"Jesus Grew Up Like a Normal Child"

a sermon based upon Luke 2:39-52

The Gospels of Matthew & Luke both begin with the Christmas story – Jesus’ birth. The Nativity… shepherds and angels, wise men from the East, and so forth. Every year we hear again about Mary & Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born in a barn, swaddled in cloth & laid in a manger, like a homeless family because there was no room for them in the inn. And then we hear (as we did last Sunday), about the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt -- seeking asylum from King Herod’s terrorism… like refugees by the millions still do today. Apparently, there was some serious trauma in Jesus’ earliest years!

But then Matthew jumps ahead in his Gospel and picks up Jesus’ life-story at the point of his encounter with John, the Baptist, when Jesus was 30-years old or so. That’s the point where the Gospels of Mark and John also begin: Jesus as an adult, launching his movement (his ministry) in the public eye.

It’s as though Jesus’ childhood & teenage years could be ignored, omitted from the story, as somehow irrelevant to his adult faith.

The omission from the Gospel record of Jesus’ "growing up years" – what life was like for Jesus at home with Mary & Joseph between his birth stories and his adult baptism – has led some folks to dismiss the character of Joseph (Jesus’ Daddy) as irrelevant, invisible, almost forgotten.

This past Monday, in our Bible Study, Lillian Banas pointed out that Jesus’ father – Mary’s husband Joseph – is never mentioned again the Bible after the Christmas stories are over. It’s almost like Joseph gets packed away with the angels & the ornaments until next year. (!) She brought with her a little wooden-tree ornament with the phrase: "Joseph, not forgotten." Well, Lillian, for you (and others who have the same concern), this Sunday and next, we’ll talk about how Jesus grew up like a "normal kid" with his Mama Mary and his Papa Joseph and his younger brothers & sisters...

As I see it, the real issue is the Gospel writers’ ignoring of Jesus’ childhood & teenage years – leaving them out as though they are irrelevant to Jesus’ adult faith.

Unfortunately, the church has done that to children for a long time: sending them away until they grow up. Making them wait until they are older to take communion (for example), or wait until confirmation age before they could be baptized, or wait until they are all grown up to make their testimony of faith and join the "adult" church as full members. Yeah, now they count!

I’m glad that our congregation says "nonsense" to such traditions. Kids are important parts of the life of the church -- not just "the future of the church," but right now! Here at Alpena’s first and oldest church (where I was nurtured in my own growing-up faith), we believe that young people are worth investing in! We hire Shelby Sexton as our nursery attendant/childcare, and Jeffrey Mindock to provide both a Sunday School and an after-school kids’ fun club on Wednesdays. We hope in time to grow a youth group again – a Pilgrim Fellowship with new activities. We’re part of the Alpena Community Ecumenical summer VBS.