Sunday, January 3rd, 2021

The Gift of a Hearing Heart

Second Sunday after Christmas [b]                         January 3, 2021


1 Kings 3:4-15; Ephesians 1:3-14


Luke 2:40-52

40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. 41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.


In the Name of Jesus.


Who wants to be with us in all this mess? This mess people mad at each other, of everyone on edge, of one person yelling at another for not wearing a mask, while another argues that anyone wearing a mask has no backbone, of Facebook memes putting up statistics to shame one side or the other, this world of children not allowed in schools and businesses shut down, of nurses grueling days weeks on end—who would choose to be with us in this mess?


Jesus chooses. Luke 2:40:

The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.


The humanness of it, the earthiness. God didn’t just become man, as if it’s just some interesting addition to his divinity. He became man in the way of every human. He was a child. He had to have his diapers changed. His mother, we can imagine, had those conversations with aunts and grandmothers about what to feed the little boy to get him to sleep through the night.


There was, we might imagine, one of those rulers drawn on the wall by the door, to mark each inch he gained by the month and year.


“He grew and became strong”—that little verb “grew” glimpsing his humanness, the reality of his life as a boy of skin and bones and imagination and dreams, just like any one of us.



He wanted to be here in our mess. He knew the turmoil—in his day a turmoil of secret political movements doing violence and working to overthrow the governor; in the turmoil of pharisees roaming from synagogue to synagogue to run roughshod over peoples’ lives by controlling them with laws and rules and regulations, and of Sadducees collecting the Temple fees to support their opulent lives and to separate themselves from the regular families.


Jesus wanted to be with us in this mess. He knew of how we judge others, always ready to make the argument of what another is doing wrong; he knew of how we are on edge, of how we use words not to encourage and build-up and give gifts, but to control and even tear-down; he knew of our troubled consciences we try to placate by excusing ourselves or accusing others. He knew all of this and more.


And he wanted to be with us.


So he became a child, and as is given to a child, he grew and became strong and was filled with wisdom.


A wisdom not of knowing how to dice out all the philosophers and their arguments, nor of knowing the law in its depth so he could join the Pharisees in using it to control other peoples’ lives, but the wisdom of a child receiving good gifts from parents, the wisdom of hearing the words of life and encouragement, words of God, and hearing them with ears of faith.



That’s the wisdom Solomon had prayed for. When young Solomon became king, here is how he asked the Lord for the gift of wisdom;

O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

[1 Kings 3:9]


In the translation we heard this morning, Solomon asked the Lord for an “understanding mind.” But what Solomon actually said in the Hebrew, which is what he spoke, was, “Give to your servant, [O Lord,] a hearing heart.” [1 Kings 3:9] To which the Lord said,

“Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.”


Jesus, Luke tells us, came as a child, growing and becoming strong, and he increased in wisdom. [Luke 2:40]


The wisdom the child was given? The same wisdom given to Solomon: a hearing heart. Not the worldly wisdom of conquering a field of study or of being able to understand the philosophers, but the wisdom of a heart gladly hearing the words of the Lord, receiving them as pure gift—as a child receiving the gift of milk from mother.


Jesus was made complete in wisdom by hearing and receiving the words of his Father.


“The words that you hear [from me]”, said Jesus, are not my words, but [the words] of the Father who sent me.”

[John 14:24]


Jesus is given words from his Father, and he receives them with a hearing heart. That’s the wisdom of a child receiving gifts from a loving parent. Jesus speaks those words to us, and by those words implants in us a hearing heart, a heart of faith.


Because, the Old Adam, our sinful flesh, he doesn’t hear well. He hears only what he wants to hear.


But the Words of Jesus, the words he received from his Father and now speaks to us, these words put the old Adam of our sinful flesh to death daily in repentance, and they create in us the heart of faith, the heart hearing the Lord’s words for all they bestow. That hearing heart, open to receive every good gift from God, is the gift of wisdom.



The child grew and became strong, he increased in wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

[Luke 2:40]


Jesus wanted to be with us in this mess—this world of words spoken not to bestow gifts and speak grace, but to judge and keep score and cover in shame.


He wanted to be with us. It was his Father’s gift to him to be given the office to save us from our sin, the Father’s gift to him to place him here among us to do the holy work of making us holy.


So he became man. Like us in every way, but without sin. In all humanness and earthiness, he came as a child to grow as we grow and to become strong and to have a hearing heart to receive every word from his Father and thus increase in the wisdom of being given to.


He is with us now. He sends to us the Holy Spirit to bring to us all the words which the Father gave to him. He sends to us the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit gathers us to all the gifts of Jesus, the Holy Spirit who is to be known to us as holy because that is his work—he makes us holy.


Jesus is with us now as he sends the Holy Spirit to keep us in all the gifts of the Word. In that Word, Jesus is with us now.


We hear his Word with the gift of hearing hearts. By that Word,

we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavishes upon us in all wisdom.

[Ephesians 1:8]


In the Name of Jesus.