The Holy Gospel according to Luke, the second chapter.
Glory to you, O Lord.
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." 49 He 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.
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator, and our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Just a few days ago we heard the story of the birth of Jesus. We heard about the shepherds and the angels. We heard that Jesus’s mother, Mary, pondered these things in her heart. She must have wondered a lot about what it all meant.
The story we hear this week takes place twelve years later. Jesus and his family have traveled to the big city of Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. They probably made this trip in a crowd with their family and neighbors. People traveled in large groups so that they would stay safe on the road and so they could help each other. It was a long walk from Nazareth to Jerusalem. They would walk for a week to get there, stay a week for the celebration, and walk for a week to get home.
They probably stayed with relatives while they were in Jerusalem. Extended family was important. People often looked after each other’s children. We know Jesus had brothers and sisters who were younger than he was. Mary and Joseph would have had their hands full with the little ones.
Since Jesus was the oldest, maybe they thought they didn’t have to worry about him. After all, in those days, 12 was practically a grown-up. Twelve was the age when Jewish boys made their Bar Mitzvah, a kind of Jewish confirmation, where they were considered to be a man, not a child anymore.
It is hard for us to understand, though. How could they leave town and head home without Jesus? I can’t tell you how upset my parents would be if they couldn’t find me for three days. And if they found out I just decided not to go back with them because I was talking to interesting people, well, I don’t want to think about how much trouble I would be in.
I wonder if things had been ordinary in their lives for so long that Mary and Joseph hadn’t been thinking about who their son really was? It had been a long time since the shepherds and the angels and the prophecies of Simeon and Anna. Had their memories been fading? Did it seem like it was all a dream? Had Mary’s life become so busy that she stopped pondering these things in her heart?
Or did Mary and Joseph just have trouble seeing that their son was growing up? It seems like all parents look at their children and see them as babies sometimes. Maybe Mary and Joseph just wanted to keep Jesus close to them as long as they could. Maybe they just wanted to keep him young as long as they could.
But Jesus does grow up. His priorities change. Now he is putting the will of God ahead of the will of his human parents. Mary asked Jesus, “Why have you treated us like this?”
We in the church ask God the same thing when we get anxious and when things happen in life that we were not expecting. “Why have you treated us like this, God?”
Jesus asks Mary, “Why were you searching for me?” We are like Mary. We also aren’t always ready to accept that Jesus did not come to fulfill our wishes. We don’t find Jesus when we go around looking for the way things used to be. We don’t find Jesus when we keep focusing on the way we wish things were.
Jesus was born and lived and died and rose again to be about God’s business. He puts an end to our searching. We don’t have to look for Jesus. He finds us. He shows us the way to God.
The scary part in this story is that Mary and Joseph searched for three whole days. They found Jesus alive and well on the third day. Luke, our gospel writer, knows that when we hear “three days” we will automatically think about the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The good news for us this Sunday after Christmas is that we don’t need to search for Jesus. Mary and Joseph find Jesus alive and well in a place they didn’t expect. Even when our lives end up in a place we don’t expect, Jesus will always be there with us.
And, no matter how old we are, as we respond to God’s love, we will all grow in wisdom, just as Jesus did.
May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.