+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Luke 2:50
Theme: No Longer Misunderstood
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
From the beginning Jesus was misunderstood. It may seem strange to suggest that considering we’re in the midst of celebrating the most widely acknowledged event in the history of the world. Yet, our familiarity with Christmas should not blind us to the struggle to reach the hardened human heart, as John says, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”1 But the Spirit has, and it’s through His eyes that we see.
For some, one of the great travesties of modern times is to be misunderstood. They have no case for complaint compared to our Lord. Jesus was twelve when He identified Himself as God’s Son. After returning from refuge in Egypt the family of Jesus settled down in Nazareth. It was where Jesus spent most of His time as a child. About His childhood we know almost nothing. Nothing significant is recorded in the Scriptures for us until He reaches the age of twelve. Today we find Him in Jerusalem for the annual celebration of the Jewish Passover. Twelve seems to have been the age of maturity in regards to religious things in Jewish culture.
On their homeward journey Mary and Joseph realized Jesus was not in their company. Returning, they found Him in the temple courts engaging with the religious teachers. In response to the rebuke of His mother, Jesus poses questions that relate to His identity, “‘Why were you searching for Me? He asked. ‘Didn’t you know that I had to be in My Father’s house?’”2 Mary and Joseph could not yet understand what Jesus meant? We should be slow to criticize them. It’s a theme that would be repeated throughout Jesus life. The demons recognized Christ’s divinity before His own followers. It’s little wonder, since His claims were more than human hearts could comprehend. It would take a cross, and empty tomb, and the power of the Holy Spirit before the scales would fall from peoples’ eyes.
Later in His life Jess would be rejected in His hometown of Nazareth. The day had not yet come for Him to be understood. Sin still blinds people today to His truth and live. The political correctness of our day demands that people be accepted for who they. Often this is nothing less than a license for engaging in any activity that takes one’s fancy. It’s a way to exempt responsibility and encourage negligence. In spiritual terms it often means condoning that which is clearly against God’s will. It means the sanctioning of sin.
None of us is immune to this influence. It pulls at us, constantly testing our resolve. Satan poses his questions softly and subtly. Are you really the sinner God’s law makes you out to be? Do you really need to fear the threat of condemnation? Are you really lacking any spiritual righteousness or moral integrity of your own? When we begin to yield to these temptations the glorious purpose of the gospel immediately starts to become diminished. Soon we have no essential need for a Saviour to be born for us. His nativity becomes a romantic story.
Dear friends, the history of the Christian church is characterized by the constant struggle to clearly and correctly proclaim God’s truth in a way that people believe themselves to be sinners and are accordingly opened to the true grace of the Saviour. This grace of Christmas, this mercy of Easter is the true cause of our joy. Our Lutheran forefathers expressed it in this way, “Without any merit or worthiness on our part, and without any preceding, present, or subsequent works, by sheer grace, solely through the merit of the total obedience, the bitter passion, the death, and the resurrection of Christ, our Lord, whose obedience is reckoned to us as righteousness. The Holy Spirit offers theses treasures to us in the promise of the Gospel, and faith is the only means whereby we can apprehend, accept, and apply them to ourselves, and make them our own. Faith is a gift of God whereby we rightly learn to know Christ as our redeemer…”3
Let these words sink deeply into your hearts, my friends: you can never be misunderstood by God. Not only does He understand you, He loves you. And He loves you not because He understands you, but in spite of what He understands about you. He understands what hopeless, hapless, miserable sinners we are. And yet He does not pull away. Nor does He send aid from a distance in a cold, aloof manner. Because His heart aches His body was broken. Because His zeal could not be repressed His blood was spilled- all for you.
You may have to adjust to being misunderstood by many, perhaps even those closest to you. But never by the child of the manger who became the victim of the cross. The breadth of human experience has been embrace by Him. Though He had no sin of His own He became the greatest of sinners. And He sends you out as one redeemed sinner to serve others. The Scripture says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”4
For those gifted with the eyes of faith the Redeemer is no longer misunderstood. Joseph and Mary queried His obedience at the age of twelve. He was about His Father’s business. Soon He would become obedient to the point of death; even death on the cross. In the crucifixion God is most clearly understood. Still, it’s but a glimpse. Paul writes, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”5
Today is the day on the church calendar for the commemoration of St. John. John was one of Jesus’ closest disciples and author of the gospel and three epistles that bear his name. He was exiled to the island of Patmos where he wrote the Book of Revelation. It is through John that the Holy Spirit gives the fullest explanation of the incarnation of Jesus. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”6
The angels have not ceased their singing. So let us join their chorus throughout this Christmastide. Good tidings of great joy are extended to all the sons of Adam and all the daughters of Eve. Sinners, one and all, we have salvation in the One who was born for. Let us cherish the words of the prophets, meditate on the words of the apostles, and imitate the faithful who have confessed His name even to the point of death. A joy awaits us that far surpasses the most intense celebrations we can experience in this mortal flesh. When we gaze upon the face of God we will understand what it means to be fully released from the bondage of sin. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
First Sunday After Christmas
27 December, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 John 1:5
2 Luke 2:49
3 SD II
4 Colossians 3:12-14
5 1 Corinthians 13:12
6 John 1:14