It’s beginning to look a lot like “not Christmas.” Now with the New Year’s holiday behind us, we are getting ready to settle into that dreary, holiday-less time of year when we have nothing much to expect but the worst of the winter weather. Even in the Church, things are slowly winding down. We are coming to the end of the Christmas season--today we are at the Ninth Day of Christmas, the day when, according to the song, my true love gives me Nine Ladies Dancing. As this song was originally written as a “catechism” type song to teach parts of the Christian faith--the Nine Ladies Dancing are supposed to represent the Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control [Gal. 5.22-24]. But although it’s winding down, we still have a third of our Christmas celebration to go. Let’s make the most of it and continue our Christmas celebrations as we ponder and take to heart this greatest of miracles: God became also a true man to be our Savior. And lest we think our celebration of Christmas ends on the 12th Day of Christmas, it doesn’t. We then celebrate Epiphany for a number of weeks--Epiphany is the continued celebration of Christmas as we behold [Jn 1.14] His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. In the Epiphany season, we see that the One born of the Virgin is indeed the true God, as He reveals His glory in His teaching and miracles. So, yes, Christmas truly continues. Let us ponder that great mystery!
But, here we are at the beginning of a brand new year. Our thoughts are also turned to that. What will the new year be like for us? What will it bring? How should we approach it? Here our text for today gives us wonderful guidance and gives us a wonderful theme for each of us to use the new year. It’s Jesus’ word in our text: Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? As Jesus was about His Father’s business, let us, too, now, as we begin the new year by God’s grace and by the strengthening and leading of the Holy Spirit be about the things of God in this new year.
On this final Sunday of Christmas, the Church has us meditating not on the Baby Jesus but the 12 year old boy Jesus. And as we look at our text, there are wonderful foreshadowings of Jesus’ later work. We see one in the very first verses of our text: Every year [Jesus’] parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. When He was twelve years old, they went up according to the custom of the festival. As Jesus was now 12, he would have been able to take part in the rites of the Jewish religion. And here, as the Lamb was brought by Joseph, and now with Jesus, to be sacrificed before the altar in the temple in Jerusalem--there Jesus saw the blood of the Lamb being poured out. And here before His eyes was a foreshadow of His own work--when He, the Lamb of God, would offer the perfect once for all sacrifice for the sins of the world.
And then there is that phrase: When the days had ended.... Yes, it’s a time phrase saying the Passover festival had ended. But it is a rich, pregnant phrase because it points to the true end of the Passover, its fulfillment in Jesus, the true Passover lamb slain to save us all from the slavery to and tyranny of sin, death, devil and hell; as St. Paul says about the OT festivals and ceremonies, they [Col 2.17]: are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. There is Jesus, the Substance/ what all the OT laws, ceremonies, festivals and sacrifices pointed to. Now He had come and so their days had ended.
And then there is the anguish of the holy parents, and the sword already piercing Mary’s soul: Then they began to look for Him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem searching for Him. After three days they found Him in the temple courts. Notice--Jesus was gone for three days and then found. And that is a foreshadow of what? --Another time Jesus was gone, His rest in the tomb; the three days between His death and His resurrection. Mary and Joseph’s anguish during those three days is reflected in the words of another Mary--St. Mary Magdalene--spoken about 30 years later [Jn. 20.2]: They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.
As we ponder our text and reflect on how we can now apply it to our lives as we begin 2022, we focus our attention on Jesus’ words: “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be taking care of My Father’s business?” What makes these words so significant is that these are the very first words of Jesus that the Holy Spirit had recorded in Scripture. These words are the keynote of Jesus’ entire earthly ministry-- I must be taking care of My Father’s business. Can’t they also serve us as we begin a new year? --That we be about the things of God; that we make the things of God our number one priority this new year. If we do, it will truly be a blessed year for us.
I must be taking care of My Father’s business. These words, too, are very rich in meaning. First of all, they show us that Jesus knew exactly who He is and what He has come to do. Already from this early age, Jesus knew that He is the very God, the Son, the Second Person of the holy Trinity, come into this world to suffer and die for the sins of the world and to reconcile the whole of sinful humanity to the holy God. Jesus didn’t first become aware of this later in life; but from the very beginning He knew. All throughout Jesus’ life He could say as He did later when the time of His crucifixion approached [Jn 12.27]: Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I came to this hour. Again, think of the thoughts that must have gone through Jesus’ mind as He saw that Passover lamb He and Josef brought being slaughtered--that would be Him but in a more wonderful way pouring out His blood for the salvation of the world. The keynote of Jesus’ entire life, I must be taking care of My Father’s business, may it be our endeavor this new year.
And look how significant those words are. Even as that 12 year old boy--in fact even as that Baby in Mary’s womb--Jesus is the true God and He has come to carry out His Father’s will, no matter what He would have to suffer. I must be taking care of My Father’s business. Here we see that Jesus then went willingly to the cross; here we see that all that He did and suffered to reconcile us to God, to open heaven to us, to bring us eternal life is something He not only came to do but wanted to do. And because Jesus knew what was ahead of Him and willingly did it--I must be taking care of My Father’s business-- there we see His great love for us sinners; there we see the heart of God who willingly does everything necessary to save us from our sin and hell--no matter the cost to Him. How can we ever doubt His love for us in this new year? Remember His words here: I must be taking care of My Father’s business. He took care of that business for you and for me. How great is His work, His sacrifice on the cross. How great His love.
Jesus’ “I must be taking care of My Father’s business” is not just His suffering and death --as if that isn’t tremendous enough, but in these words we see His holy, sinless life for us. “I must be taking care of My Father’s business” means doing God’s will in everything; it means that Jesus obeyed all of God’s commandments perfectly for us. We see that holy sinlessness reflected in our text in Jesus’ actions: He went down with them and came to Nazareth. He was always obedient to them. That perfect, holy, sinless life was all part of Jesus’ doing His Father’s will, all part of His work for our salvation. Already in the womb by His holy conception and now as a 12 year old and all throughout His life here on earth Jesus did for us what we can’t do ourselves--live a life without sin; to give to God the holiness He demands of us in His law. Tie that in with His holy suffering and death on the cross as He paid there the price for our sins and you have the glorious work of Jesus to save us from our sin, death and hell. And there is the ultimate fulfillment of what Jesus says here: I must be taking care of My Father’s business.
This, too, is the thought and desire of every Christian. As we are freshly in the new year, what a perfect time to make a proper concerted effort to have Jesus’ words and attitude be ours this new year: I must be taking care of My Father’s business. Really, how can that not be our thought? After all, as Christians by faith Jesus is dwelling in our hearts. We are united to Him through our baptism. Jesus comes and unites with us bodily in the Holy Sacrament as He comes to us and gives us His very body and blood. If Jesus, whose thought always is I must be taking care of My Father’s business, --if He is dwelling in us, isn’t He also at work in us so that we now also strive to do the holy will of God--if we let Him? With Jesus in us, and as we reflect on Him and His work, how can we not be about the things of God this new year?
But Jesus is the eternal Son of God, He is God, the Father is truly His Father. None of us can say that! --But through faith in Jesus we, dear Christian, are the adopted children of God and so we can say: I must be taking care of My Father’s business. St.Paul is very clear [Gl. 4.4 ff.]: God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive adoption as sons. Because of Jesus, through baptism, by virtue of faith we are children of God and so it falls to us also to be about the things of God. It’s not just for Jesus--though He did it perfectly--but also for you and me. Let us strive again and anew this new year.
This renewed striving in this new year to be about the things of God--I must be taking care of My Father’s business--is a grand thing. It is living out our lives simply where the Lord has called us to serve Him--in our homes, in our workplaces, in our schools, in our neighborhoods, etc. Whatever we do--even if it is to us the most ordinary, common duty--if we do it out of love of God and neighbor that’s being about the things of God. Look at what St. Luke says about Jesus in our text: He went down with them and came to Nazareth. He was always obedient to them. That sounds very plain and ordinary but yet Jesus was doing the same thing He was doing when He was in the temple: I must be taking care of My Father’s business. So ordinary and simple was this doing the will of His Father, that Jesus didn’t really stand out. Years later when Jesus returned to Nazareth and taught in the synagogue, the people rejected Him [Mt. 13.54 ff.]: they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary?....Where did this Man get all these things? They didn’t expect all this of Jesus--because He was in simple, ordinary ways, doing the things of God. May we live this new year in all simplicity but simply doing the things of God.
“I must be taking care of My Father’s business” means to put God first in our lives. Let Him be in this new year the highest and first in our lives. That means to fight against sin, not putting self first but God and His will and His ways. The thing is, if we put self and our own desires first and highest, then we push out God and we lose Jesus. If we lose God, we are in a worse position than Mary and Joseph in our text frantically looking for Jesus. When we lose Jesus, we lose the forgiveness of sin, peace with God, eternal life; there is no joy and peace in conscience and heart. But as we strive to be about the things of God, when He and His will are number 1, like it was for Jesus; as I must be taking care of My Father’s business is our keynote for the new year, as it was for Jesus throughout His life, it will be a blessed new year for us. INJ