Our gospel this morning is familiar to most of us.
It is the only story of Jesus in Scripture between the visitation of the Magi (approx. age 2) and his baptism (age 30) in the Jordon River by his cousin, John the Baptist.
Jesus is 12 years old. His parents and him had journeyed to Jerusalem for the annual Passover. They would have traveled with extended relatives, loved ones, and friends…
it would have been a large mass of people heading into the big city together.
The age (and number) 12 is significant in Scripture.
On December 23rd, I shared that Mary (Jesus’ mother) was given to the temple in service of the Lord (age 12) to fulfill Anne’s promise to God.
Similarly, Samuel had been given to the temple in service of the Lord at a young age to fulfill Hannah’s promise to God. Samuel at age 12 was “called” by the Lord.
Jesus is in the temple at age 12.
Although 12 is young in our culture, during the Biblical era it was essentially early adulthood.
Mary and her parenting have been criticized because of this text, primarily:
- who leaves their child a day’s journey behind
(remember, he was basically an adult); and
- why would she be surprised by his statement after the events of his birth/Magi.
Let us be honest…
- the crowd had been chaos and things happen in chaotic times/place; and
- it had been 10-12 years since those events,
perhaps she did not understand how it would manifest in the day to day.
This account in Jesus’ early life was always interesting to me, but it took a new meaning after my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). CPE is 400 hours of hospital chaplaincy your first summer of Seminary. It is 300 hours in patient care and 100 hours in group time processing the experiences and any baggage it may have caused to bubble up. It is unpaid, in fact I had to pay them.
During my CPE experience, I had a re-occurring issue with doctors, perhaps because I am not the stereotypical image of a hospital chaplain:
(1) I am a female; and
(2) I am young and appear even younger than I am.
I was providing spiritual care one day, when the doctor entered and begun speaking to the patient.
- I said “excuse me”.
- Although my badge was visible, the doctor asked “oh, is this your grand-daughter”.
- The patient replied “No. This is the chaplain.”
- Doctor responded “Oh? You have a pretty, young chaplain” then continued speaking to the patient.
Needless to say, it frustrated me and I spoke with the CPE supervisor, who was also a fairly young female. She included in my final evaluation that I should remember that Jesus was only 12 years old in the temple, where he was not learning from but instead teaching the Rabbis. Therefore, do not let anyone use my age (or the perception thereof) against me. She also encouraged me to recall Samuel being called in the Temple while still a boy.
These scriptures remind me that it does not matter how young I am or appear, I still have the authority to teach, to shine forth the light of Christ that is hope, peace, joy, and love while wearing a collar. It was and remains a special gift, but it goes deeper than that.
When we look at the story of Jesus, the Son of God, in the temple he would not have been there if he had not been nurtured, cared for, and raised by his family, relatives, loved ones, and his community who traveled with his family for the Passover.
In a few moments, we will baptize Calvin into the body of Christ (the Church).
His parents will take on promises and responsibilities Calvin cannot do for himself yet.
We will ask that the family, friends, and congregation nurture and sustain him in his life of faith and help form him into the one God has called him to be.
This is one of the most precious treasures we can take away from our Scriptures today.
Our faith, our journey, our growing into who we are called to be starts from the moment of conception and birth, it grows deeper with our baptism, and continues as we are further formed by the waters, by our families, our churches, and our communities whether we are Calvin’s age (1), my age (32), or 103 may we continue to be formed through the waters of baptism, through the light that is Christ which is hope, peace, joy, and love each day so we may become more fully who God has called us to be and nothing and no one can take that away from us.