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Second Sunday after Christmas, January 3, 2016

Harry Potter got a message from an owl on his 11th birthday. As hard as his Uncle Vernon tried to keep the owls away, they still kept coming. He nailed the doors and windows shut so the owl slipped the messages through the fireplace. Finally, he took the family away to a deserted place, hoping that the owl senders would not find the family there. But there is a loud knock on the door and Hagar enters, bringing a birthday cake and the news that it was time for him to go to Hogwarts, to learn about being the wizard he was meant to be. It was a turning point in Harry’s life, a time when everything changed. His uncle had never mentioned his wizarding background to him, but he had done strange and different things throughout his childhood that made him wonder who he was. When Hagar told him he was a wizard things slipped into place. He ignored his family’s objections and went with Hagar to buy his supplies for Hogwarts.

Jesus is 12, and he too is at a pivotal point in his life. He is almost 13, the age of accountability for a Jewish male, and it is time for him to learn more of what he was meant to be. He had been identified as the Messiah by the angel who came to Mary and the angel who came to the shepherds. When Jesus had come to the temple for his dedication, Simeon and Anna, elderly prophets, talked of Jesus’ destiny as Savior. When Jesus went home, he “grew and became strong; filled with wisdom and the favor of God was upon him.

Jesus’ family has played an important role in getting him to the temple, to take the next step in his growth as Messiah. Like Harry, he had probably had inklings of what he was supposed to do, and at least Mary and Joseph were in agreement with his mission, unlike Harry’s family. Jesus’ family were pious Jews. Their fulfillment of the laws of Torah, with Jesus’ circumcision, Mary’s purification and Jesus’ dedication indicated their desire to follow God’s direction. Jesus was surely taught the stories of his people at home and began to learn his history as a member of God’s people Israel. And now Jesus’ family has come to Jerusalem for Passover, something they do every year. They travel in a large group, make their sacrifices and eat the Passover meal together.

When Passover was done, Jesus’ family traveled back home, unaware that he was not with them. This would not have been uncommon because of the large group of friends and relatives that traveled together. It was assumed that he was under the watchful eye of someone else in the group. But at the end of the day, Mary and Joseph couldn’t find Jesus. They were frantic with worry as any parent would be. Most parents can recall that sinking feeling that occurs when their child has disappeared in the middle of Disney World or a shopping mall and no one has any idea where he or she is. It is a time of high anxiety until the child is found.

Mary and Joseph have more than just a shopping mall to search. They have the whole city of Jerusalem. It takes them three days to find Jesus. Surely they retraced their steps and looked in all sorts of likely and unlikely places. We have no idea why they decided to look in the temple, but that is where they found Jesus, comfortable, happy and settled. He was with the teachers, listening and asking questions. Like Harry, who showed talent and daring beyond his years for a wizard, Jesus showed understanding beyond his years. He amazed everyone with his understanding and his answers, just as Harry amazed everyone with his daring rescues.

It is apparent that Jesus has found his niche. He has gotten wrapped up in something he really wants to do and he has totally forgotten about his parents’ schedule. Time has flown by and he is still engrossed. Somehow he has been fed and given shelter by those with him and he is at home.

His parents are not so comfortable. They are of course relieved to find him, but they are to say the least irritated at his actions. We have looked all over for you, they say. We have been worried sick. What do you have to say for yourself? You have treated your parents badly. But Jesus, like most teenagers, has an answer. I just had to do this, he replies. I had to be in my Father’s house about my Father’s business. Why in the world were you worried? You should have known I would be here. But Jesus’ parents did not understand.

And so goes the tension in a family with teenagers who are coming into their own. They are doing things – hopefully good things – that do not meet their parents’ expectations. They are widening their circle beyond the family to others such as teachers and coaches and peers. They are beginning to follow what their guts tell them they must do. And parents are stuck between wanting to hold them close and knowing they must let them go. Jesus is taking on his own identity as Messiah. It is the first time he speaks in Luke and he is now accepting what until now only other people have said about him (Fred Craddock). His loyalties have changed. His loyalty is to what God wants him to do. Like Harry, who is much more at home with the witches and wizards of Hogwarts than in his awful muggle household, Jesus is now more at home with the teachers of the temple than he is with his nuclear family, however wonderful they may be. He has outgrown them in some sense and is ready to move on in discovering his mission.

Yet he is still a good Jew and obedient to his parents. He goes back to life in Nazareth to learn the trade of carpentry from his earthly father, even as he studies the Scriptures and learns about Israel’s history, which he needs to know in order to interpret the kingdom for his followers. As Mary treasured the shepherd’s sayings, she treasured what Jesus said in her heart, waiting for a time she might understand more of his words (Wes Avram). And as he had before, Jesus increased in wisdom and in years and in divine and human favor, waiting for the time to come when he could begin his mission.

Of course, none of us is Jesus, who had the singular mission of being Messiah, Lord and Savior to teach us how to live and love, to suffer and die on a cross, to defeat death and to reconcile us with God so we can share God’s life eternally. And none of us is Harry, whose years at Hogwarts, though he was often unaware of it, were designed to prepare him to kill Voldemort and rid the world of that evil menace. But we are like Jesus in some ways – normal human beings who grew up in a family of some kind and increased in God’s favor. We separated from our parents in the normal course of things to follow our own path. When we made our choices, hopefully they were proud of us, but sometimes they reacted like Harry’s family instead of Jesus’ family, who tried their best to understand their son, and separation was much harder.

Most of us don’t have just one mission, though our overarching goal is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in whatever we do, to give our loyalty to him and only secondarily to any human being or institution or career. Through our loyalty to God, we may be called to many missions in our lives. Our first loves, as teenagers, may not be our ultimate passion. I remember wanting to be a math teacher in my tween years, but soon gave that up for other things. The important thing to remember is that the calls we should follow come from God, at whatever age, just as Jesus’ call did. Sometimes we slip easily into that call, as Jesus did, and sometimes it is more difficult, as Harry’s transition was. Yet respond we must no matter what our other loyalties. We are each called to help bring in the kingdom in ways that only we can undertake. We hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us. Let us listen to that voice instead of pushing it away and take on our vocations as Jesus did, trusting in God’s power to help him live it out.

AMEN

-        Rev. Ann Barker

 

Works Cited:
Fred Craddock, Preaching Through the Christian Year C (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1994), p. 48
Wes Avram, Feasting on the Gospels, Homiletical Perspective (Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), p. 59.