My oh my, do little kids change fast. This Sunday Jesus is twelve years old. It seems like only a week ago he was a babe in Mary’s arms.
Wait a minute. That really was just a week ago.
The lectionary has jumped ahead a bit.
There are a couple other passages concerning Christ’s infancy in Luke. But you’ll hear those Tuesday, on January 1 when your church holds that special service celebrating the Holy Name of Jesus, and on Saturday February 2 when you all gather to celebrate the Presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple.
What? Your congregation doesn’t celebrate either of those Holy Days? Shocking.
Let’s just say the Protestants didn’t push for too much adaptation of the Catholic lectionary cycle when they developed the RCL.
It is a very interesting passage though. As the only recorded scene of Jesus’ life between infancy and adulthood Luke 2:41-52 is a treasure.
It is also pretty hilarious when you think about it.
The Holy Family had travelled to Jerusalem for Passover, keeping to the rich practice of their Jewish faith. They did it every year, apparently with a large contingent of extended family and friends. It must have been a combination of religious holiday, pilgrimage, and group vacation.
Parents of the Year (Not)
Then it all went terribly, terribly wrong.
If Mary and Joseph hadn’t actually heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, they certainly acted like it was true. They headed back toward their home town, trusting that Jesus was safe the care of — well, someone. No worries.
Then after traveling a whole day, they noticed Jesus wasn’t actually with them (Luke 2:44).
My kids haven’t quite reached the pre-teen stage, but they make enough of a splash most of the time that their absence would be noticeable.
The text is silent as to their conversation when Mary and Joseph realized they’d lost the Son of God. There might have been some… unguarded words.
They asked around. No Jesus.
They headed back to Jerusalem — a second whole day (Luke 2:45).
After they went to the police and filed a Missing Savior report, they searched.
And they searched.
And they searched.
For three days they searched (Luke 2:46).
Imagine their anguish. They would have put his picture on milk cartons, but milk cartons hadn’t been invented yet.
Maybe you’ve wondered why Jesus was born at that very particular time and place. Consider: if he’d been born here and now he might been snatched up by Child Protective Services and spent his teen years in foster care.
Finally Mary says to Joseph:
Oh Joseph I’m so afraid. What if we never find him?
He thinks a minute.
I think we’d better go to the Temple and pray,
But I’m so ashamed! How can I tell his Father I lost Jesus?
Honey, it isn’t like He doesn’t know.
So off they go, their thoughts a scramble of despair and hope.
Surely God won’t let something awful happen to Jesus.
But then being abandoned by your parents in a strange city for five days is pretty traumatic in itself.
Lost and Found and Lost
When they got inside they saw a little cluster of people sitting and talking. Grown men, some older, some younger — the teachers of God’s law.
As they came closer they could hear a familiar voice — Jesus.
There he was in the middle of the group, his face shining with joy and intelligence as he discussed and debated with the men.
said Mary, and Jesus looked up.
He waved and smiled — and then he went back to his conversation.
Then someone — was it Mary? or Joseph? — walked into the middle of things, and pulled the boy away. Witnesses disagreed as to whether they took him by the elbow or by the ear.
Then Mary, crying, laughing, and completely exasperated, spoke to her son:
Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” (Luke 2:48 NRSV)
At least that was the official version. It sounds pretty tame to me, speaking as a parent.
Jesus didn’t get it:
Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49 NRSV)
Kind of saucy, don’t you think?
Sometimes the simple truth does sound that way.
She knew then that she’d lost him. They spend most of a week searching for a missing boy, and instead they found a young man.
He still had a lot of growing to do. Thankfully he was a good kid — a good man. Overall he was an obedient son. Everybody liked who he was becoming. Everybody:
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.” (Luke 2:52 NRSV)
But Mary had a lot to think about, deep in her heart (Luke 2:51). Raising a child is always about letting go, watching while part of your soul moves away and into the world.
But did it have to be so painful?
I’d love to send you all my Monday Meditations (along with my other new articles and announcements). Scroll down to the black box with the orange button and subscribe to my weekly(ish) newsletter and they’ll be in your inbox.