His likeness at the Last Day. It is a wisdom that the world does not know or grasp. But it has been given and entrusted to you, to shine forth in your lives and to lead you into the life of the world to come.

So you see in the example of the Boy Jesus and so you have received by hoping in the same crucified and risen Christ. This is the true Light of the Incarnate Word that has shined and continues to shine today in the darkness of this world as His words are spoken, heard, and believed. May you so speak, hear, and believe the wisdom of Christ for your salvation, thus finding a place in His Father’s temporal house here on earth and in His eternal home in heaven above.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


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