Thoughts on the Word:
Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search 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. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
For Christmas my beautiful wife gave me a copy of the movie, machine gun preacher. It is the true story of a man name Sam Childers, an American preacher who has devoted his time and his treasure to saving orphaned and kidnapped children in Southern Sudan from the brutal Joseph Kony - you may have heard of him , he was the subject of the massive social media campaign Kony 2012... Now this all sounds lovely - a preacher devotes his life to saving children from being forced to operate as child soldiers - except Sam Childers is not your typical preacher - he is a former alcoholic drug addict, who has spent time in prison... a man who we see in the early scenes of the movie portraying his life repeatedly stabbing a man. No Sam Childers is not your typical preacher - He was a degenerate, drain on society - he was a loser.
Then something amazing happened to this man, his wife Lynn who had found faith in Christ during Sam's incarceration took hi to church. Sam found that despite his failings, despite his past, he was in fact a loved member of the family of God. He found that he was in fact an heir and inheritor to the Kingdom of God, and that all he had to do to claim his inheritance was receive the gift of forgiveness that was offered to him - and to all of us - through Jesus. Sam grasped that gift in both hands and took it. Sam was forgiven for all he had done, not just by God, but by his wife and family who could see the transformation in his life. Sam went fro being a nobody, to being a member of a royal priesthood!
You see that is how the family of God operates. We see it in today's Gospel reading clearly - When Mary and Joseph left Jerusalem after the Passover, they didn't anxiously seek out their son, they assumed that if he wasn't with them, that he was with his extended family - those relatives and friends that had travelled with them to the festival. You see there was a recognition that the family is more than our immediate blood relatives, family was much more communal, this despite the great emphasis placed on genealogy. When he is found Jesus is with yet another version of extended family - those entrusted to teach the Law in his Father's house, and as his life continues Jesus further expands the bounds of family when he offers salvation to all people, to Jew and Gentile, to slave and free, to man and woman - and the gift is open to all - no matter how great the crimes of your past, if you turn to him, he will forgive you. I have heard people dear to me say repeatedly that it is to late for them - and I bet you have heard people say this or similar things - perhaps even you wonder if Jesus really can forgive you for the wrongs you have done, for the hurt you have caused. I tell you he forgave Sam Childers, he has forgiven me, and he will forgive you, if only you seek him out.
During this time of year, when we are often recovering from our time spent with family over Christmas - or for others dealing with the pain of not having family with us any more, it is important that we step back and take time to give thanks for what we do have. When you grasp that gift of forgiveness that Jesus is holding out to you, you become a part of a bigger family, a family that is made up of people just like you - some are rich, some are poor. Some were raised in Christian homes - others like me are adult converts, some have never had a run in with the law, and others are reformed thieves, addicts and even murderers. None of them perfect, some of them like your blood relatives will drive you mad, but the thing that unites us, the thing that makes us brothers and sisters, is not blood. It is that we have all been remade, through the forgiveness and redemption given to us through accepting Jesus our old selves are buried and we rise remade as members of the body - the family - of Christ.
I would like to close by reading to you our set reading for today from the book of Colossians, remember that when you accept Jesus' gift of salvation you are set apart, you become a part of the royal family and so in the word of St Paul:
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
May almighty God bless you and yours this week and in the new year.
If you want to learn more about the offer of forgiveness that is open to you through Jesus please contact me, either by commenting on the website or using the contact us page to email me. You can also contact us through facebook and twitter. Alternatively contact a priest or minister at a Christian Church close to you.