And the Child Grew and Became Strong: Reflections on Luke 2:39-52
Traditionally, Western Christians have focused on the visitation of the Magi to the baby Jesus, and thus the revelation of Jesus' identity to the Gentile world. Eastern Christians have focused on the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God. Both emphases occur in the texts chosen by the Revised Common Lectionary in the weeks ahead. The season of Epiphany is a four-week journey that takes us to the Transfiguration of our Lord.
In the Church Calendar, this Sunday, December 30, is listed simply as "First Sunday after Christmas Day." That seems like too bland a banner to me. I'd rather call it "Preparation for Epiphany Sunday," because we need some time to learn what our role is supposed to be and to practice our lines.
During Epiphany our role is to celebrate the manifestation of the identity of Jesus as Son of God to the whole world. Our role is to allow the presence of Jesus to have an ever stronger influence on our lives. Our role is to allow Jesus to be who he was sent to be.
That to me is one lesson his parents learn in the vignette recounted in Luke 2:41-52. They find out that the boy Jesus, in growing and becoming strong, is not under their control and will not always be found at their side. When they finally track him down in the Temple, his mother's question is focused on the anxiety and perhaps inconvenience he has caused his family: "Child, why have you treated us like this?" But Epiphany is not about our peace of mind and convenience. It's about assuming our role of allowing Jesus to grow and become strong in our lives and in this world.
My brother's lines were the last words of the Christmas play and the first words of the season of Epiphany: "And the child grew and became strong."
Keep your eye on that child this Epiphany and see how he grows and where he goes. Keep your eye on that child this Epiphany, and see where he takes you and how he shapes you.
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.