Monday, January 03, 2011

Christmastide, part five


In Luke 24.13-35 we read about two disciples (not among the 12) walking along the road who are joined by Jesus after his resurrection. The disciples were lamenting about Jesus’ death and about all their washed-up hopes for a messiah. But Jesus gently pushes back against their negativity and, over dinner, finally reveals who he is and how much power there is in his resurrection.

In many ways, the Emmaus Road story is very similar to Christ Among the Doctors. In both stories, people have lost Jesus and despair of finding him again. And in both stories the same people are surprised at how and where Jesus is found.

Jesus, it seems, is a little more elusive than we might first have thought.

I’ve often found Christ to be a bit slippery. Every time I think I've got him figured out, every time I think I really understand him, he seems to slip away from me – either because I’ve read something new in the Scriptures or I’ve read something old in the Scriptures in a new way and understood it differently through prayer or conversation or meditation – and I have to drop everything and eagerly pursue him.

Mary and Joseph and all their friends and family had made the pilgrimage for Passover, but as soon as the holiday was over, they hit the road anxious to get back to their normal lives. But young Jesus refuses to let his relationship with God be regulated according to some culturally contrived calendar.

They left, but he stayed.

Therein lies an important lesson for all of us: We mustn't assume Christ is accompanying us as we go off on our own business. Sometimes, we get eager and jittery to get back to “business as usual,” but Christ wants us to stay rooted in his Father’s house and in his Father’s mission to heal the world. If and when we sense the lack of his presence, we must be prepared to hunt for him – in prayer, in the Scriptures, in worship, in community – and not to give up until we’ve got him back again.

And let’s be careful that we don’t idealize sitting around and praying and studying at the expense of active participation in the world around us. Remember that even though he started out in the Temple, Jesus finishes this episode of his life by obediently following Mary and Joseph back out into the world, where he belongs.

* * *

Taken together, these key features are reminders that, through his Advent, Christ has come into the world to save and to heal. As we’ll see in the following section concerning Common Time, he demonstrates the manner of saving and healing by the way he lives and interacts with others.

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