by Christopher Harbin

Growing Before God
Christopher B. Harbin
Luke 2:41-52

The Christmas story with its very brief glimpses of Jesus' boyhood has spurred the imaginations of people throughout the ages. Many have proposed miracle stories for Jesus' infancy, not necessarily intending to lead people astray, but to share their understanding of Jesus' importance, Jesus' identity, and the implications of God being present in a young child. We might well look askance at stories of Jesus making clay birds come to life, but we do well to ponder the significance of the Creator of all life being present not only in the man, Jesus, but also in the boy and the infant in the manger.

Our gospel texts have scarce little information about Jesus' early years. We know of his birth, we know of his presentation in the Temple. We know of his growth and development, but the barest of details. We know that at age thirteen he would have been considered to come of age and be treated as an adult. What about our own growth and development? Where do we set the bar for our spiritual growth?

At first blush, today's reading might seem to concern that very event of his travel with his family to the Temple to demonstrate his knowledge of the Scriptures, what today is called a Bar-Mitzvah. A bar-mitzvah was a ritual every Jewish boy would go through, a rite of passage into manhood. It demonstrated first of all that the boy knew God's commandments. It also made him responsible for keeping those same commandments. It was a moment of accountability and the launching of a life in dedication to God. A Jewish boy would participate in reciting one or more large passages of the Pentateuch, as well as discussing the meanings of those same passages.

Luke's story, however, is not about Jesus' bar-mitzvah. What Luke recounts goes beyond such expectations. The timing is wrong for a bar mitzvah, for Jesus was still too young. In the time period, a bar mitzvah would have been celebrated after a boy complet ...

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