Sunday, 30 December 2012

30th December 2012 - Christmas Sunday

No saint or martyr is commemorated on the sixth day of Christmas, but co-incidentally this year it falls on a Sunday. The lectionary readings continue to reflect on the mystery of the incarnation, God sharing our human nature and experience, dwelling among us. This Lukan year Gospel of the day tells the story of how the boy Jesus went missing from the pilgrimage group heading home, only to be found by his parents in the Temple, four days later. It tells us a little about his relationship with his parents, and only mentions in passing the terrible anxiety of his parents searching for a missing child, one entrusted to their nurture and protection by God.

The calendar of the Roman Catholic church designates this Sunday in honour of the Holy Family, celebrating and upholding the ideal of family life centred around the sharing of a common faith. What is interesting and challenging about Luke' story is how this family's unity and strength are tested, as indeed they often are in many families, by the unconventional behaviour of their child.

Jesus gets left behind, but not because he is rebelling against his parents, indeed the outcome of the story is that he returns with them to Nazareth and submits to their guidance and nurture in the expected way. He has received his spiritual formation from his mother in the traditional manner as the son of a Jewish family, steeped in the pharisaic tradition of devotion. He goes with them and their community on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but what most aborbs him there and leads to him getting left behind are questions about faith he has for the elders and teachers in the Temple. His family nurture has awakened his hunger to know more about God and God's world, and to have confidence to look outside the security and constancy of the domestic realm into the greater world of faith to find answers.

The elders are amazed at the discussions he wants to have with them due to the maturity of his thinking expressed by his curiosity. It's three days before his parents find him, and his response to their anxiety is not reassuringly apologetic, but rather perplexing. "Do you not know that I must be about my father's business?" They don't understand. But perhaps they are comforted to find him accepted in such eminent company and looked after while he is far from home. For them it becomes part of recognising that Jesus was growing in wisdom as well as stature, looked upon favourably by God and others. It's something every parent wants and hopes to see in their offspring.

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