Sunday, December 30, 2018

C, Christmas 1 - Luke 2:52-52 Colossians 3:12-17 "Being Favoured"

From Luke 2:51 we hear… And he (Jesus) went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.  And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man. (Luke 2:51-52 ESV)

These are the last words spoken of Jesus till John the Baptist baptises him in the Jordan, baptising him into his ministry of death and resurrection, his ministry of forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
Interesting words are left with us to describe Jesus’ years between the age of twelve, his puberty, and his baptism by the Holy Spirit and with fire, at the Jordan and on the cross outside Jerusalem.  We hear Jesus “increased” in wisdom, stature, and favour.  There is a sense with the word “increased” that one drives forward as if by beating one’s way through something.  “Increased” comes from the word to chop or cut down, to lament or beat the breast.
Jesus bore his position in humanity with submission.  He honoured his mother and father; he was obedient to his parents.  He struggled and learnt as a youth in the Scriptures and from everyday events in life.  Here the Son of God allowed himself to be taught what it was to be human.  In effect he was cut down to size from God to man, to a child, to a youth, to a young man who would bear the sin of the world on the cross.
But despite being the Son of God, he increased, he allowed himself to be pruned as a human, and struggled forward, advancing and growing, so in he whom wisdom and grace is personified was seen to come to grips with what everyone else experiences who is taught and tested in the tribulations of daily existence.  In doing so, Jesus increased in favour with his fellow country folk.  And with God, by his sacrifice and submission within the very creation he had created together with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ is God’s favoured one, see to it he is your favoured one too.  Paul tells us, who believe, that Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:11)  He calls you to see his sacrifice, knowing it was for you he made it.  He doesn’t do this to give you an ego boost, but rather he now commands us to put on the new self, to put on Christ.  To put on his holiness as the Son of God, but to also put on the same humility that Jesus put on to save us from sin.
He calls us to put on Christ because we are God’s chosen ones.  We are favoured by God, not because we are good, but because Jesus was — in his birth, increase, death, and resurrection.  We are favoured by our Heavenly Father, elected by God, and are being resurrected by the Holy Spirit.
Therefore Paul compels you to…
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on 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 one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts 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. (Colossians 3:12–17 ESV)
In short he compels you to put on Jesus, doing everything in the name of our Lord Jesus, which means doing everything in the name of your favoured One, faithfully following the will of the father, not fighting or fleeing from confronting the truth, to honour yourself, but rather forgiving as God has forgiven you.
But how do we do this?  How do I put on Jesus? In fact in my day to day life I struggle to follow Jesus.  As I increase in years I notice more and more that I do not increase like Jesus did, in submission to his family, to the will of his Heavenly Father.  Rather I notice within me an increase that strives to chop God out of my life so I can take control.  And once I take control I see I’m completely out of control together with a world that is spiralling further and further from order and peacefulness.
Jesus came into this world giving up everything that he rightfully held to be the human I ought to be, yet I find within myself aggression that seeks to separate this gift from my life in order I might gather things around myself that seem good, but in reality are a replacement for the God who died on the cross to save me from myself.
So how do I put on Jesus? How do I forgive as God forgives me? How do I let the love of God rule in my heart? How do I focus on these things when I constantly reject the increase in faith, hope, and love, through the trials and temptations that come my way?  Instead of the increase by which Jesus grew, my increase so often gives way to the temptations and the trials that turn me back into myself so I seek to use Jesus only to justify myself.
Why is my life more about disintegration?  Why am I so uninterested in being integrated with this Jesus who was born in Bethlehem?  Who gave me his all so I might give all of myself to him?  And why should I be integrated with my brothers and sisters in Christ?  Putting on Christ seems too hard.
Is this your struggle too?  If you’re honest with yourself it is.  Jesus lingers in the temple long after his family has left, not to discuss the rain or chat as we do after church, but he stays in his Father’s presence to listen, learn and ask questions.  Heaven forbid if we have to stay in church for a minute longer than we have to!  
As Jesus leads us in our lives and as he gives us deeper insight into the reality of our natural selves, that our being is human.  He allows us to see more and more who we are and why he had to be born, troubled, tested, crucified and resurrected as a human being.  What we see in ourselves is helplessness similar to that of a weak defenceless baby lying in a manger, without stature, without dignity, without favour, without what would be expected of the Son of God.  It seems all wrong but it is just so right and God allows us to experience this helplessness so we might be joined into the help God has given us in Jesus Christ.
The incarnation of Jesus in Mary is a good word from God for us to ponder when we feel the dysfunction of our lives.  When Gabriel came to Mary and told her she had found favour with God.  Know that you too have been found in favour with God.  Just like Mary who askes “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” We can pray to God the Father, “How can this be, why am I favoured, since I am a sinner?”  And we might continue, “Lord I am so helpless in my sinful nature, please save me, help me to forgive.  You are my Saviour so please save me, Lord!”
These are just the words God loves to hear.  Our cry for him to be God in our lives and God of our lives.  Just as Gabriel answers to Mary, God says to you, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” (Luke 1: 35)  But even greater than Mary carrying the newly Incarnate Son of God, know you have within you the Word made flesh, crucified and resurrected dwelling within you together with the Holy Spirit who is constantly pointing us back to Jesus, who has won the battle over your sin. 
The Risen Lord Jesus together with the Holy Spirit takes up the fight I am helpless to fight against my old sinful nature.  Jesus and the Holy Spirit place inside me the power of the Most High allowing me to forgive, to increase and lovingly integrate with others, despite the tribulations and temptations.  And he does this for you too.
When you struggle with this, as I do too, pray in your helplessness, beat on God’s door in prayer.  When you do you will see he has been knocking on your door the whole time, so that he might continue entering in and show you the favour he has placed upon you.  Amen.