December 30, 2012
41 Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43 When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44 Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day's journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search 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 When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety." 49He said to them, "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" 50 But they did not understand what he said to them.51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
It seems like just yesterday Jesus was a baby, doesn't it? If not yesterday, maybe five days ago. Yes, it's true. We hear the story of Jesus being born in a stable...and then the very next story we hear about Jesus he is a precocious 12-year-old boy. Let's just say that Mary and Joseph weren't exactly the scrap-booking type. We don't have a recorded, play-by-play of Jesus' childhood. What we have is this story.
So, every single year...Mary and Joseph make their way to Jerusalem for the festival of Passover. It's a huge party. EVERYone is there. Think State Fair. Or 4th of July. Or Christmas at Grandma's. The aunts and uncles and cousins are there. Even the weird ones. Even the ones who slip in an off-color joke around the dinner table. Everyone. It takes a few days to get to Jerusalem...then there is the multiple day party and celebration.
Finally, worn out—tired of crowds—out of discretionary funds---Mary and Joseph and Jesus and the aunties and uncles and cousins and good family friends all begin the journey home. They travel as a pack. Share food. Make the same stops at the gas station for provisions.
After a long day of traveling, Mary and Joseph realize that they haven't seen Jesus in a while. Like, hmmm...all day. At first, they think, “Oh, likely he's with cousin Martin playing Xbox. Or learning how to play Canasta from Grandma.”
But after they check around—and ask every single person in their group if they have seen Jesus--the terrible and immediate panic sets in. The panic that every person ever to be in the position of responsibility for a child knows all too well...they lost the Christ-child.
Now, I am guessing your minds wander from “Yeah, I can see how that could happen” to “Why would God entrust Jesus to these hack jobs? Did God even do a background check on Mary and Joseph?”
Our family (the Houge's) spent the last five days in West Fargo with the Bjornstad clan. There were uncles and cousins to go around. Yesterday, we all decided to spend an hour at Scheel's. Scheel's is a big sporting goods store. And by big, I mean...BIG. There is a working Ferris wheel which all the kids lined up to try. There is a taxidermied (?) lion and a bear on the second floor.
9th grade Anna took Elsa and went off to explore. Lydia went off on her own to look at skateboards. Another pack of cousins went off together. Grandma provided endless tokens for the Ferris wheel. Aunt Theresa had a her three kids plus cousin Jack in the shoe department. Nate and I don't really worry about anyone because we have three generations all traveling together—taking care of one another.
Given this context, it's not so hard to imagine how the Mary and Joseph and Lost Jesus story might happen. It doesn't feel like THAT big of stretch that it might take an entire day of traveling to realize that Jesus isn't among them. He's 12, for goodness sake. And let's be honest, by this point in their travels...you know those parents are good and sick of their kids and the kids are good and sick of their parents. Everyone wants a little distance.
Now that they are sure they left Jesus behind (oooh, the irony), Mary and Joseph make their way back to Jerusalem. And look and look and look until they finally find Jesus in the temple. With tempers flying and a tremendous release of anxieties...Mary and Joseph lay into him.
“WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU THINKING, CHILD?” (Fill in the rest using your imagination)
And Jesus, just a tiny bit lippy responds: “Why would you look anywhere but here? Of course I would be here in the temple...in my Father's house.”
Mary and Joseph find Jesus alive and well after three days in a place they didn’t expect. Sounds like Easter to me. Yes, this Gospel of Luke is hinting at Jesus' death and resurrection. (Craig Satterlee, Workingpreacher.org) “Jesus, dead and buried, is raised on the third day, and there is a new temple, Christ’s resurrected body. Our searching will come to an end in new life, meaningful life, the life God intends, but not the life we expect.”
But that’s Easter. Let's set that aside for a few months. For now Jesus returns to Nazareth. Can you imagine what Mary, Joseph and Jesus talked about on the walk home? (I'm guessing there was a LOT of brooding silence).
Eventually, Jesus disappears back into the fabric of his hometown. For twenty years, Jesus lived in podunk—in a small town, in the company of ordinary people, just like us. (Far removed from Jerusalem—the center of politics and religion). Jesus is raised by normal people.
Here Jesus continues to grow “in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.” The good news is that this description of Jesus is the description of every child of God, no matter what our age. That description includes you. It is in the company of Nick and Julia (and all these grandparents and friends) that baby Anita grows. Anita's baptism reminds us all that we grow as we respond to God's love. In Christ we can expect nothing else. The grace is that we actually don't have to go looking. God comes to us and marks us with the cross of Christ forever. ForEVER.
So that even when we are precocious, lippy twelve-year-old’s begging for independence, we are never ever out of the reach of God's love. There is nothing that Anita can ever do, say or think—there is no amount of doubt—that will separate her from the love of Christ. That same promise holds true for all of us. Amen.