Wisdom. We usually associate “wisdom” with people who are older. Wisdom, we often assume, comes with experience, gray hair, the school of “hard knocks.” Even in the temple, one could not read the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament until the age of 30. The last thing you expect is wisdom from a twelve year old. And that’s what this morning’s Gospel delivers to us – the Wisdom of the universe, Holy Wisdom, packaged in the form of a twelve year old kid from Nazareth who is in the temple to be examined by the teachers on the eve of His becoming a man.
That’s how Mary and Joseph lost Him. You see, up until the age of twelve, a child walked with the women on their pilgrimages to Israel. At twelve, a boy could walk with either the men or the women. So it was one of those cases where, “I thought he was with you” and “I thought he was with you.” Where He was was with the temple teachers who were there to question Him to see what He had learned from His parents and from the teachers in the home synagogue. It has always been the responsibility of parents to teach the faith, the church was just there to examine. Had they done their job with the boy? Was He ready to take His place with the men of Israel?
This is also why Luke includes this story here to wrap up the infancy and childhood chapter of Jesus’ life. It’s the end of Jesus’ childhood. From this point on, He would have been considered a young man and no longer a child. In Jesus’ day, they had no concept of “adolescence” or of “being a teenager.” You were either a child or an adult and at twelve the turning point.
With Jesus, you’d expect a little more as the sinless Son of God. And the weird thing about it is that nobody really notices this. HIs teachers are amazed at His wisdom, which seems well beyond His years, but the amazing thing is that they are amazed. For all intents and purposes, Jesus was indistinguishable from every other 12 year old in Jerusalem. Which is also why they lost Him.
This was no ordinary twelve year old who was dropped off at the temple by His parents. This is the wisdom of God in the flesh. Holy Wisdom. The Wisdom who orders the universe, who sets the sun, moon and stars in their course, who orders and governs all things so that we perceive Him in the laws of nature. There was more wisdom in the tip of that Child’s little finger than in all the teachers of Israel and the world. And yet He brings Himself to sit among them as a student, answering their questions, and impressing them. And being obedient to His parents as any Child. But He is not any Child. He is God’s Child, His elect Son come to save the world from Sin, Death, and Hell. You wouldn’t know that to look at Him there in the temple, or for that matter in the manger, or on the flight to Egypt, or working in the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. He just simply blends in as one of us because He is literally one of us, Immanuel, God with us.
These days of Christmas are often lost among us. A few days after seems okay. Even through the new year seems socially acceptable. But on January 2nd there was already in Smiths and CVS Valentines and Easter goods. Truth is we don’t often know what to do with this time. It’s the 11th day of Christmas in case you are wondering, and Christmas has just about run out of steam. Today our trees will come down. With the appearing of the Magi celebrated on the Epiphany, the 6th, and this closing episode of Jesus’ childhood, we have this final opportunity to contemplate the mystery of the incarnation and take a final look at the entirety of what it is that the Son of God came to be with us.
During this Christmas season, we are often led to picture the Son of God as an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. What a miracle that is. This text, however, leads us to wonder at the miracle of God in the flesh at the age of 12 years old. Even at this age, Jesus knows where He must be. here is this episode when He is twelve, sitting among the Torah teachers in the temple, amazing them with His insight and answers. He amazes even Mary and Joseph, who seem to forget for a moment just who He is, and chew Him out like some kid who got lost at the mall. But He had to be in His Father’s house. The temple was His place, God’s dwelling place on earth. He had to be there because He is the Son of the Father who came to be with us.
All of this He does “for us and for our salvation.” To save you. He does our humanity and doesn’t leave out a step. There is something hidden going on here, “in, with and under” this humble yet deeply wise Child. The eternal wisdom of the ages has come to earth to dwell. The plan of God from all eternity to bring all things together under one Head and to redeem the fallen creation from its bondage to decay was happening. This Child in the manger and the temple is the One who would do it. The Spirit of wisdom is upon Him. There would be hints to come, little glimpses of what lay hidden under Jesus’ humanity – the miracles, the Baptism, the Transfiguration, and ultimately His death, resurrection, and ascension. But like that one last Christmas gift waiting to be opened on the 12th day of Christmas, the gift of Jesus lay largely hidden, a Mystery to be revealed over the course of time in the fullness of time.
Solomon prayed for wisdom. He could have asked for wealth or power, and God ultimately gave him those too. But he sought wisdom. Solomon, the son of David, prayed for wisdom. Jesus, the Son of David, is Wisdom come in the flesh. Christ is Wisdom, a wisdom we do not have but long for, a Wisdom we seek to gain but cannot, a Wisdom that no amount of study or experience can acquire, a wisdom that comes to us freely as a gift of God’s grace by the Spirit working through the Word, making us “wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
God sent a boy to do a God’s job. God sent His Son, born of the Virgin, cradled in a manger, raised in a household, obedient to father and mother, to save this world from the chaos, darkness, and decay of Sin. We smile a bit at this Gospel reading this morning. The Torah teachers, so wise and learned, being astonished by this seemingly precocious twelve year old who knows all the answers better than they know the questions. We chuckle and say to ourselves, “If only they knew to whom they were talking.” We know better. We laugh over the fact that Mary and Joseph seem to have lost the Son of God for a day or so, and wonder “How could this have possibly happened? He’s your son. He’s God’s Son! How do you lose God’s Son? What kind of parents were Mary and Joseph that they couldn’t even keep track of God’s Son on a family trip?”
But that’s the nature of divinity hidden in humanity, the Word become Flesh. It’s so easy to forget and overlook what God is up to in His hidden and foolish ways. We’ll rush the baby to the doctors for his shots, but are we as urgent about Baptism, the washing of regeneration and renewal? We’re quick to call 911 in an emergency, but do we call upon the Lord in the day of trouble? We’re always in search of our next meal and literally complain of “starving to death” if we miss lunch, but do we experience the same pangs of hunger and thirst for righteousness when we miss the Lord’s Supper?
That’s why all these self-congratulatory notions of “how I found Jesus” fall flat on their pious faces. We’d never find Jesus. He’s too deeply hidden for our reason and senses to notice Him. We’re so Sin-addled we look in all the wrong places. Mary and Joseph searched high and low to find Jesus.
As Mary and Joseph were seeking Jesus in all the wrong places, so do we often seek Jesus in all the places except where He is promised to be found. We may seek God in our emotions – banking on the feeling of God’s presence and His love to be equated with the feeling of happiness or security. “God is with me because I feel like God is with me” or “God isn’t with me because of the suffering that I am feeling.” Many seek God in human reason and demand that God give them evidence, evidence, evidence for His existence or His goodness. We may feel high and mightier than those “type” of people, but we are often never too far away from saying “If it doesn’t make sense to me, God, then you must not be the author of it.” In times of trouble, Satan tempts us to turn to every place to seek God except where He is promised to be. If we fail to consider our sins, then we fail to consider why our Lord must bear those sins. That’s where you find Him because that’s where He finds you in your lostness. You see, He wasn’t lost. He’s the Lord. We’re the ones who are lost. And He comes to us in deep humility to find us.
In distress and worry, when guilty and burdened, there’s no need to be searching for Jesus anymore, for He is found where He must be. He is found in His Church, He must be here, because He has promised to be here. He is present to forgive here as He promised through His Word proclaimed that gives what they declare to you: “I forgive you”. He is present and found as He feeds you His life-giving body and life-giving blood. He is present where He is promised to be. He must be. Do you not know that it was necessary to be in my Father’s house? How often we don’t understand why it is necessary.
It is necessary for Jesus to be in His Father’s things. Be in His Father’s house, because that’s where you are. Right beside His disciples. Right beside Mary, His mother. Right beside all His saints. It is necessary for Jesus to die and rise for you. Because that death and resurrection is how Jesus saves you. How Jesus forgives you. How Jesus bears all your burdens. How Jesus shoulders all your pains. That death and resurrection is how Jesus brings you into God’s family. How Jesus gives you life, even from the dead. How Jesus is with you always, even to the end of the age. (Rev. Eli Davis, paragraph)
Wisdom has come to you in Baptism. You’ve been washed in the Wisdom of God, the Wisdom for which Solomon longed, the Wisdom the wise men sought in their travels from the East, the Wisdom that brings light and life and order to the universe and to your life. Baptized and believing, you are wise to salvation through faith in Jesus. And that’s a Wisdom that will bring you to life with God forever. Merry Christmas. Amen.