12/28/03, C1C

“Numbering Our Days”
Luke 2: 41-52

Notice how important time, days, years are in today’s Gospel reading:

“Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival… Assuming that he was in the group they went a day’s journey… After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers… and all who heard him were amazed… “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? … And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.”

A common characteristic of civilizations is our clocks and calendars. All have become aware of the orderly changing of the seasons, the perfect movements of the moon and stars, and we have observed the aging process in both living and inanimate objects. My Google search this week discovered a vast amount of material that was mostly new to me about the relativity of time. It seems that there has never been a large group of civilized people who have not devised some sort of calendar. God’s revelation to the Hebrews was based upon linear time; thus, western civilization thinks in terms of a straight time continuum. Some of the Greek philosophers and most Asian cultures think of circular time. Modern mathematics and physics has verified the linear view of time.

Our Judaic-Christian Civilization has developed an elaborate way of keeping up with the passage of time, and the necessity of planning for the future, through clocks and calendars. Our Old Testament counts the numbers of soldiers, and takes a census of the people. They counted their money and levied taxes. A book of the Old Testament is even named “Numbers;” and yet it took Three Wise Men, Astrologers from the East, perhaps Baghdad, to notice and follow a new star.

The great theological, and practical, value of numbers is that it helps us evaluate our spiritual growth. A familiar part of our Anglican/Methodist funeral ritual comes from Psalm 90: 12, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Realizing that our days are very short, by numbering them we can utilize them more wisely by taking advantage of every 24 hour period we are afforded. Doing this can not help but make us wiser, better read and more creative in our life’s work. Our concept of the ‘Christian Calling” is that of giving back to God the days that He has given to us. All of us are called to do just that. And the Good News is that God gives those days back to us, to manage them and use them for their most noble effort.

The only story that the four gospels record from Jesus’ childhood is this story in Luke about Jesus at the Temple. We have to remember that by age twelve Jesus was almost grown according to Jewish culture of the first century. He had spent his entire life immersed in Old Testament studies, which included Philosophy, theology law and what science they knew. As a good student it was not really that surprising that he chose to spend much of his independent time in Jerusalem at the Temple listening to the greatest teachers of his day. Jesus was intent on using his time as best he could. When his parents finally found him he was astonishing the teachers with his wisdom and comprehension. He was obviously a young man who was applying himself.

Basic to our understanding of religion and life is this notion of growth and development. Our Gospel reading for this first Sunday after Christmas notes that, “…Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.” (Luke 2: 52) The favored boy from the Old Testament, Samuel, also, “…continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.” (I Samuel 2: 26) Our model has been one of growth and increasing in all areas of life, and especially and increase in friends.

The thing that matters most in life is people, our family and friends. Lots of folks make the mistake of spending their lives chasing after wind and end up with little of value and vary few friends. All of us are living our lives one day at a time on a road through death to eternity. As we number our calendars for a New Year let us all take stock of the most precious thing, our friends and dear family members.

One of my pen friends died on December 6th while shoveling his way out of a snow storm near Boston. He was considered one of the world’s experts on writing instruments and their repair. I met him at our Atlanta Pen Shows and corresponded with him via E-mail and discussion groups. One of his favorite sayings, and his most noble contribution to the pen world was, “The important thing is not the pens, it’s the people!” Frank Dubiel had loads of friends who mourn his loss worldwide. “It’s the People!”

As I think about my inventory of friends, most are church friends in Carrollton, Atlanta, Rome, Stone Mountain, Augusta, Cobb County, the Carolinas and in Alabama. How precious is our church which is both the source of our spiritual growth, much of our continuing education and of most of our friends. Having led in hundreds of funerals I can tell you that most of the folks who will honor you in death are your fellow believers. Ours is a strong bond that binds us together forever in life and beyond.

Isn’t it a wondrous assurance to be a Christian at Christmas time, and as we number another New Year this Thursday? Relying on the Grace of God, and our Christian friends, we can make 2004 the best year ever!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
12/28/03, C1C