OPENING SENTENCE OF SCRIPTURE
Praise, O Praise the Name of the Lord
Grace and peace to you from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
COLLECT FOR PURITY
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
SUMMARY OF THE LAW
Our Lord Jesus Christ said: The first commandment is this:
Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord.
You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind
and with all your strength.”
The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
There is no other commandment greater than these.
Amen. Lord, have mercy.
CONFESSION AND ABSOLUTION
God is love and we are God’s children. There is no room for fear in love. We love because God loved us first.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.
God our Father,
we confess to you
and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ
that we have sinned in thought, word and deed,
and in what we have failed to do.
We are truly sorry.
Forgive us our sins,
and deliver us from the power of evil,
for the sake of your Son who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
God, who is both power and love,
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by the Holy Spirit,
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.
sung by Dougie Byers
O God, you make us glad with the yearly remembrance
of the birth of your Son, Jesus Christ:
grant that, as we joyfully receive him as Saviour,
so we may with confidence
behold him as he comes to be our Judge;
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen
PROCLAIMING & RECEIVING GOD’S WORD
1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26 read by David Kerr
Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy wearing a linen ephod. His mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the Lord repay] you with children by this woman for the gift that she made to the Lord”; and then they would return to their home. Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favour with the Lord and with the people.
Colossians 3:12-17 read by Margaret Morton
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.
Luke 2:41-52 read by Rev Janice Aiton
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Luke chapter 2 beginning at verse 41
Glory to Christ our Saviour
The Boy Jesus in the Temple
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 travellers, 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 favour.
Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel.
Praise to Christ our Lord.
Yesterday we celebrated the birth of the infant child Jesus and today we jump from infancy to his teenage years. It is a substantial leap but there is nothing in the Bible about Jesus growing up as a child. In the second and third centuries many legends arose about the boy Jesus and were put into numerous apocryphal gospels—accounts of Jesus which the early church rejected as not having the authority of the four earliest gospels which we have in the New Testament.
Two things speak for the wisdom of the church in recognizing the authority of only Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. One is that there are so few stories about Jesus’ childhood in them that it is clear that the writers were not interested in feeding the pious curiosity of the church with legends about Jesus’ childhood. They are content to leave almost thirty years of blank space in Jesus’ life, because their interest was on the heart of the gospel, not on peripheral matters.
The other thing is that the one story which Luke does include in his gospel is so reserved that it is very unlike most of the legends of Jesus’ childhood. It does not portray him as doing any supernatural deed or speaking in an unduly authoritative way. The story reaches its climax and main point not in a supernatural feat but in the sentence: “I must be about my Father’s business.”
In addition, the Greek language of the story is almost certainly a translation of the Semitic language of Palestine, which means that it was not created, like many of the legends, in Greek-speaking areas far removed from the land of the eyewitnesses. On the contrary, it is Jewish in content and language and, therefore, probably originated in Palestine; and the most likely source for the story is Mary, who narrated at some point that memorable incident in their family life.
You probably are familiar with the movie, often shown at Christmas: “Home Alone” when the McCallister family, in the confusion and rush to board their flight on time, leave little Kevin at home and do not notice his absence until they are airborne. A similar thing happened almost 2000 years ago and unlike in the movie, this was for real -it could be entitled “Home alone in Jerusalem.” The Bible says that Mary and Joseph left Jesus behind on their return trip from Jerusalem.
Thousands of people were on the move all across Jerusalem, jostling one another as they filled the narrow streets of the city. The mood was not unfriendly, but everyone was focused on the serious business of getting through the jam of people and getting out of town as quickly as possible. The week-long festival of Passover was over and it was time to go home. Mary, Joseph and their family were part of the crowd. They were not travelling by themselves, but were headed toward Nazareth together with a group made up of extended family, friends and acquaintances.
It may have been that the women and children, who travelled slower than the men, set out first. The men would have followed later on, catching up with their families at the end of the day’s journey. We can imagine, therefore, that Mary and Joseph each assumed that their son, twelve-year-old Jesus, was walking with the other. Jesus was still a child and so might be expected to stay close to Mary, but he was old enough to perhaps prefer walking with Joseph and the other men. After all, he was just a year shy of the age of thirteen, when Jewish boys officially became men. All this may have been why no one noticed that Jesus was not in the Galilee-bound crowd. He had been left behind. Unaware, Mary and Joseph jostled their way out of Jerusalem and set out on the road for Nazareth, confident that Jesus was travelling with the group, even though neither one of them had actually seen him that day.
Imagine the shock they experienced when they arrived at the night’s resting place and set up camp. Imagine the panic. Jesus was not with Mary. Jesus was not with Joseph. They checked with relatives and friends – they checked with everyone – but Jesus was nowhere to be found, and furthermore no one had seen him in the travelling group. Where was Jesus? What had happened to him? Any parent can imagine the horrible sinking feeling and the terror felt by Mary and Joseph as they came to realize that their son had been missing the entire day.
Imagine the leaden spirit of the parents as they retraced their steps to Jerusalem, asking at each stopping place, at each wide place in the road, if anyone had seen their son and hoping desperately for a positive response. Imagine the daunting task of looking for the boy in a city the size of Jerusalem, with its tens of thousands of residents.
Finally, after three days of fruitless searching, Mary and Joseph came to the Temple and made their way up to the outer courts of the religious complex. It was here that the experts in the law and scripture taught their students. And here was where they found Jesus, who “was sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” He was not teaching the teachers, as is sometimes said or implied about this passage. He was being a good student – listening and asking questions. Perhaps, though, he was being more than just a good student. “All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” He was the best student these teachers in the Temple had ever seen.
To Mary and Joseph’s astonishment, they find Jesus participating in the theological dialogue. He was twelve years old, and not only was He participating, but it’s not like these elders were saying, “Go away son, you’re bothering me;” they were even more astonished than Mary and Joseph. They couldn’t believe the insight and provocative questions coming from the mouth of this twelve-year-old boy. He was obviously a child prodigy, but a child prodigy of such advanced learning that they had never ever witnessed anything like this in their lives.
Mary and Joseph witnessed first- hand Jesus’ spiritual growth. Jesus didn’t start out from infancy with all knowledge, for as scripture says, he had “emptied himself” of omniscience when he became a man. We humans learn as toddlers by observing, trial and error. We learn language by imitation and correction. We learn responsibility by parental rules and enforcement until those rules and eventually those values become internalized. I suspect Jesus learned in the same way. He needed good role models.
We all need good role models to guide and guard our growing up. Growing up is hard work. Growing up means establishing our identity and figuring out our place in this world. It involves creating relationships, setting priorities, making decisions. We must choose values and beliefs that structure our lives. Along the way we make mistakes, get lost, backtrack, and sometimes just need to start over. Ultimately, growing up means moving out and finding a new home. This new home is where you find your true self and it involves invariably psychological and spiritual moves.
At this juncture in his life, Jesus, the twelve-year-old is making some psychological and spiritual moves, as he spends time with the teachers in the temple. He needed to be there, where his knowledge and ideas could be encouraged, challenged and strengthened. When he told his parents, “Do you not know that I must be in my Father’s house,” Jesus was explaining that he was responding to an imperative, a command that he must be there. And under the circumstances, the command can only have come from God.
Jesus was showing that he understood his special relationship to God when he said: “I must be in my Father’s house.” By this time Jesus knew that he had a father who was not Joseph, and that Father was God. The personal intimacy of the phrase “my Father” referring to God is unprecedented in Jewish literature, where it might be expressed as “in heaven” or “our Father.” Here we have this amazing claim of intimate filial relationship of Jesus to the Father. Jesus realised that his Father’s house, the Temple, was his true home. It was here that he could be closest to those who spent their lives trying to understand God.
Discovering this true home meant Jesus had to let go of what is safe and familiar, and move to a bigger place, to the Father’s place. This letting go is a necessary detachment if we are to grow in the love and likeness of Christ. It means we must leave our own little homes, for the Father’s house. What are our own little homes? They vary but they could be homes of fear, anger, and prejudice; homes of grief and sorrow; homes in which we have been told or convinced that we don’t matter, that we are not enough, unacceptable, or unlovable; homes in which we have been or continue to be hurt or wounded; homes in which we have hurt or wounded another; homes of indifference and apathy; homes of sin and guilt and homes of gossip, envy, pride.
Every one of us could name the little homes in which we live; homes that stunt our growth, that keep our life small, our visions narrow, and our world empty. The problem is that sometimes we have become too comfortable in these homes, and then are reluctant to leave them behind. As long as we stay in these little homes, we are lost. They are not our true homes. We need to let go of our attachment to these little homes and enter the Father’s home, where we can know ourselves and each other to be God’s beloved children, created in his image and called to be like him.
In the Father’s home, there are rooms of mercy, forgiveness, joy, love, beauty, generosity, compassion. Leaving our little homes means examining and re-prioritizing the values, beliefs, and relationships that establish our identity and give our life meaning and significance. It means letting go of an identity that is limited to our biological family, job, community reputation, ethnic group, or political party and trusting that who we are is who we are in God.
It means that we stop relating to one another by comparison, competition, and judgment and begin relating to one another through love, self-surrender, and vulnerability. It means that we let go of fear about the future and discover that God is here in the present and that all shall be well. We stop ruminating on past guilt, regrets, and sins and accept the mercy and forgiveness of God and each other. We see our life not in opposition to others but as intimately related to and dependent upon others. So often we get lost in this world in our little homes but Jesus loves us so much that he reaches out to us in our lostness and invites us into the Father’s home, our true home, where we can grow and flourish, where we can find peace, joy and fulfilment and be entrusted with the Father’s business. Amen
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one substance with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father.
With the Father and the Son,
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Let us pray to the Lord
Lord come to your people
in your mercy set us free
watching their sheep through the long dark nights,
he comes with the glory of the angel’s song
and in the humility of the manger.
Loving God we pray for our community here in Dumfries
in the midst of our everyday lives,
surprise us with glimpses of your glorious, humble love,
at the heart of existence.
Lord come to your people
in your mercy set us free.
To the wise and powerful
star-led to Bethlehem seeking a king
he comes, child of Mary
crowned with meekness
worthy of every gift.
Loving God, we pray for the leaders of the world
especially in decision making with Covid.
Guide them with your light
to seek wisdom, justice and peace.
Lord, come to your people.
In your mercy set us free.
To Anna and Simeon,
whose days are lived in faithful expectation,
he comes, a new life to the old,
a living prophecy of hope.
Loving God, we pray for the Church in all the world.
Unite us by your Spirit
and make us faithful witnesses to the hope we have in you.
Lord come to your people.
In your mercy set us free.
To men and women, girls and boys
crying out in the darkness, pain and loneliness,
he comes, at one with us,
our Saviour, healer and friend.
Loving God we pray for those whose lives are hard and painful,
or whose existence is sorrowful, bitter, or empty.
In their need, may they know your healing touch,
reaching out to comfort, strengthen and restore.
Lord, come to your people.
In your mercy set us free.
Unlooked for and not searched for
Longed for and prayed for,
Loving God, you come to us now
as you have come to your people in every age.
We thank you for all who have reflected the light of Christ.
Help us to follow their example
and bring us to eternal life
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those+
who sin against us.
Do not bring us
to the time of trial+
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours,
now and forever. Amen.
Christ the Son of God gladden your hearts with the good news of his kingdom; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ. Amen