Last revised: January 11, 2019
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FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS — YEAR C
RCL: 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26; Colossians 3:12-17; Luke 2:41-52
RoCa: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Colossians 3:12-21; Luke 2:41-52
1. Willard Swartley, “Discipleship and Imitation of Jesus / Suffering Servant: The Mimesis of New Creation,” Violence Renounced, pp. 218-240. He cites 3:13 as an example of imitating Christ’s forgiveness (p. 235). The wider context of this passage is one which Swartley holds up as an example of a participation in the death and life of Christ bringing new creation to the disciple. 3:5-9 gives the most extensive vice list in the Pauline epistles; 3:12-14 offers the counterpart virtue list. When we die and rise with Christ, we die to the former and rise to the latter — or, in the image of this passage, we put off the former and put on the latter. Swartley cleverly coins a new phrase from Girard’s “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World.” If the depth of our sin has been hidden since Christ, so has our destiny to receive the power of new creation. And so says Swartley:
Grounded in the life, death, and God’s resurrection of Jesus, this new reality makes possible “Things Destined (Now Revealed) before the Foundation of the World.” The “in Christ” person dies to the old acquisitive mimetic desire and lives by the power of a new mimesis, imitating the pattern of Jesus Christ and seeking to be conformed to his image. Jesus in the fullness of his work enables renunciation of the natural human desire for reward or glory. (p. 238)
This clever play on words goes well, I think, with how Colossians 3 begins:
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
2. James Alison uses Colossians 3:2 as the jumping off point for his project in eschatology as unfolded in Raising Abel (and briefly summarized in ch. 8 of The Joy of Being Wrong). He also refers back to the time of working on Raising Abel and the subsequent importance of Col. 3:3 in an autobiographical portion of a “Theology Amidst the Stones and Dust,” ch. 3 of Faith Beyond Resentment.
3. As I have in the past when recommending Swartley’s article, let me also give you Girard’s positive response to it, from his closing remarks in Violence Renounced: Girard on Imitatio Christi.
Reflections and Questions
1. “forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Here is another instance of teaching the central petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” The whole notion of living trapped in a world of debts vs. living freed in a world of grace was a seminal notion for me in my sermon for Advent 2C (entitled “Partakers of Grace“). (I also feel indebted to the work of James Alison here. If one were to point to a constant thread or theme to run through his work, I believe that the import of being freed to live in God’s world of gracious life, progressively freed from our world of debt, would be the best candidate.)
To live trapped in the world of debts is to live in a world or constantly building resentment, a world of Paul’s list of vices, a world that thus is in constant need of the release of resentment through the victimage mechanism. Being joined in baptism to the one who gave himself up to the death of this world means also being joined to his resurrection and the world of freedom which he makes possible, a world of living in love, a world which Col. 3:12-17 so beautifully describes.
Twelve years old is the age of bar-mitzvah; he becomes an adult male, able to participate fully in the Jewish life. Jesus goes to Jerusalem to fully participate in the Passover for the first time.
The “Journey to Jerusalem” is more dramatic in Luke’s Gospel. [Luke 9:51: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” And all that follows until Jesus arrives in ch. 19 is Luke’s telling of that journey.] As the Gospel in miniature, this story from Luke 1-2 tells of a preliminary journey to Jerusalem. It’s a story of going to Jerusalem for the Passover and finding that Jesus isn’t with us anymore. Where is he?
“After three days, they found him in the temple.” It’s a story about the crucifixion and the resurrection. It’s the overture, so that when we get to the journey to Jerusalem, we’ll remember something about it. You come away, Jesus isn’t with you, you’re anxious about it. At the very end of the Gospel, Jesus will tell his disciples to meet him in Jerusalem, from where they will go out to the ends of the earth, the second volume of Luke’s story.
It’s a rehearsal of the Easter story, and it ends on the theme of Luke’s infancy narratives: “Mary treasured all these things in her heart.”
2. Raymund Schwager, Jesus in the Drama of Salvation, p. 27.
3. Robert Hamerton-Kelly, sermon from December 28, 2003 (Woodside Village Church).
Reflections and Questions
1. How about a sermon on being lost and found? Luke is the one who tells us parables of being lost and found (Luke 15). He is the only one to tell us the story of Mary and Joseph losing Jesus and finding him again. And, making use of Gil Bailie’s Easter connection above, Luke is the only one to tell us the story of Jesus finding the two disciples ‘lost’ on the road to Emmaus on Easter evening (Luke 24:13-32). Link to a sermon making use of these connections entitled “Found, Clothed, and Fed.”