In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel Lesson from Luke 2:
And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Most of us are settled back in now, and the rest will be soon. We’ve had our trips to grandma and grandpa’s house for Christmas. Maybe you visited cousins or welcomed kids back from college. Perhaps some of you got away to hit the slopes . . . and we know from TV Tuesday night that a whole lot of people traveled to New York City to see the ball drop in Times Square. People have put a lot of miles on the car or frequent flyer miles into the account, and there are the lucky few that got to take the train, the best way to travel!
We don’t typically think of first-century people traveling so much during the holidays, at least not like we do. But if we think back to our Gospel readings last Sunday and this morning, we realize that Jesus did travel a whirlwind itinerary during his early childhood days. Most of our recent travel has probably been for pleasure, but for Jesus, it was all business. And maybe here’s the real surprise: our Gospel lesson this morning reminds us that for all the traveling Jesus did on business, Jesus never really left home.
Jesus’ life was an amazing series of business trips. Truth is, Jesus has been on the go throughout this holiday season. First and foremost, He left His throne in heaven to become a single cell, then a growing baby inside the Virgin Mary. Mind boggling! Then, while inside Mary, there was the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem, which might have been a bouncing donkey trip, without the luxury accommodations en route or on arrival He as God incarnate had a right to expect. Last Sunday we saw Jesus travel from Bethlehem to Egypt to escape from the murderous hands of King Herod. Then, following the death of Herod, Jesus traveled from Egypt to Nazareth in Galilee.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus takes an exciting new trip. Passover was the annual commemoration of the Exodus (through which the Son of God had already been traveling with His people as a pillar of cloud or fire). At age 12, the age of religious maturity, Jesus goes with His parents to Jerusalem, perhaps for the first time. Then, lo and behold, the trip His parents expected Him to make—back home—He doesn’t take.
Now, all of this travel was His Father’s business. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Literally, we translate “Did you not know that it is necessary that I am among the things of my Father?” Every step of every trek had been business. Here in the Temple discussing the Scriptures—“the things of my Father”—was very much the business on which the Father had sent Jesus. Already here Jesus is working as the Messiah.
And the travels would continue until the business was complete. “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:51-52)
The end of the Christmas season on this 12th day of Christmas is only the beginning. Jesus grew up so He could finish the Father’s business. Maybe His discussions with the teachers in the Temple included highlights of that business a such as Isaiah 53, the Suffering Servant. “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” Jesus would travel back to Jerusalem some twenty-one years later to finish the business on the cross. “It is finished” would mean the work was completed for us and for our salvation.
And here’s the surprise. All that travel, all for business, and yet Jesus never really left His Father’s house. The Temple in Jerusalem symbolized the dwelling of God with His people. Since Jesus is one with the Father, wherever Jesus is, there the Father is dwelling. Jesus Himself is the Temple, the Father’s house! Following the cleansing of the Temple in John 2, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John explains, “He was speaking about the temple of His body. When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.” In the new heaven and new earth that the Lord will create at the Last Day, we are told in Revelation 21, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb (Jesus Christ).”
When you and I are here in church, we say that we are in God’s house. Here we are about HIS business because Christ is present among us. The Word-made-flesh has promised to be with us when we gather in His name as we do each Lord’s day. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them,” Jesus promises. (Matt. 18:20) He is present among us by the power of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s Word and Sacraments. Christ is really the one baptizing. Christ really speaks through the Pastor’s voice in the words of absolution. Christ’s true body and blood are really present at the altar in, with, and under the bread and the wine. That makes this truly the Father’s house—not just a slogan, “Welcome to God’s House today.” This is God’s house in reality and power because Christ is present here! And that means all the blessings of the Father’s business, the business finished by Christ on the cross are here for us in this house. Forgiveness, life, and salvation are here for us.
But Jesus also dwells among us when we leave this place. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ lives in us because we are temples of the Holy Spirit. We read in 1 Corinthians 3, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? . . . For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 John 5:20 reminds us, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” Even when we leave God’s house, all the blessings of the Father’s business, the business finished by Christ on the cross, go with us because Christ goes with us. We have His presence in our homes, our families, our workplaces, and our school. Christ is with us even when we travel. What a blessed assurance this is for us. Jesus truly is Immanuel, God-with-us, always!
Having accomplished the Father’s business of our forgiveness and salvation for us, Christ dwells with us through His Holy Spirit in Word and Sacrament. He is our Temple who travels with us in life, through the shadow of death, to our joyful life everlasting. So, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go,” through Jesus Christ, our Lord. (Joshua 1:9) Amen.