Let us pray:
Behold, The Lord is doing a new thing! Illumine our minds and hearts that we may feel the Spirit’s movement through these scriptures. Amen.
Liturgically we are still in the Christmas season this Sunday, followed by Epiphany next Sunday, January 6th. So we have welcomed Jesus into the world. What happens after Christmas? The Gospel of Luke shows us an interesting brief snippet of the young Jesus the year before his Bar Mitzvah, when he would legally come of age as an adult in ancient times at the ripe old age of thirteen. That is a bit different than our contemporary society here in the United States of America, when child developmental specialists have determined the youthful brain doesn’t reach the full growth of adult reasoning until well into its twenties.
So here is Jesus, the year before his Bar Mitzvah, sneaking away from his parents to go and speak with the Elders in the Temple. Now why didn’t he tell his mother where he was going? I do wonder what kind of questions he was asking. Questions about his faith, the Jewish traditions? Questions about what would be expected of him after his Bar Mitzvah? Questions about the Bar Mitzvah itself? I wonder what he learned between 8 weeks old and this brief moment in his twelve-year-old life. Twelve years is a long time to be soaking up much from one’s family and community. I wonder if he learned the lesson, as all children being brought up in the faith do, that, as commentator Kendra Hotz tells us,
“Parents, … acknowledge that their child belongs first and foremost to God and that this identity supersedes family identity. … parents are understood to be stewards of a life that belongs to God.”
I wonder if that might have crossed Mary’s mind back when she “treasured all these things in her heart” at his birth. After today’s passage, he goes home and is obedient to his parents, growing in wisdom and in divine and human favor. But then we don’t read a thing – at least in the Bible – for around 17 more years, give or take a few. I wonder what he learned in the interim. I invite you to mull that over in the back of your minds while we explore Paul’s letter to the Colossians.
Today’s passage in Colossians describes beautifully the Christian parallel of new life when baptized into Christ. The Methodist tradition would speak of a process of “justification and sanctification,” wherein God, through Christ, extends righteousness to us in grace, and if/when we accept it, the Holy Spirit works new life in us. What exactly does it mean to lay aside the old life and put on another? The example offered to us is through the metaphor of clothing. I suppose we ought to explore that a bit. The clothing we choose, of course, involves personal tastes and values – here the metaphor extends it to mean behaviors, putting on, as Paul writes in verse 12, “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”
There is another level to “putting on,” as it were, the likeness of Christ. Through verse 14 Paul is using the clothing metaphor as an outside manifestation; He says in verse 13 to “bear with one another,” “forgive each other,” and in verse 14, “clothe yourselves with love.” In verse 15 he switches the metaphor to an internal raiment, instructing us to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” and in 16, to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” But he doesn’t end there; once diving into the inner life, Paul then has us re-emerge to “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.”
The implication for our life today through all this is threefold. First, the admonitions Paul gives the Colossians are both external and internal to each of us. Second, each of the attributes of these admonitions are fulfilled in relationship with one another… “forgive each other,” says Paul, “clothe yourselves with love.” Finally, teach this to one another, always giving thanks to God through Christ Jesus.
A tall order, and one that I personally need to work on, as I am sure all of us need to at times. Commentator John Coakley offers an additional example of this process from Christian monasticism: the texts of the Bible are taken into us through the whole shape of daily life, which then eventually over time become so interwoven with our own words and ideas that we reflect living the Word of God communally, and in witness to others. That is kind of hard to imagine for some of us; but in our own little corners of the world, be they parenting, teaching, relationship building, healing, offering sanctuary, speaking out against injustice, standing for what is right, we are indeed both witnesses and advocates for a heavenly kingdom as we allow God’s Spirit and God’s word to breathe into us and out of us as we become one with God’s breath for the world.
“Whatever you do,” says Paul, “in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God … through him.” (17)
May all glory be unto the One who lived a life on earth from childhood through youth and young adulthood, died on earth a man, and rose again for all of us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.
Questions for Reflection
Consider Jesus as an adolescent, causing his parents to worry about him. Jesus asks his parents, “Why were you searching for me?” If you were a parent of Jesus, how would you answer that question? How do you answer that question for yourself?
Household Prayer: Morning
Lord Jesus, as you listened to your teachers, may I also, this day, listen to others with care and grace, and receive whatever wisdom they may offer. Amen.
Household Prayer: Evening
Loving God, you know every struggle I have faced this day; let me sleep in peace, confident in your great love in Jesus Christ, my savior. Amen.
 Kendra G. Hotz, “Theological Perspective, Samuel 2:18-20,26” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0
 John W. Coakley, “Theological Perspective, Colossians 3:12-17” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0