When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:39-40)
My word for this year (see my ROSEBUD resolution challenge in this space) is Perspective. Thinking about lost perspective. Gaining perspective. Changing perspective.
If you are someone who engages with the liturgy of the Church calendar, you will know that following the Advent of the Christmas season, we celebrate the 12 days of Epiphany, beginning on December 25th and ending on January 6th. This celebrates the in-betweeness of Christ’s birth, the culmination of our waiting during Advent, and those who personally discover and encounter the Christ child.
In the liturgical sense epiphany is about the “manifestation” of God into the world. Christ being declared as God incarnate. In the popular sense of the word it also carries the meaning of a revelation or a sudden burst of knowledge. God being made known through the coming of the Christ child. To encounter Christ is to experience the ultimate shift in perspective. The sort of shift in perspective that looks to turn our world, my world, upside down.
At my Church this past Sunday we talked about the time after Epiphany. It is known as the Ordinary time. A time when we begin to settle in and gain perspective. A time when we begin that slow walk with Christ from baby to boy to the ministry of the Cross that awaits us at the end of this long and winding road of seeing Christ manifest Himself in the everyday, ordinary routine of life.
A time when those resolutions have a chance to sink in and take root.
We reflected on Christ as child become boy last Sunday. We engaged in the imaginative process of what it would have been like for that boy to grow into a man. The years that scripture remains quiet on. And we settled in on that phrase, a phrase which is repeated twice in 2:40, and 2:52- the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him, with one small caveat. In verse 52 it adds and Jesus increased in divine “and” human favor.
If I am to see this ordinary time as the slow walk with Christ, a chance for Jesus to change my perspective, the idea of “growth” becomes central. Not simply physical growth, as in the boy becomes man, but growth in wisdom or knowledge. And not simply knowledge of this world, but knowledge of Christ as the son of God. This is what the Epiphany sets up after all, this slow, breaking through of God into the ordinary. This is what this notion of “the favor of God” is about- increasing in our knowledge that we are known by God.
The way we grow I am certain will look different from one person to the next. But in the spirit of imitating Christ, I was able to pull three things from the context of this child become boy in Luke chapter 2 that help me see God’s favor increase in my own life.
1. It begins at home- This is where the ordinary life is lived out. This is where we imagine the boy growing in favor, in Galilee, in Nazareth. Christmas is about that sudden burst of knowledge in all the magic and wonder of the season. But what Epiphany prepares us for is the slow, gradual manifestation of God’s favor being poured out in the ordinary of the everyday. In the homes that we have built out of which we do these things like family and work and play.
2. It is about a continued liturgy- Advent is the start of a new Church Calendar. It is about fresh beginnings. Coming back to the story of God that is being made known in our lives and our world. Re-centering ourselves on the narrative to which Epiphany welcomes us into, to be participant in. This is where we find Jesus growing, is not simply in the everyday, ordinary of home life, but in their engagement with the liturgy of their faithful tradition as it says “every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover” (2:41). It’s a reminder that our year is just beginning. The story of God is just beginning to unfold. The wonder of Christmas is still being made manifest in the everyday, ordinary world. And if we are to see favor, the best place to find it is by entering into this story with fresh eyes.
3. “After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” If it begins at home and participates in the liturgy, the other defining aspect of this child become boy story in Luke is surrounding ourselves with others whom can help shape our perspective. And what marks these others in our lives are those opportunities we gain from listening and asking questions. Of allowing others to teach us. When we listen, when we ask, when we are willing to be taught, this is where we grow. And what’s so significant about this last point is that this is where that added phrase “in divine AND human favor” gains force. Making time for the others in our life is where Jesus insists he “must be”. And in the context and understanding of the word favor this carries a dual force. In relationship we grow in knowledge of the other and others can come to know us. We gain the opportunity to know and be known, and on those terms increase in the favor that can reveal to us the ways in which the divine broke through into the humanity of our world. This is the story, after all, that our liturgy is telling. This is the epiphany that we are carrying forth into the ordinary of our everyday.
God has come. God is with us. God is growing us in favor. This is my prayer for my everday, ordinary life, that in this favor God will help me to see where I have lost perspective, where I need to gain perspective and that I would have the courage to let him shift and change my perspective in both divine and human favor.