Reading for First Sunday after Christmas: Luke 2:41-52
Peace be with you!
Being a parent is tough. My friends tell me that at times, it can be overwhelming, especially for new parents. There is no handbook detailing what to do in each and every situation. As parents, you do your
best to teach your children not to talk to strangers and to come home at a given time. Yet the worst-case scenario occasionally happens: children go missing, Amber Alerts go out, and frightened parents wait for news. Sometimes the worst-case scenario is an unforeseen event like a mass shooting or a potential threat, causing chaos where order and procedures are kept and for a time you do not know what is happening or if your children are safe. As parents, you try your best to protect your children and to prevent the worst-case scenarios.
As a child (older or younger), have you ever tried to explain something to your parents and find them missing the point? You try to explain why you chose to be [whatever “it” is you decided to do with your life] over [whatever “it” is they thought you should do], and they still call you foolish. Or maybe you chose a field your parents know little or nothing about, so when you tell them about your work, your words fall on deaf ears; the language you speak every day is a foreign language to them. Or maybe your parent are extremely proud of you and brag about you because you have more education than they ever dreamed of and you are doing important work, but they still do not understand completely what you do or why you do it. Or maybe you are just trying to teach them how to use their cellphone and/or tablet, and they just give you blank stares.
Mary and Joseph are good Jewish parents. Each year Mary and Joseph take Jesus to Jerusalem for the Passover (Luke 2:41-42) and teach him the Torah. Since Jerusalem is central to the Jewish traditions—the temple is there and is where God dwells, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to Jerusalem every year.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph travel as a community with their friends and family members to and from Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph leave Jerusalem with the group and are heading home when they realize Jesus is not with the group as they had assumed (Luke 2:43-44a). With haste, Mary and Joseph search desperately among their friends and family members for Jesus, and when he is nowhere to be found, they turn around for Jerusalem (Luke 2:44b-45). I am sure any parent can relate to Mary and Joseph’s panic. As parents, it is your job to keep track of your children, to protect them, to feed and clothe them, and so much more. It is a tough job. If that is not enough pressure, Mary and Joseph just happen to be raising God’s only begotten son. So when Jesus goes missing, it is a big deal.
Mary and Joseph rush back to Jerusalem as if their lives depend on it. I mean what would God do to them
for losing his son? Or is he laughing because they think Jesus is missing?
For three days, Mary and Joseph panic about their missing son as they travel back. The worst-case scenario is happening, despite Mary and Joseph’s best attempts to keep it from happening.
Mary and Joseph get to the temple in Jerusalem and see Jesus listening to the teachers and asking them questions (Luke 2:46). Mary, like any mother in her situation, is beside herself. She has been traveling for three days in sheer panic, and he turns out to be fine. And when she asks why he stayed behind, Jesus answers, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know I that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). As the child, Jesus says, “Mom, you are missing the point. I am where I am supposed to be.”
Mary and Jesus have different definitions of what it means to be missing. For Mary, Jesus was missing because he was not physically where she thought he should be—among their friends and family going back to Nazareth. He was not with the group, so he was missing. For Jesus, Mary and Joseph are missing the point: he was where he was supposed to be—in the temple where his heavenly Father dwells. Mary and Joseph do not understand that their family now includes the heavenly Father who calls Jesus as his own.
Jesus is true to his calling, even at a young age. He understands his place in the world is with God the Father, the one true Lord. According to the Gospel of Luke, the temple is where God dwells and is where you go to be with him. So if Jesus wants to spend time with his heavenly Father, he has go to the temple. Mary did not understand the significance of Jesus’s question back to her. Mary and Joseph forget Jesus is God’s answer to our prayers to rescue us from the darkness of the world. Jesus has a difficult and stressful job ahead of him, so he goes to the temple early and often to gain clarity and understanding concerning something far bigger than what Mary and Joseph could imagine.
We often forget that children are also called to serve the Lord. We think children are too young to serve an important role in the Church and the world. Yet, it is the children who beg a visiting friend or family member to come see them in the Christmas pageant at church. It is the children who run to altar to be blessed during Communion. It is the children who go forward for children’s sermons to hear the good news. It is the children who remind us to pray before meals. We, adults, have a lot to learn. Where does our excitement go? Are we too conservative? Are we too polite? Are we too afraid of what others think? Are we too self-conscious? Are we missing our callings? Are we missing the point of the Christmas story?
God calls each one of us differently to tell the good news of Jesus Christ. Our ministries may look different and have different goals, but they all point to the same thing: the forgiveness and grace of Jesus. Maybe we should start answering our calls as Jesus does and stop worrying what others think. You may not understand the grand scheme of the objective, but that will be worked out in the end. Be eager, like Jesus, to serve God the Father.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for giving us what is missing in our lives. Call upon us to do your work in the world—to shine the light in the darkness. Help us to come to answer our call to spread the good news of Jesus Christ with eagerness and without fear. Remind us that what is missing is not always lost—it just may not be where we expect it to be. Thank you for calling us to spread the good news. Amen.