Sermon – First in a long time

I was asked to consider putting this online 2 years ago when I wrote it, but it’s been used for assessment in the meantime.  As it made a reappearance this morning, I thought I’d stick it online now.

To accompany: 1 Samuel 2: 18 – 20, 26; Colosians 3:12 – 17 and Luke 2: 41 – 52

Dear God, Mary here. Nearly 13 years ago you sent your messenger to me to tell me that I was to bear your child. Your Son, Jesus… you know… Son of God, Messiah, Prince of Peace. So why is he being such a pain today then? You could at least have given me a break when it came to bringing him up? Could you not have made it a little easier? He’s just like all the other kids, noisy, tearful, delicate, wilful, precocious, adorable but insufferable and now this! I can’t take it any more. Why did you pick me? I can’t do this! Your loving servant, well I try.

Hmm… maybe that’s not the best prayer for the day but it kind of sums up how I feel. I’m exhausted, stressed and drained. Why, oh why, has my son inflicted this on me? We come down to Jerusalem for Passover as we have more years than not. He knows the routine, we get here, celebrate the festival with friends and family, then all go home as part of the group. Anyway, the dear child decides that this year it’s not right for him. No! He just stays behind! Not a word to me or to Joseph about it.

Anyway, we got moving, went for a day, set up camp for the night and realised we hadn’t seen him all day. Do you realise how scary and embarrassing it is to lose your son? Why had it taken me so long to realise he was missing? How I had let him down as a mother, why didn’t he tell me? Where was he? What had happened? Was he okay? What was going on? I was so scared – I can’t think of a time I’ve been more worried. Even the thought of motherhood, outside marriage if necessary, being shunned by the family, being exiled in Egypt – they were nothing to having lost my son. Joseph was beside himself too.

It was three days ago when we realised that. It’s such a relief to have him back but it did take so, so long. Jesus was sat in the Temple! He was talking with the teachers – the boy has some nerve. Most of the kids I know wouldn’t dare approach the teachers, but then Jesus always has been a bit special.

It seems only a few days ago that we had trekked to Bethlehem for the census and he had been born. Oh, that was an interesting time. The hassle for a room then giving birth, then the shepherds visiting. I was so tired but it was such a joy to see his little face. Bringing the boy up has been a challenge though. It’s strange to think I was hardly older than he is now – he still seems so young but I was only a couple of years older when I became his mum. Anyway, I’ll go all dewy eyed if I’m not careful.

But I never did feel ready – learning how to be a mother was difficult enough before the wise men popped by. It was really lovely to have them visit, and the reverence they treated our son with was amazing. They did bring bad news to though – and we had to leave home again. We went into exile with a toddler, he was learning to walk and talk while we were learning to live in another land.

Eventually we returned to Nazareth, and it was really nice to get home but was very difficult too. Our families had calmed down a bit – they’d not taken it too well when they discovered I was pregnant with Jesus, but after our exile they realised how important it was to put that behind them. Many of us had heard about all the other boys his age had being killed in Bethlehem– and the family realised how special it was to have him. It was hard on our friends though. We weren’t the only ones to have friends and family hailing from that area. Many of them had lost nephews or friend’s children and they all responded differently to our return. Some were sad or angry because he was a living reminder of the loss those close to them had suffered. Others were delighted to have another boy that age around and spoilt him rotten because he was so special to the community. Others still seemed not bothered either way but it wasn’t the easiest situation for a little boy to return to.

Anyway, with that background you can hardly expect Jesus to be the most well-adjusted and ‘normal’ child ever but that’s where I hoped his father would come in. Not Joseph – God. All those years ago, and I remember it like yesterday, the angel came and told me about being pregnant, I naively thought that God would make things a little easier, or at least not more difficult than it has to be. That hasn’t proven to be the case at all – my eldest son is just like any other child and now he’s hit adolescence things could get more interesting.

Today, as we discovered, he thinks he’s an adult! Engaging with the elders and teachers – he doesn’t seem in the least bothered that he’s a child. I know he’s been through his Bar Mitzvah now and at least ceremonially he’s an adult but he needs to know that he’s not really. The Bar Mitzvah, was a lovely celebration though – all the neighbours came along and we really celebrated his life. He’s my baby, and always will be, but he’s also got to learn that there are ways to do things. I’m worried that this approach to authority is something he’s not going to get past. He seemed so unconcerned that he might end up disregarding all kinds of authority and getting into more trouble. Who knows what will become of him – I worry about that child.

The elders impressed me though – they were so lovely to Joseph and me. They even praised me on what a wonderful boy he is which seemed a bit strange seeing as it had taken us four days, yes, four days to find him. What a terrible mother I am, or at least that’s how I feel.

Standing in the temple looking at him with the elders was an interesting experience – he looked so at ease. It made me wonder if this is what Hannah experienced when she returned to the temple. Hannah – she was an amazing woman, so the stories make her out. She’s been such an inspiration to me.

Like me, Hannah was picked by God to bear a child for him, a son who will lead God’s chosen people. The way he’s going, I’m not sure quite how Jesus is going to do that but I trust God that it will happen somehow. Anyway, I don’t envy Hannah. She had to wait until she was old to have her first child, Samuel. I’m exhausted and drained, and I was only a teenager when I became a mum. Samuel was a special and wanted child, but Hannah had to give him up to God through the temple authorities. I hope Eli and the other temple authorities were as kind and loving to Samuel as the teachers today have been to Jesus. They really have impressed me.

What I struggle with is how Hannah coped – she gave up her desperately wanted son to the temple and only saw him once a year. I can’t imagine how hard that would have been, and even though she had more children it would never have taken away the loss of Samuel. I also wonder how proud she was when she saw what he became. The faith and determination Hannah showed, as well as her grace and patience are such an inspiration. I hope that I can hold onto those things when I’m bringing up my children too.

That said, today I did wonder if it would have been easier to give Jesus to the teachers and they can bring him up. Immediately I felt so bad for even thinking it but I keep thinking I can’t do it. It hurt so much to have lost him. These have been the longest three days of my life and I hope I never have to go through anything like this again. Joseph has been a complete star, he’s tolerated my shouting and crying. And in all fairness to the child, Jesus was a good boy when we found him. I’ve never seen him so upset and anxious for the pain he’d caused us, but he said something that surprised me. He talked about us finding him in ‘his father’s’ house. Joseph took that surprisingly well, as he’d just been slighted rather. Jesus seemed to have a much greater understanding of his role in life than we did and that was hard to hear. He is already beginning to see that he’s got to make a distinction between us and God. I mean, I want him to be a faithful and devout follower of God, but even so! He referred to God as his father, which of course he is, but I’ve not heard him say it or even spoken to him about it in quite such terms. Joseph’s his father, but then again he isn’t really, is he? He’s putting God first which is great but a little bitter from my point of view. He initially seemed so oblivious to the hurt he’d caused us and I’m scared by what else we’ll have to go through – him, me and Joseph, as he lives out his life and does what God wants him to. Still, that’s not a worry for now. He promised that he’ll behave better now, doing what we tell him. He seemed to have enjoyed the experience and learned a lot – it’s so hard to remain being cross with him when my overarching feeling is just relief to have him back. The whole experience just makes me think back to the time when I found out I was pregnant and when he was born. He has changed my life in so many ways and I can’t and wouldn’t take it back but it’s certainly not been easy nor has it been what I expected. The twists and turns my life has taken since becoming Jesus’ mother, since agreeing that I will bear God’s son, have been beyond belief. They’ve been the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do, but they’ve also been the most rewarding. Seeing the way I’ve grown and developed makes me proud, even if it does make me feel a little old and I’ve not even hit 30 yet! I let God into my life and he turned it upside down and inside out. He may have given me the most amazing gift but it’s not without its challenges too. I still frequently think I can’t do this, but just keep on going. I guess that God may not have made Jesus’ childhood any easier than anyone else’s but we get through it. Maybe what he provides me with is the strength and reassurance that I can get through this. All I need to do is hold onto God, and hold onto those gifts, and I’ll just keep on doing what I do. Maybe I should also try and remember the song I wrote when discovering that God had chosen me to bear his son. It makes me happy to remember that. And with that I’d better go back to my husband and son, or they’ll be worried that I’ve disappeared and we’ll have all the hassles of another search