First Sunday After Christmas (C), December 28, 2003
The Family Business
Luke 2:41-52

The story of Jesus as a boy in
the Jerusalem temple is unique to the gospel of Luke. As with Luke’s
other special material, we might understand this story more if we ask
the question, “Why did Luke see this story as so special that he
included it?”

A Place in the Family Business.

The
story begins by telling us Jesus is residing in Nazareth with Joseph
and Mary. As a twelve-year-old Jewish male, Jesus was expected to
attend Passover in Jerusalem. At twelve, Jesus would have gone
through the education and rites of passage into manhood for Jewish
males. He would have already been training in the family business. He
would have been assisting Joseph as a carpenter.

Family businesses certainly aren’t as common as they once were. Family Business Magazine
reports that most companies of all types fail within twenty years of
being started. Family businesses have more success stories, but only
four percent of those last into the fourth generation. The magazine
did find that there are about 102 companies in the United States that
have remained in the same family since 1865 or before. One
fascinating company can trace its origin to the year 1623. Now
U.S.-based, the Zildjian Cymbal Co. started in Constantinople by
alchemist Avedis I.

In our scripture today we
see one member of a family redefining the family business. Although
Jesus maintains his obedience to his earthly parents he clearly defines
his life by his relationship with his heavenly Father. He seems
surprised that Mary and Joseph did not expect him to be about his
heavenly Father’s business. In contrast to his earthly guardians
setting his day’s agenda, he has let his heavenly Father set his
agenda. He has stayed behind in Jerusalem when the rest of the family
proceeded to journey toward home.

Who the Father is defines the business.

Jesus’
reference to God as Father is not without precedent. Malachi declared
that the Creator was Father of all. (Malachi 2:10) Jeremiah
prophesied to the nation Israel that the nation would address God as
“My Father.” (Jeremiah 22:3) Jesus is using the Old Testament
prophetic word in a new way. He is proclaiming that this God of their
History was His Father and the Father of His personal story. Jesus’
story is His (God’s) story. God’s business was His business.

He
reveals the nature of God in the name Father. The other three gospels
confirm this important revelation. In John 2 we read about the adult
Jesus coming again to the temple at the time of Passover. It is early
in Jesus’ public ministry. He casts out the moneychangers and then
refers to God as he did in Luke’s story. He says, “Do not make my
Father’s house a house of merchandise.” As a child he allowed God to
order his day with the priority of his Father’s business. As a man he
is still following God’s priorities for his day. He is still doing
his Father’s business. When Jesus gives his disciples instruction in
praying, he says, “When you pray, say: Our Father.”

Jesus
speaks about a father who offers grace when an erring son returns. He
assures his listeners of God’s constant care. He refers to a Father
who gives good things and supplies every need. Jesus’ life and death
reveal the Father can be known in all circumstances, bringing us
through the difficult and the daily times of life. Jesus communicates
in teaching and miracles that God keeps us in His love and gives
grace to His children.

Staying in the Family Business.

Family Business Magazine
reports that the Tuttle Farm of Dover, N.H., founded in 1635, is run
by eleventh generation Will Tuttle. Mr. Tuttle is realistic in his
assessment of the farm’s future. He acknowledges that just because
there have been eleven generations of Tuttles on the farm, the decision
that there will be a twelfth generation depends solely on that
generation’s decision.

And now our Father’s
business is our decision. Jesus’ public ministry is often seen as
starting with His baptism. Perhaps we should look again at this story
of a child publicly proclaiming He must be about His Father’s
business. Perhaps, it is precisely the Father’s business that made Luke
include this story in his account.

__________

Sermon brief provided by Carolyn Volentine,
Pastor, United Methodist Church, DeQuincy, LA.

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