O Lord, we beseech Thee mercifully to receive the prayers of Thy people who call upon Thee; and grant that they may both perceive and know that things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever One God, world without end. Amen.
-- Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church
Today's Gospel reading (Lk 2.41-45) shows a young Jesus already willfully submitting himself to his 'Father's business.' Jesus' obedience is something we as adults struggle daily with--simply in its intentionality, to say nothing of its perfection. This sole account of Jesus' childhood couples well with the Epistle reading (Rom 12.1-5), which encourages and hopefully elicits a similar attitude from us:
Brothers and sisters, because of God’s compassion toward us, I encourage you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated to God and pleasing to him. This kind of worship is appropriate for you. Don’t become like the people of this world. Instead, change the way you think. Then you will always be able to determine what God really wants—what is good, pleasing, and perfect. (Rom 12.1-2, GW)
As a result of the mercy and compassion the Father first showed us in Christ Jesus, we are compelled and encouraged, not commanded, to yield our lives back to him. To us as recipients of God's great pity and compassion, we need not be sternly forced (as by the Law) to selflessly follow Christ. Instead, such a life flows willingly and spontaneously as a result of his life-changing grace (through the Gospel) lavished upon us.
But the Old Adam is alive and well. The struggle to do what we ought is an ongoing one. So we pray not only for God to reveal to us how we ought to offer ourselves as living sacrifices in our unique circumstances, we pray also for God's grace to live out this life of worship and gratitude.
May he be pleased to grant us discernment and mercy day-by-day. Amen.
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash