45And when they didn’t find him, they returned to Jerusalem, continuing to look for him. 46And after three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers. He was hearing them and asking them questions. 47All those who heard were amazed at his understanding and at the answers he gave. — Luke 2:45-47
As often as I can I attend the Lectionary at Lunch sessions with Rev. Geoffrey Lentz. (I love calling him Rev, since I’ve watched him since he was just starting high school, and now I get to see the wonderful work he’s doing as associate minister at First UMC here in Pensacola.)
For the last few weeks, despite the title, we have not been following the lectionary but working through Luke, leaving the birth and infancy narratives of Luke 1 & 2 for last, so they would fall during advent. Geoffrey pointed something out that I had noticed before, but not really noticed, if you know what I mean. The infancy and childhood material in Luke begins and ends in the temple.
Now we have a tendency to dismiss the temple of Jesus’ day because he criticized so much of what went on there. But Jesus himself not only loved the Hebrew scriptures, which we now call the Old Testament, he loved Jerusalem and the temple, the center of Jewish worship at the time. He faithfully went up to the feasts.
But to focus in a bit more here, Luke starts the story of Jesus in the temple, the place where the symbols of God’s presence, and often its manifestation, already were. That’s an important connection. Now hold that thought as you read on. I really do have a devotional thought here, but there are some nuts and bolts needed to help hold it together. This opening story is in Luke 1:3-25. There, the angel Gabriel shows himself to Zechariah to promise him the birth of a son in his old age. God’s presence comes in the form of an angel.
Then we go to the end of chapter 2, in the passage I’m using today, and there’s Jesus, in the temple (though this would not be the sanctuary, but rather one of the outer parts) standing in the middle of a group of people. God’s presence is now shown through this young boy whose teaching astounds all those who hear, and it’s still happening in the temple.
Now think about the way you and those you know approach worship. There are some of us who are always hunting for something new and different, something that will bring the presence of God for us. We’re not too concerned with what has happened before. Our favorite texts are those that talk about forgetting about the past. Another group likes to cling to the things that have happened before, and seeks God’s presence in familiar ritual and tradition. They’re likely to love all the verses that talk about remembering the things that God has done.
In the way Luke laid out his two chapters, he’s suggested something for all of us, I think. God is always doing new things. We see the new thing as Jesus, son of God, teaches in the temple. This isn’t an angel, and it isn’t just a prophet. This is something more. God is present in a new way.
But it’s anchored in the temple, the old way. And we’ve just seen the angel Gabriel appear to someone in the sanctuary, right by the altar of incenseâ€”very traditional, if you please!
What I see hear for not only our spiritual lives, but for any aspect of living is this: In this advent season look for new things coming from old wells, something new connected to something old.
(Note: One of our devotionals was listed with this week’s Christian Carnival at Thinking Christian. We thank the host for his work.)