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Lost and Found

December 27, 2009 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Lectionary

Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 2:41–2:52

The First Sunday after Christmas
December 26-27, 2009
Luke 2:41-52

 “Lost and Found”

The presents have all been opened, the big dinners have been enjoyed, the company has come and perhaps already left. What now? Are any of us feeling a bit of post-Christmas let-down? The wonder and joy of Christmas, something we long for and look forward to, seems to come and go all too quickly. But is it really over? Not at all. In truth, the celebration of our Savior’s birth is not limited to just one day, but twelve days – a season of rejoicing, culminating in the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, and those mysterious visitors from the east with their exotic gifts to honor the Christ Child. In the hectic pace of our hurry-up-and-wait culture, can we find it within ourselves to prolong the celebration of Jesus’ birth, extending the peace and good will of his coming not just until Epiphany, but throughout the entire year? The writings of the twentieth-century American philosopher, theologian, author, and educator, Howard Thurman, have shaped many people’s understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Thurman’s poem, The Work of Christmas, reminds us that our real work begins not in the celebration of the birth of our Lord, important as this is. Rather, it is in what comes afterward – the living out in daily life of Jesus’ coming into our midst with light and life, with healing and hope. Listen now to Thurman’s poem, The Work of Christmas:

            When the song of the angels is stilled,
            When the star in the sky is gone,
            When the kings and princes are home,
            When the shepherds are back with their flock,
            The work of Christmas begins:
                        To find the lost,
                        To heal the broken,
                        To feed the hungry,
                        To release the prisoner,
                        To rebuild the nations,
                        To bring peace among the brothers,
                        To make music in the heart.

Is it possible for us to actually lose Christmas? Sure, but by the grace of God in the Christ of Christmas it is more than possible for Christmas to be found again. “Lost and Found” is the theme for the message this day as we see the boy Jesus in the temple, lost from his parents and then found again. May the Lord’s rich blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word, for Jesus’ sake.

Many of us probably have personal stories of being lost and found. That is a terrifying feeling when we are separated from loved ones in a strange place with nothing familiar around us. Had Mary and Joseph lived in today’s world, they probably would have been accused of child neglect and abandonment. Child Protective Services would likely have removed Jesus from them, placing him in foster care until such time as they could demonstrate that they were suitable and competent parents. But was Jesus really lost? Here in Luke’s Gospel, at the tender age of 12 Jesus makes clear that he knew who he was and where he was: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49), he tells his worried and frantic parents. In truth, this translation does not accurately reflect the original text, which is better translated as: “Did you not know that it is necessary for me to be involved in the things of my Father?” The “things” here could mean the Father’s house, the temple in Jerusalem, or more likely the concerns, the affairs, the mission of his Father. It is not so much a place that Jesus is concerned with as it is the activity of his Father, and that activity of teaching and worship, service and mission was centered there at the temple. In the heat of the moment with emotions running high, Mary and Joseph were probably like any other parents. No doubt they simultaneously wanted to hug their boy who is now found and safe with them, but they were also ready to let him have it with both barrels. They didn’t understand what their Son was saying, but they didn’t forget it, either, for Mary “… treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51).

In the larger scope of things, Jesus isn’t the one who is lost – we are. This is what Christmas is all about: God sending his only begotten Son on a search-and-rescue mission; to find and save his sons and daughters – that’s us – who were lost and didn’t even know it. That’s what sin can do to us – cause us to be so blinded to what God’s design and purpose for life are that we do not even realize we are hopelessly lost and headed to certain destruction. This is why Jesus was born. There is a divine necessity going on here. Remember Jesus’ words to his parents: “Did you not know that it is necessary for me to be involved in the things of my Father?” Jesus’ humble birth in Bethlehem was not by accident; nor was his baptism by John in the Jordan River, or his miracles of healing, his preaching and teaching. There is a divine necessity that steadily moves Jesus back to where he is standing in today’s Gospel lesson: in the temple in Jerusalem, where he will be rejected by the teachers of the Law, betrayed by one of his own, and sentenced to death on a cross. It is necessary for Jesus to accomplish for us what we could not do for ourselves – living the perfect, God-pleasing life and offering that very life as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. It is necessary – and it begins with the boy Jesus at age 12 here in the temple.

And so the work of Christmas begins anew. Jesus’ saving work continues on in the world today through his sons and daughters, his imperfect but redeemed people who are saved by his grace through faith. The work of Christmas is carried on through us who once were lost but now have been found. So in the name of Jesus, let us find the lost, heal the broken, feed the hungry, release the prisoner, rebuild the nations, bring peace among the brothers and sisters, making music in our hearts. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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