Christmas 1C

image: Disputation with the Doctors by Duccio di Buoninsegna, wikimedia


147: December 27, 2015

304: December 30, 2018


Featured Musician: The Nields


Luke 2:41-52

Initial Thoughts

  • Famously the only story in the gospels of Jesus between birth and ministry.

    • Apocryphal gospels are full of stories of Jesus leading a remarkable childhood.

    • Like these stories, Luke’s gospel shows Jesus who was remarkable. Unlike these stories, which feature an impetuous Jesus killing and raising from the dead as if he’s playing with play-doh, Luke’s story reveals a Jesus who is remarkable in knowledge.

  • I (Robb) preached from this text in my first sermon after being commissioned - at the church where I grew up - Our Redeemer’s United Methodist Church in Schaumburg, Ill.

  • Feels like Epiphany Sunday and this story should be switched.

    • Instead of Christmas, Epiphany, Boy in Temple, Baptism, the lectionary gives us Christmas, Boy in Temple, Epiphany, Baptism.

Bible Study

  • Jesus on his way to the Temple

    • Cannot forget that Jesus was a Jew, with Jewish parents, living according to Jewish law and customs.

      • The Temple was an important part of the Lukan story. He was dedicated in the Temple. His culminating act will be in the Temple.

    • Modern parents wonder how the heck Mary and Joseph lost their kid for so long.Traveling to Jerusalem would have been a group affair. Didn’t notice he was gone until they had traveled for the day - when he didn’t show up to sleep.

    • Three days of searching would surely have been stressful, to say the least

  • Found in the Temple

    • Jesus was “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and putting questions to them.”

      • He was not learning from them. He was the teacher. In the Socratic method, the one asking the questions is the teacher.

      • Two Reactions:

        • Everyone amazed (foreshadows people’s response when he is teaching in Synagogue in 4:22. But this time, at least, he doesn’t keep going to the point where they want to throw him off the cliff).

        • Parents shocked.

  • Jesus’s response

    • Semi-rebuke of his parents.

    • “My Father’s House” could have been translated as “My Father’s affairs” (According to Common English Study Bible notes)

      • Seeking God’s approval over his parents.

      • Growing into his mission of God more important than pleasing earthly parents - and surprised they didn’t get that.

    • Jesus’ ministry and teaching is of primary importance - even above familial relations.

      • This is a radical statement in a time when familial relationships were of paramount importance

      • Foreshadows stories like:

        • the Prodigal Son, where the son rebukes his own family

        • 8:21 “My mother and brothers are those who listen to God’s word and do it.”

        • 12:53 “Father will square off against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother…”

    • Anyone who knows a teenager might read this differently than intended.

      • Sarcasm in not in the Greek, but it is easily read into this response.

      • Luke points out that he is “obedient to them,” and that his parents cherished every word.

      • Piety of family is upheld.

      • Family still connected to God and the fifth commandment.

      • Error was not Jesus’s, it was Joseph and Mary’s.

    • Jesus “matured in wisdom and years, and in favor with God and with people.”

      • NRSV uses “Grew”

      • Growing in age and in favor with people is understandable

      • Growing in wisdom and favor with God is more perplexing - if you have an extremely high Christology (view of Jesus’s divinity)

    • Mary

      • Mary is the main parent here - like the annunciation stories, Mary is the main character. Joseph is little more than an afterthought (in opposition to Matthew, where it is the other way around).

      • Mary questions Jesus - which is strange in a public space, Joseph would have been expected to be the one to confront the son.

      • Mary asks, ““Why have you treated us like this?” We ask ourselves; we ask our families. We ask the church and we ask God, when our expectations are shattered.” (Craig Saterlee, Working Preacher)

        • Mary “cherished these things in her heart.”

        • “this translation is somewhat misleading. “Mary ‘keeps’ these things, much as Jacob kept events surrounding the troublesome Joseph or Daniel kept his visions. These events perplex and trouble Mary, who turns them over and over again and again.” (Charles Cousar, p. 74)

Thoughts and Questions

  • How is it that Jesus grew? What does it mean for Jesus to have developed, matured. If Jesus was fully human, than such human experiences as growth and development would be necessary. If Jesus can grow, shouldn’t we? How did Jesus grow? By going to Bible study. By learning in community. By going to Temple with his family. By being a part of a community that nurtured him. Yes, he had a special relationship with God, even from the start, but that relationship was not fully realized. May the Church’s relationship with God parallel Jesus’s own growth and development.

  • Did Mary know?

    • There is evidence here that she didn’t understand who Jesus was. That even to her, his power and greatness would unfold.

    • Though she had a clue as to Jesus’ special relationship with God, it is clear from this story that she did not fully grasp what the angel’s promises meant. To be fair, How could she?

  • David Lose, Working Preacher: “So I wonder, Working Preacher, if that’s not a strategy we could regularly adopt. Rather than analyze these passages, perhaps we can just invite our people to enter into them. Perhaps, that is, the way to extend our celebration and contemplation of the Christmas story is to make it our own, inviting our people to identify with the characters. Indeed, inviting them to see themselves as those characters and hear the words – of angels, shepherds or, in this case, the twelve year-old Jesus – themselves.”

  • There is another time when we searched for Jesus for three days, only to find him somewhere least expected. But should it have been unexpected?

    • The scary part, perhaps, is that our search doesn’t end where we expect. Mary and Joseph searched three days for Jesus, and on the third day found him alive and well. But they didn’t find him in the expected places -- the safe confines of his extended family or the familiar company of the pilgrims’ caravan. After three days, Mary and Joseph found Jesus alive and well in the Temple at Jerusalem among the teachers of the law, the very company where it all will all end as Jesus is tried, convicted, and handed over to be killed. Mary and Joseph find Jesus alive and well after three days in a place they didn’t expect. This sounds like Easter.”

Colossians 3:12-17

Initial Thoughts

  • Colossians

    • Says it is from Paul

    • Probably not Paul, but maybe written right before his death ~61-63 CE

    • Written to the church in Colossae

  • Last episode we discussed Titus 2 as the “So What?” of Christmas. This is the “Now What?” of Christmas.

    • “If there is no cross in the manger, there is no Christmas. If the Babe doesn't become the Adult, there is no Bethlehem star. If there is no commitment in us, there are no Wise Men searching. If we offer no cup of cold water, there is no gold, no frankincense, no myrrh. If there is no praising God's name, there are no angels singing. If there is no spirit of alleluia, there are no shepherds watching. If there is no standing up, no speaking out, no risk, there is no Herod, no flight into Egypt. If there is no room in our inn, then "Merry Christmas" mocks the Christ Child, and the Holy Family is just a holiday card, and God will loathe our feasts and festivals. If there is no forgiveness in us, there is no cause for celebration. If Christmas is not now, if Christ is not born into the everyday present, then what is all the noise about?” - Ann Weems, Kneeling in Bethlehem

  • Directly connected with what comes before (v.8-10) about what we need to take off, then, as we stand naked and vulnerable before God- what to put on

    • Passage about transitions - new Year, new resolutions, new leaf, etc

    • When people are already thinking of things like resolutions, new calendars, and fresh starts, this text - especially if taken in broader context - lends itself well to that.

  • A good pairing with the gospel. Luke 21:49 Jesus says he “must be about the things of his father” (literal Greek translation). What is God about? See this passage.

  • “For anyone who might wish to depart from the lectionary during the nine Sundays of the upcoming Epiphany season, preaching on one of those qualities each week would offer a helpful, counter-cultural sermon series. Or Bible study series leading up to Lent.” - Frank L. Crouch, Working Preacher

Bible Study

  • What we are to “put on” is divided into categories:

    • v. 12 Virtues to be cultivated

    • v. 13 How to act

    • v. 14 the foundation of all - love

  • All about Grace

    • Prevenient grace in the world

    • Justifying grace in Jesus (Christmas)

    • Sanctifying grace - what this passage is about

  • This can seem individualistic, but remember- Paul is writing to a community. This sanctified way of life is both for the individual and the community.

    • “To give a social expression of their identity Christians are called first into “peace with God” through Christ (Rom. 5:1) and then into a peace-creating society as they display Christ’s lordship and judgeship.” Ralph P. Martin, Interpretation: Ephesians, Colossians & Philemon.

  • How do we put on Christ instead of putting on a good show?

    • Worship is the best way to keep Christ alive. If you’re interested in keeping Christ in Christmas, we should also be interested in keeping Christ in the Sunday after Christmas - and all the Sundays and days that follow.

  • Clothed in the virtues of Christ

    • What does it mean to “wear” God?

  • Lauren Winner, Wearing God

    • Fashion means “to mold or to shape”. Like we fashion a bowl out of clay or a bookshelf out of wood. How does our clothing fashion us?

    • Work clothes, school clothes, workout clothes, formal clothes, play clothes vs no clothes, lingerie, church clothes each of these sets of clothing is also a way of acting and interacting with others  

    • “It takes a lifetime to fathom Jesus; it takes a lifetime to appropriate Jesus; it takes a lifetime to be clothed with Jesus.” Alexander MacLaren, Commentary on Romans (quoted from Winner, p.40)

    • “Our body became your garment; Your spirit became our robe.” - Ephrem of Syria

  • v. 15 - Singing together Benefits - “Studies show that choral singing improves our mood, with a decrease in stress, depression and anxiety. These effects are often attributed to the deeper breathing associated with singing, that is also used in meditation. These benefits are enhanced in a group setting, compared to singing alone. Singing in a group offers us a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves.” (from ArtistWorks)

Thoughts and Questions

  • Just as the divine put on flesh to be with us, how might we put on the qualities of the divine to be in closer relationship with one another and God?

    • How would we act, pray, worship, love, etc if we were truly clothed in Christ?

  • What if we thought about clothing ourselves with Christ each time we got dressed in the morning and allowed Christ to fashion us instead of our business suits, t-shirts, blouses, dresses and jeans?

  • Thought - have our one of the quotes or verses above and encourage people to post them in their closets as a reminder to be clothed in Christ

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26

Initial Thoughts

  • Awkward little passage which pair nicely with the Luke passage

  • Theme: growing up

Bible Study

  • Hannah

    • Call back to Hannah- the woman who prayed for a child and then gave him away the moment he was born

    • If we take out the weird- giving a child away part- this is a pretty dramatic stewardship model:

      • She asks and received the thing she wants and values most in the world- a child

      • The in gratitude gives that most valuable thing to God not knowing whether she will have more children

      • She trusts in God and God blesses her

    • Hannah dedicates Samuel to God but she does not stop loving him or caring for him

  • Samuel’s identity

    • His linen ephod would denote him as a Nazarite or a priest from infancy, this is contrasted with his mother’s vest which marks him as a beloved son

    • Samuel is both son and prophet/priest- like Eli’s sons should be

  • Samuel vs. Eli’s sons

    • This difference begins with contrasting the faithfulness of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 with Eli’s sons

      • Hannah give her most valuable thing to God - Eli’s sons take meat offered God (they literally take from God)

    • Samuel serves the Lord (vv. 11, 18, 21) which led to God’s favor

      • service to God vs. service to self interest

    • Both Samuel and Eli’s sons have free will to choose to turn toward God or away from God. Both reap the consequences of their actions

  • The difficulty of verse 25 - “they wouldn’t obey their father because the Lord wanted to kill them”

    • Similar to Exodus 9:12, “But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart…”

    • Does God keep us from repentance and grace?

Thoughts and Questions

  • What do you value most? Would you be willing to give it to God? How would you do so? If you haven’t then why not?

  • How much time and energy do we spend serving God or serving ourselves?

  • Does God keep people from grace? Can we be forgiven for sinning against God? Don’t make this an easy answer- explore it

Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.