Saturday, December 19, 2015

Boy Wonder

Luke 2:41-52, the gospel text appointed for the First Sunday of Christmas in the year of Luke, is the only story of Jesus' youth we have extant in canonical scripture.  There are non-canonical sources such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas that record stories of a boy wonder, but only this story from Luke has been retained in the Church's accepted Scriptures.  One wonders why Luke, the consummate author of this "orderly account", decided to include this, when others did not.  To devote 11 verses to a story revealing the activity and words of a 12-year-old is remarkable.  Clearly for Luke this is more than the story about a boy.  Perhaps Jesus' words are a clue:  "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"

(The following questions are some key questions which Law/Gospel preachers must ask.  A guide to this genre of preaching is in my book, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted, available from Wipf & Stock, or at

1.  How does the Word function in the text?  The Word, in this text, is Jesus.  His words of gentle rebuke to his parents are the words which come to us:  "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"  These words bring to light our lack of understanding as to the true identity of the Christ.  This word, then, is a word of Law which shows our need for the enlightening Spirit of God, lest we, like the Pharisees and scribes of Jesus' day, fail to see the Christ for who he is.

2.   How is the Word not functioning in the text?  There is no clear word of Gospel here, no clear word which says, "Here is Jesus."  Having said that, the fact that Jesus reveals himself as a son of the Father, is in itself a statement of Gospel.  It is Luke's way of pointing to Christ, and saying, "Here is the Son of God.  Here is Wisdom.  Here is the One through whom are all things."

3.  With whom are you identifying in the text?  In this story, two sets of characters are addressed by Jesus.  The first group is the teachers, sitting around Jesus in the temple.  The second group is Mary and Joseph.  Because we have words of dialogue between Jesus and his parents, it seems more helpful to identify with Mary and Joseph, although one could take the place of the learned ones who are "amazed at his understanding and his answers."  In any case, it is always important to identify with those addressed by the Word.

4.  What, if any, call to obedience is there in the text?  The call to obedience is hard to find in this text, although the young Jesus' example could be considered such.  Luke tells us that Jesus was obedient to his parents, and he "increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor."
The call to us, then, might be to live peaceably, submitting to those in authority over us, and trusting God for God's wisdom and favor.

5.  What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by the text?  Since the word of Law centers around Mary and Joseph's lack of understanding, several couplets suggest themselves: walking in confusion/walking in understanding; ignorance/enlightenment; darkness/light, foolishness/wisdom.

6.  How does the Crossings Community model work with this text?  Archived under the First Sunday after Christmas for 2010 Year C Gospel, Norb Kabelitz does a nice job of lifting up Mary and Joseph's lostness.  He asks the question, "Who is lost in this story - Jesus or his parents?"  Also, in the prognosis part of the analysis he asks the question of us, "Do we find Jesus, or does Jesus find us?"  This also begs the question, "Who is doing the seeking?  God or us?"  This is a very helpful way of getting how the Word functions to lift up Mary and Joseph's need for God's Son, not their own son.  This example and many others can be found at study.

Blessings on your proclamation!

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