Worship for Sunday, December 26, 2021

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26

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 favor with the Lord and with the people.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 148

Hallelujah! Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise God in the heights.
Praise the Lord, all you angels;
sing praise, all you hosts of heaven.
Praise the Lord, sun and moon;
sing praise, all you shining stars.
Praise the Lord, heaven of heavens,
and you waters above the heavens.

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
who commanded, and they were created,
who made them stand fast forever and ever,
giving them a law that shall not pass away. 
Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps;
fire and hail, snow and fog,
tempestuous wind, doing God’s will;

mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars;
wild beasts and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds;
sovereigns of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the world;
young men and maidens,
old and young together. 
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
whose name only is exalted, whose splendor is over earth and heaven.
The Lord has raised up strength for the people and praise for all faithful servants,
the children of Israel, a people who are near the Lord. Hallelujah!

Colossians 3:12-17

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.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 2:41-52

Now every year [Jesus’] 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.

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Discovering that your child is missing must be something every parent fears.

Last week while I was out getting a few last-minute Christmas essentials – I heard a woman shouting – her child’s name – over and over again. You knew he was lost by the tone of her voice. It was one of panic. She was filled with fear. She was living what she prayed wasn’t her worst nightmare come true.

I noticed almost every parent and grandparent and auntie or uncle or person with a soul in the store was scanning the area around them for a little boy without a grown-up.

The store was full of people who were busy Christmas shopping – but soon many of them had stopped searching for bargains – and started searching for a lost little boy named Jeremiah. These folks knew what really mattered that December morning.

We may have all been strangers – but we all were united in our search for Jeremiah who was wearing a red sweatshirt.

Eyes scanned the aisles – under racks – and peered through stacks of sweaters searching out any place where a child might be hiding.

His mother kept calling his name. Fear causing her voice to catch – until the call – rang out – “I found him – I found him – I’ve got him. He’s fine! He’s right here!”

Jeremiah was found in the toy department looking at all of the wonderful toys.

We all know the world can be a hard – cruel place – and no child should have to face the world alone.   So – we care for the children in our lives and protect them and surround them with love.

Mary and Joseph certainly felt the same way about Jesus. They watched over Jesus – trying to protect him and to keep him safe and secure.

But no matter how well behaved the child is and no matter how careful the parents are – frightening things happen.

In fact – one of these frightening episodes took place in our Gospel reading for today.

After their annual trip to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover – Mary and Joseph packed up their family and headed home to Nazareth. But they made the mistake of assuming Jesus was with their traveling party. They probably thought he was just hanging out with his friends.   Because what self-respecting 12-year-old wants to hang out with his parents?

But when Jesus doesn’t turn up for supper that evening Mary and Joseph grow concerned and begin searching for Jesus.   They ask everyone they see – if they have seen Jesus. But it quickly becomes clear – Jesus is not with their group.

Once they realize Jesus was not with their traveling party – they head back to Jerusalem with fear in their hearts and tears in their eyes. After all – Jesus was not exactly a worldly boy. Jesus had spent most of his young life in a small town where everyone knew everyone else.

Even more frightening was the fact that under normal circumstances Jerusalem was a large city filled with thousands of people. But during Passover the city’s population swelled. Mary and Joseph must have wondered how they would ever find their beloved son in the midst of that huge – bustling city.

The Bible tells us they searched Jerusalem for three days without finding their child. By this time Mary and Joseph’s fear must have become terror.

Then finally on the third day of their search – they find Jesus in the Temple.

We can only imagine the great joy and relief Mary and Joseph felt when they finally found Jesus.

But as their elation at finding Jesus begins to wear off – Mary declares – “Son – why have you treated us like this? Look – we have been anxiously searching for you.”

We might expect Jesus – the sinless son – to beg for forgiveness or to shed tears of remorse. But rather than begging for their forgiveness – Jesus asks his mother – “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know I would be in my Father’s house?”

This seems sort of like the equivalent of the modern – “Well – duh – Mom.”

And you know – Jesus had a point – Jesus was in his heavenly Father’s house where he knew – he was safe. Jesus had been with God – where he knew he belonged.   Jesus knew he could never be really lost because God the Father was with him always.

This world can be a frightening place – filled with all sorts of scary things. There are times when we too can start to feel lost and alone in the world.

But just as Jesus told Mary he was never lost or alone because he was safe with his heavenly Father. The same is true for each of you. Even when you are confronted by the difficulties of this life you are not alone. God is with you too. You are never alone. Because God has made you a promise. There is no place that you will ever go in this life that God is not there with you. And nothing in this life can separate you from God’s love.

The writer of Psalm 139 reminds us of this incredible promise when he writes – “O Lord . . . where can I go from your spirit?   Or where can I flee from your presence?   If I ascend to heaven, you are there.   If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day.”

God is with you always. God is with you every step of the way. You are never lost and you are never alone – because you are a beloved child of God forever. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.

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