God's Gift of Wisdom

Text: 1 Kings 3:4-15
Date: Christmas II + 1/3/16

On the eighth day after His birth, this little Babe so few days old was received as a member of the covenant of God through the rite of circumcision. Today is the tenth day. Especially in a secularized world that considers Christmas to be over on December 26, and as even our own Sunday lectionary propels us forward on this tenth day of Christmas to consider the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple, it is good for us to pause, to put on the brakes, to continue our celebration of Christmas in real time. I mean the glow has not yet faded, at least our trees are still up, and the lights are still there on Main Street in downtown Rochester at least through today.

Maybe one sees differently if not better as a grandfather than as a father the wonder of our newborn grandchildren. How quickly they focus their eyes on everything and on you. How soon the smiles, then crawling turns into first steps, then imitating words, then sentences, then play with blocks and toys and colors and sounds. Putting aside today the “terrible teens” Jesus was approaching in today’s Gospel, we focus on the issue of youthful growing, understanding and wisdom.

Jesus isn’t the only one in the youth group today for as the great King David’s son, Solomon, takes his place on the throne he says, “I am but a little child.” He was just out of his teen years, twenty years old when he said this. Still he was aware how inexperienced he was and his youthful lack of knowledge. Therefore, as the immediate continuation of the Messianic line of David, the Lord appeared to him with the invitation to ask anything he wanted from God. Solomon responded by first acknowledging God’s goodness to his father. But now, in a spirit of true and honest humility, he asks only for “an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil.” So God gave Solomon “a wise and discerning mind.” St. Luke acknowledges that our Lord “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man,” and that as a child He went to Nazareth with His parents “and was submissive to them.” Each of these, Jesus and His ancestor King Solomon, had a pretty good beginning. So today we continue to sing our Christmas lullaby knowing that wisdom is already beginning in the infant’s eyes and ears and touch.

Wisdom is the first of God’s gifts. Of God’s Law Moses commanded the people, saying, “See, I have taught you statutes and just decrees, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people’” (Dt 4:5-7).

The Hebrew word translated “wisdom” or “understanding” is defined more interestingly as “a hearing heart.” A hearing heart first of all listens, listens to the word and instruction of the Lord. A hearing heart implies a deeper hearing or understanding than with just the ears and the mind alone.

Wisdom is the first of God’s Christmas gifts to us. The first of the ancient “O Antiphons” is “O Sapientia.” “O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.” Or as our Advent hymn has it:

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who ord’rest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel! (LSB 357:2)

But not only was wisdom given to Solomon and to Jesus as they grew in God’s Word. This is God’s gift to us also, there, already, lying in the manger! For Jesus is God’s Word as St. John so clearly claims in his Gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:1, 14). Wisdom is the gift of God’s Word issuing forth in grace and truth.

By God’s gift to you of the wisdom of faith in Jesus, a hearing heart that listens to the Gospel, you increase in wisdom. The wisdom of the world is folly, for men seek life in the passing, temporary things of this world. And even if they try to find God they cannot, as St. Paul says, “since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21). And what do we preach? Not positive thinking, not put on a happy face, not methods and philosophies that falsely promise a happy, prosperous life. No, “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:23). And what is more foolish, what is weaker than a babe lying in a manger?

There is a reason so many today wish to ban nativity scenes in public places. It’s the same as when Herod tried to wipe out his new competition as “king of the Jews” by murdering all the baby boys in Bethlehem. It is fear; the fear that the message of the Christ just might be true. It is not, however, the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom.

That fear issues, as with Solomon and the twelve-year-old Jesus Himself, in humility and obedience unto repentance and faith, true, saving faith, “the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8). Faith is wisdom as it listens, continually listens to the Word of God, as Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8). Wisdom knows and sees what is really going on when we stand before the altar dedicated to God’s presence, when we confess our sins and receive holy absolution. Faith knows and sees what is really going on when we hear and pray God’s Word in lessons, psalms and sermon. It knows and sees what is really going on when we respond by singing hymns and confessing the faith and pray. It is the wisdom of faith alone that sees and knows what is really going on in the Eucharist, the Holy Communion.

So lift up your eyes and your hearts on this tenth day of Christmas in faith that listens, that hears, that knows, that confesses, that receives God’s gifts of wisdom, life and salvation in Jesus Christ. A word of wisdom for you today: Merry Christmas!