2021 First Sunday of Christmas Sermon
Sitting in temples, learning in Christ by Pr. Rodriguez
“After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions (Lk 2:46)”
In the name of our Lord + Jesus, Son of God the Father, Son of Mary and Joseph. Amen.
Merry Christmas to all and God bless you, every one! I want first to give thanks to God our Father who has poured out upon us his Spirit of joy out of sheer love. This Spirit, who in the beginning hovered over the primordial waters, led God’s people to freedom, and who swaddled God in the likeness of lowly Mary, this Spirit sealed our sister, Caroline Elizabeth with life. She is our beloved sister, made a child of God through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirt (Titus 3:5). The Cross of Christ marked us and clothed us forever. Christ is with us, for us, and in us, taking our lot as we grow in stature and years, favor before the Father and before the world (1 Sam 26 para.). I think the words of St. Romanos draws out Paul’s insights of this devesting God at the manager: The mother’s Father has willingly become her Son, the infant’s savior is laid as an infant in a manager (stanza 2, Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ).
The responsibilities the church entrusts Janeen and Nick (Caroline’s parents)) acknowledges this growth into God’s life. I want to focus on the end game to these responsibilities, especially as it pertains to life here and now, in a pluralistic society: so that she may learn to trust God, proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace. The subject of the sermon, “Sitting in temples, learning in Christ, “focuses on how we learn to trust God by learning from our non-Christian neighbors. The scriptural text for our sermon comes from the Gospel according to St. Luke, chapter two, verse forty-six when Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them, and asking them questions.
Samuel. Prophet. Priest. Kingmaker. Hannah, his mother, implored God to fulfill her expectations for a male child.” If God accomplished such a feat, then I will set him before you as a Nazirite (1 Sam 1:11).” Expectations of the Lord for the Lord. The priest Eli upon hearing this prayer, blesses her with the promise of fulfillment. God would bring to fruition her expectation. And Hannah gave birth to Samuel. This Samuel would minister to the people alongside, growing in favor with the Lord and with the people (1 Sam 2:26) before he even knew who this God was (1 Sam 3:7). Juxtapose Eli’s Sons who would defraud God’s people from offering to God the choicest meats. A prophet warned Eli of his sons ways and yet his expectations for them did not meet the reality of the day. God rather had another plan. In the middle of the night, while prophetic words were rare, God called thrice for Samuel from the proto-temple, the tabernacle. “Speak, Lord for your servant is Listening,” replied Samuel. God foretold of his coming judgment against Eli and had called Samuel to listen and learn to speak (1 Sam 3:10-13). How was Samuel to communicate this message to Eli, the priest to whom he was entrusted? He was afraid to speak, so he listened. He listened to Eli demand of him a response and so Samuel spoke. He listened to God and then he spoke from this gracious call. Samuel learned to listen and live for the Lord by sitting in the [proto]-temple of the Lord. Likewise, God calls us to learn by listening for him in the temples of our lives; the body of Christ here; the home/kitchen; the sports field and school. And dare we see ourselves as always learning from God, be here in or with other faiths?
Jesus. Our New Samuel. The Word living among us. The Man learning with us. Every year his parents went up to fulfill all righteousness and celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. And every year for eleven years, their pilgrimage met their expectations; celebrate our liberation from Pharoah and the feast of unleavened bread. Except for one year. The year Jesus came of age, twelve years of age to be exact. Obviously stories abound as to life of Jesus between year two until his thirty years as he commenced his ministry at his baptism. The Qur’an records the story of the clay birds and Jesus raising his friend from the dead. The infancy gospel of Thomas portrays Jesus as silencing even the elders of his people. But this exceptional year comprised none of that. This year likened to that of Samuel as he grew in stature and favor before the Lord and the people, but something greater occurred than that of Samuel in the proto-temple.
As Mary and Joseph were a days journey from Jerusalem, they noticed something, rather a lack of someone. Jesus! Where did their precocious teen run off to? How would you feel if your child was suddenly gone? Where would you turn to? Back to where you started. So they returned to Jerusalem to behold a wonderous sight. In the middle of the temple, the Stoa of Solomon perhaps, was Jesus in the posture of a teacher. He sat with the elders of Jerusalem. Listening and questioning, the kind of questioning that leads to greater and greater insight. This tradition would later develop into the rabbinic method of learning. Here we need to see Jesus as fully human. He astounded the teachers not as the Cosmic Almighty Lord but as one who had learned from his mother. He had learned from his Mother how God fulfilled promises to the people. To raise the lowly. To bring down the mighty from their thrones. To learn of God’s great love for the world in creating and liberating for himself a people. Jesus here, like Samuel, sits in the temple to learn with others as to lovingkindness of God towards the least and the lowly. And in so doing, God makes of himself the Father of those who have no respite, refuge or family.
Hence why Jesus replies to his Mother, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Did you not know that I had to listen and learn, question and speak about the great deeds of God? Jesus here opens for us a model of learning about God with others. He has not yet been called to proclaim the kingdom. But certainly he is learning for the kingdom. He has not yet arrived in Jerusalem to be crucified and yet he is learning of the fate of prophets like Jeremiah. Here is God’s grace for us as we commence our new life together with Caroline Elizabeth. Jesus sits with us in the temples of this world to learn how to entrust our lives to the God who dwells amongst mortals. His humanity is for us the grace we need to open our hearts to hear the voice of God calling us with other temples. Let us listen then. Let us sit. Let us learn from the Word made flesh, living amongst the sacred spaces of our world. Amen.