The Revd Margaret Legg
Luke portrays Jesus as a model Kid’s Club child, listening, asking questions, participating in the cut and thrust of the Jewish method of midrash: resolving problems in the interpretation of difficult passages of the text of the Hebrew Bible. It’s lively, argumentative and allows the students to ask questions of the rabbis who then may well fire back even better questions in response.
Human and divine
What Luke is telling us is that Jesus is mastering the Jewish faith, it’s becoming synonymous with him; he’s immersing himself in it. Like that other young man in the temple, Samuel, in our OT reading, centuries before, who was also growing in wisdom and stature. Jesus however is more than a man: he is God incarnate and we have a hint of a growing awareness of this when he speaks of his father’s house. In Judaism this was not how God was usually referred to and it reminds us that in Jesus God is sharing our humanity. By that I mean that humanity is restored to what was originally intended: communion with God, described so famously in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve used to walk with God each evening. Salvation, which is what Jesus brought, is about sharing God’s life, as he shared ours in Jesus Christ. We hear this echoed in today’s Collect for Christmas, based on a 7th century prayer and it is also echoed in the prayer said quietly at the preparation of the altar when water is mingled with the wine in the chalices. God shared our life so that we might share his, and that involves transformation, it involves being made fit for heaven as the line goes in ‘Away in a Manger’. The transformation is spelt out for us by Paul in our New Testament Reading.
Clothe yourselves with love
Well, tomorrow sees the end of the old year so it’s perhaps appropriate to look back over 2012 and see how we’ve done, how well we’ve worn that clothing of love. How well have we shown compassion, kindness, patience and so on, when the children have been driving us mad, when it’s been extra frantic at work, when we’ve been emotionally drained. And again, how well have we shown our gratitude when things have gone according to plan or even better than we could have dared hope, when that new employee turned up trumps, when a health scare turned out to be a false alarm?
Clothe yourselves with love, urges Paul. The robe may be referring to the garment worn at the baptism of new Christians. But the clothes of this way of love are not made of cloth, they are a weaving of the heart. We are to wear kindness, humility, patience, forgiveness, love, peace, thankfulness, and joy. This is to be the tapestry of our lives. And we can do well to start with ourselves. Are we at peace with ourselves, understanding of ourselves when we manage to jam the office photocopier again and we’ve forgotten how to clear it … it is notoriously temperamental; can weforgive ourselves if we turn up for a meeting –this happened to me- and as we enter the room remember the vital document is sitting on the desk in the study, can we be patient with ourselves when we mislay the doorkeys, mobile, spectacles or whatever it may be. If we can be kind and patient and so on with ourselves when we mess things up, then we’re probably well on the way to being the same with one another. Not that this is an invitation to accept the second rate, or to be a doormat, but that our starting point is peacable, equable if you like.
The midrash in which Jesus was engaged at the temple was hardly peaceful: lively and argumentative more likely! But the point is that Jesus doesn’t just know the Old Testament back to front, the stories of God at work in his chosen people the Israelites, Jesus is the Old Testament story and he re-enacts it in his life on earth, in a new way, a way of love. We now are God’s chosen ones, the work of our lives is to correspond with that of Jesus. Today, as a New Year is about to begin, let us commit ourselves to this way of living and clothe ourselves with the mantle of God’s love.