Scripture for the first Sunday after Christmas:
1 Samuel 2.18-20,26; Canticle – Balearic Benedicite; Colossians 3.12-17; Luke 2.41-52
Two small children gave me a suspicious and apprehensive look at the Christingle service. “It’s the beard,” explained their grandmother, “It reminds them of the man in Home Alone.”
That film, of course, bears a similarity in plot to Luke’s account of Jesus’ childhood visit to Jerusalem with his parents. Both boys seem to have been quite happy to be left alone, although the film diverges from the gospel with regard to the bearded men. In Jesus’ case, they were teachers. In Home Alone, they were burglars.
Another child was left behind in the Temple several centuries before Jesus – in this case at his mother’s behest, to fulfil a promise. The child Samuel was promised to God in exchange for the removal of Hannah’s barrenness. There is a poignant image of his mother visiting him each year, with a new coat: clothing as an outward and visible symbol of her love.
Jesus left clothing, too – as an adult: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Not everyone chooses to wear these. The child Jesus also clothed his parents in anxiety, of course. Mary must have reminded herself of the angel’s words over and over: “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.”
Jesus, naturally, was just fine – engaged in dialogue with teachers, men rather senior to him. It is a reminder that twelve year olds, like most children, may be able to teach us something, as long as we are willing to learn from them.
It is also a reminder not to get too comfortable with Jesus, to the point where we presume to know where he should be and what he should be doing, when in fact he will inevitably be doing the work of his ‘heavenly father,’ which often is different from what our agendas might be.
‘Why were you searching for me?’ Jesus asked his parents. And us, too, because he is not in fact difficult to find – he searches for us! Where is he? We ought to know that he’s probably going to be hanging out, or at home, quite possibly with bearded men. They might be teachers. They might be burglars. Jesus does not mind.