Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day's journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 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. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety." He said to them, "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor. -Luke 2:41-52
On This Week’s Prompts for Meditation
In Martini’s painting, a puffy-eyed Mary locks eyes with her defiant adolescent son, his lips drawn down in an angry frown while Joseph’s expression contains more conflicting emotions than you’d think possible in a painting. But not on a parent. It’s comforting to think of the family home at Nazareth as place of inevitable conflict as Jesus matures and negotiates life’s frustrations, unfairness, and contradictions. A mother’s harsh words after nights awake with a toothache or a father’s anxiety over procuring employment as he ages, the fractious proximity of neighbors and family and lack of privacy round out a normal picture even when all is well.
"It is precisely within these limitations that wisdom is often revealed" leaving us open for "transformation and transfiguration" (meditation one).But terror also lives alongside love even if you are the Mother of God (meditation two). Despite the family scene of conflict, the story of the young Jesus "lost" in the Temple invites us to join him there, and find our worship to be "none other than the gate of heaven" (meditation three). (This week’s meditation twice references the Feasting on the Word entry for the First Sunday after Christmas Day by William J. Danaher Jr. with grateful admiration.)
Merry Christmas! -Suzanne
Meditation One (Introit)
Difficult Familial Circumstances
In the context of this passage, the incarnation teaches that God can be found even in difficult familial circumstances. It teaches that God’s wisdom is available to the young as well as to the old, which means that we must make room for God to surprise us with unexpected revelations given by unusual messengers. It teaches us that though God’s wisdom and holiness remind us of our limitations, it is precisely within these limitations that wisdom is often revealed. The incarnation represents the moment in which this wisdom enters the human sphere in all its contradictions, so that nothing is left without transformation and transfiguration. …
That the incarnation took this shape in the life of the holy family gives hope for families of all kinds and conditions on this day. The model of living that the holy family offers is not, as is sometimes depicted in romantic paintings and portraits, is that of a family perfectly ordered and without division or differences. Rather, it is of a family that lives into messy moments with the confidence that God in Christ Jesus has entered and redeems them from within.
-William J. Danaher Jr. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary Year C Volume 1 p.168
Christ Returns to his Family, Martini, 1342, Detail
Meditation Two (Insight)
The Mother of God
The three-fold terror of love: a fallen flare
Through the hollow of an ear;
Wings beating about the room
The terror of all terrors that I bore
The Heavens in my womb.
Had I not found content among the shows
Every common woman knows,
Chimney corner, garden walk,
Or rocky cistern where we tread the clothes
And gather all the talk?
What is this flesh I purchased with my pains,
This fallen star my milk sustains,
This love that makes my heart's blood stop
Or strikes a sudden chill into my bones
And bids my hair stand up?
-William Butler Yeats 1865-1939
Meditation Three (Integration)
Following Jesus Into The Temple
“The discovery of Jesus in the temple gives practical instruction concerning holiness:
‘For it is there that the Son of God is found. If you ever seek the Son of God, look first in the temple; hasten thither. There you will find Christ, the Word and Wisdom – that is, the Son of God.’”
-Origin c.185-254 “Homily 19” quoted by William J. Danaher Jr. in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary
Here in our sickness healing grace aboundeth, light in our blindness, in our toil refreshment: sin is forgiven, hope o’er fear prevaileth, joy over sorrow.
Hallowed this dwelling where the Lord abideth, this is none other than the gate of heaven;
Strangers and pilgrims seeking homes eternal, pass through its portals.
Lord, we beseech thee, as we throng thy temple, by thy past blessings, by thy present bounty favor thy children, and with tender mercy hear our petitions.
-Latin, ca. 9th century; tr. Maxwell Julius Blacker (1822-1888)
The Last Word
If God’s incomprehensibility does not grip us in a word, if it does not draw us into his superluminous darkness, if it does not call us out of the little house of our homely, close-hugged truths…we have misunderstood the words of Christianity.