Saturday 29 December 2012

Luke 2 v 41/50

The Gospel for the current year is from Luke, a lovely gospel written by a doctor, and so contains that which we can rely on for accuracy and significance. This passage contains a most significant event in that it is the only time we hear of Jesus between the time of His birth and the start of His ministry at the age of 30 year. All we otherwise know is that it has been said He grew strong and was full of wisdom and grace. It also records the first words known to be publicly used by Jesus.

Every year Mary and Joseph in Jewish tradition went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival which meant a period of 10/14 days away from home. There were three major festivals in the Jewish calendar, of which the Passover was the main, and every Jew was expected to attend at least once a year. The Passover celebrated the release of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt by God’s miraculous provision. God had given Israel a command and Mary and Joseph faithfully obeyed it

The journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem was over eighty miles and would take about three days travelling on foot. Families would travel together in groups and it could be an exciting and enjoyable time. The festival itself lasted eight days so it meant two weeks away from home. Jesus was 12 years old and for Him it would signify, bar mitzvah, He was passing from boyhood into manhood.

There would be up to 100,000 people in the city at the festival and at the close there would be a mass leaving as the huge crowds competed to get away. It was common for people to travel in large groups and the practice was for the women to leave first in the caravan trail as they travelled slower than men, who would leave later and the two parties would meet at the first encampment. Mary and Joseph each thought Jesus was with the other and it was not until they met together that it was realised Jesus was missing. There was none of the modern means of communication, no mobile phones to keep in contact. You can imagine the panic of Mary and Joseph for He was lost from them for four days.

The two parents returned to Jerusalem and after three days searching they found Jesus in discussion with the teachers of the Temple. When they asked Him why He had caused them so much anxiety, Jesus answered, ‘why were you searching for me, didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house’. Naturally they did not understand Him, but Jesus was revealing that He knew He had a unique and special relationship with God, which made Him divine.

Luke in his gospel, and in his writing in the Book of Acts, is teaching that all that happens in life is under God’s control. This does not only relate to the big events in life, but also to our own personal lives. In all our doings God is with us, controlling the lives of those who will let Him. Remember that God cares for you, and if you are in the midst of some traumatic problem in life, remember that God cares for you and is in control; it is a case of seeking to find out the answer by speaking to Him. Prayer is not only asking for something, it is also trying to listen to God. Learn to trust Him and find how He can help you through your difficult time.

Mary and Joseph have much to teach us, providing us with an example of devoted Godly worship. Today worship is treated very lightly, often only engaged in when convenient as more and more so called Christians are not willing to make any commitment.

I have visited 21 Churches in and around Bedford where people live in lovely surroundings, beautiful homes, most in good regular employment, so much to be thankful for, yet they would never give a thought about coming to thank God for their blessings. I guarantee if anyone went around this village and told the residents this Church was going to close, there would be outrage and uproar so where are they on a Sunday.

Mary and Joseph attended as husband and wife, not a common sight these days, but in marriage characters are often moulded together and there is joy in doing many things with each other, but sadly attending Church is not for many couples.

Whilst men can be a great asset in Church, attending is seen more as a woman’s thing, and next time you watch Songs of Praise on television, notice the ration of men to women, unless the singing is from Wales. A lot of men appear disorientated when coming into Church, but contrast that with Muslim men who rejoice in attending the Mosque.

Some men even resent their wives attending. I had a lady come to my Church who had a magnetic personality and drew others to join. Her husband worked on an oil rig in the North Sea and when he discovered she was coming to Church gave an ultimatum, leave Church or me. For the sake of her children, Church lost.

We also read that Mary and Joseph took Jesus with them. Parents will now take their offspring to dancing class, horse riding, playing football, but Church is one place few would think of taking their children and yet are depriving them of a precious and lasting experience. I fondly remember going with my mother to Evensong at Liverpool Cathedral each Sunday afternoon.

I think the Church itself must take some responsibility in these matters. Apart from the fact we squabble unnecessarily in public over matters which could easily be resolved if we let Scripture guide us, there is often indifference within individual Churches. When a member drops away, rather than remember the parable of the lost sheep, there is the tendency to just accept the situation instead of finding out why this has happened.

The Bible calls on us ‘not to give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing’, and this is a timely message for the coming new year. The true Church is one where we meet as a family, sing together, praise God, listen to His Word, pray for each other, take bread and wine together as we remember the sacrifice our Lord made for us; and a place where we know we can receive support and help when we need it.

I wish you well here, and pray that for you 2013 will see a time of spiritual awakening in this locality. May God bless you and be with you in all your efforts for His Name.

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