3 January 2016
Second Sunday after Christmas
II Christmas C
Ephesians 1:3-6; 15-19a
The collect for this Sunday is one of my favorites in the BCP. God has wonderfully created and yet more wonderfully restored the dignity of human nature, and invites us to share the divine life of Christ, who has shared our nature. This is divinization in a nutshell. And as we participate in the Incarnation, we draw the whole cosmos with us.
We don’t often hear liturgically the story of Jesus at twelve in the temple. We don’t always get two Sundays after Christmas, and when we do, there are three choices. Jesus’ age is not insignificant in this story. Twelve is about the age of puberty. Isaac was thirteen when Abraham journeyed to the mountain to sacrifice with him. The punch-line for that story is “On the mount of the Lord, it shall be provided.” To me, the story of Abraham and Isaac looks like a male initiation ritual. All over the world (particularly in sacrificing cultures), boys are taken at about the age of twelve or thirteen and initiated into the world of men. In South Sudan, boys make their first bows and arrows at that age, and are taken on a hunt for antelope, and make their first kill, which they bring back to the village for a feast.
In these rituals, there is often a wounding of the young men (circumcision in some instances); this takes them from the world of women and children and places them in the world of men. I’ll never forget Archbishop Daniel (of ECSSS) describing his initiation to the young men in detention. Once past the initiation ritual, the young men were given a carved staff. As long as they carried that staff, they could speak in the councils of the village, and were expected to act like men. The young men in detention craved some ritual like that.
At twelve, Jesus goes with his parents to Jerusalem. He probably made the journey with the women and children, and then sacrificed with his father. As in the story of Abraham and Isaac, that moved the child from the world of women and children into the world of men. It would then be easy to leave him in Jerusalem. The women would be thinking he was with the men, and the men wouldn’t be used to having him with them.
In a sacrificing culture, a father sacrificing with an eldest son proclaimed that son the heir. It established paternity and inheritance. So, when Jesus tells his parents that they should have expected to find him in his father’s house (household), Luke is making a profound claim about the construction of family in the new reality. Family will be those who share the new passover with one another, and all of us will eat in our Father’s house.