First Sunday after Christmas Day, Year C

Spoiler warning: This week we are reading past Christmas! So if you don't want to move past the birth narrative, set this one aside until late Christmas night! But in some ways, this is also a good lens through which to consider Jesus' human reality.

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26
Psalm 148
Colossians 3:12-17
Luke 2:41-52

It is a heavy responsibility to raise up a child. And it is a responsibility that exists beyond parenthood. In our own slice of the world, kids are shaped by teachers, neighbors, church members, Sunday School teachers, coaches, band directors, Scout leaders, pastors. Television, radio, the internet. Every soul is being shaped by every moment by every thing / person / sight / sound it encounters.

The lives we touch have potential - untapped and potentially intense future impact. This isn't a new phenomenon. Here in the wake of Christmas, we pause to consider some of the adults in Jesus' childhood world - aunts, uncles, parents, rabbis, neighbors, friends. They didn't know they were shaping the living God - or did they? They didn't know that heaven was touching earth in their midst - or did they? They probably couldn't imagine the future of this mere boy. Now Mary and Joseph knew that something was afoot...and so did the extended family (Elizabeth and Zechariah, for example). But did that change the way they interacted with this boy? Did it change the way he was taught? The games he played? The friends he had? The chores he did?

In the reading from 1 Samuel, we get a little insight into the way young Samuel's mother, father and the priest Eli honored his special existence. Remember that Hannah was barren and promised that if God would only grant her a son, she would raise him up for the priesthood. Here in four verses, we see Hannah preparing wee priestly robes annually for the family's visit to sacrifice at the Temple. We imagine this set them apart somehow...and especially Samuel. He received "special" treatment and preparation. What was Hannah's hope?

The Psalmist sings a song of praise which can also be read as a teaching / shaping psalm. We assume these words were not intended only for the writer and God. Like so many of our modern hymns, the words are intended for the singer, the Reciepient (God), and also as an educational tool. To have someone with the experience of Praising God share that experience with folks who have not, provides an educational opportunity for the less experienced.

In Paul's letter to the Colossians, he is advising them, as God's chosen ones, to adopt a spirit of love toward those around them. He uses the metaphor of "clothing oneself" to recommend their approach to others. He specifically advises that they are "clothed" in compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. And we wonder, what do the children in our midst understand and take away from the way we approach one another - the attitudes we project. Based on dinner time dialogue with our own crew, we know that kids are always paying attention and very little escapes their observations. Paul's teaching is an underpinning of our modern understanding of a "golden rule." What do we remember from our own childhood of how adults in our lives treated others? Does that shape our current approach to others?

Finally, in Luke's gospel, we experience some of the panic that Mary and Joseph must have felt as they departed from their annual celebrations in Jerusalem and traveled a full day only to discover that their adolescent boy Jesus was not among the pilgrims. We can imagine a range of emotions - panic, outrage, anger, grief, terror, anxiety. And they retrace their steps and after three days (THREE DAYS!), they find Jesus sitting among the teachers in the temple. And Jesus seems to calmly say (of course, it could have been in an snarky, adolescent tone also), "what were you worried about...of course I would be in my Father's house." Do you suppose Mary clocked him for being surly? But here he is, mounting a non-aggressive challenge to the role these caregivers have played. He is in his Father's house. How did Joseph feel hearing that? And yet, there is something akin to this moment in each of our adolescent history, isn't there? Don't you know who I am? Or whose I am? What was our parent's response? What was our parental response?

Each of is someone's child. Each of is a child of God. Each of us, whether we signed up for the task or not, influences a next generation - perhaps Nobel prize winners, pastors, world leaders. Contained in a single person, shaped by the world.

God, help us to be open to being shaped.
Help us as we consiously and unconsciously shape others.
Help us open ourselves to being shaped.
Help us be responsible as we shape others.
Help us to be shaped.
Help us as we shape others.
God, help us.

© matt & laura norvell 2009 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.

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