Summary: Christmas 1: Mary and Joseph had settled into the normal routines of life. But when Jesus was 12 years old, they were reminded of Who Jesus was and what He came to do.
About 22 years ago we lived in Virginia Beach, VA. On one occasion, Sofi and I went to the mall with our, then, 2 young sons – one was 6 the other about 4 years of age. Sofi thought that I had the kids, and I thought that she had them. And before we knew it, we had become separated from our younger child. In a panic, we frantically started to look for him. We started running around the mall calling out his name. It was a horrible feeling.
Now, you may find this hard to believe, but on this occasion, being Dallas Cowboys fans paid off. Both of our boys were dressed in matching Dallas Cowboy jackets. As we were running around calling for our lost son, a lady heard our frantic yelling and looked at the Cowboy jacket that our older son was wearing and she said to us, “Hey, if you are looking for a little boy wearing a jacket just like that one, he’s over there around the corner.” And sure enough, there was our little tyke, crying even bigger crocodile tears than we were.
Our Gospel Lesson today relates a similar story. Mary and Joseph had been on their annual trip to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. After the festivities, they started the trip back to Nazareth. After a day’s journey, they looked for their 12-year old Son, Jesus, and found that He was not with the relatives and friends that made the trip with them. So they went back to Jerusalem and after three days of searching, they found 12-year-old Jesus in the Temple. Let’s read about it: [Read Gospel Lesson together here]
On this side of Christmas, things are slowly returning to normal. The baking and Christmas party scene is beginning to slow down. For Mary and Joseph, it had been 12 years since the first Christmas. Their lives had settled into the normal routines of living. In the lesson today we find them doing things that other Jewish families were doing – going to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.
For Mary and Joseph, being human, like we are, the amazing events of the first Christmas were likely fading just a bit into the background. It seems that no matter how intense the experience, time has a way of making it fade into the background. Jesus was, after all, a 12 year-old Jewish, boy getting ready to assume his place in the traditional Jewish faith community. The amazing things that happened 12 years ago, were now mostly memories. This was now likely the 11th or 12th time that Mary and Joseph had taken Jesus to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. And so celebrating Passover with Jesus was becoming a fairly routine event. But this time, things were different.
After returning to Jerusalem and searching for three days, Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the Temple. He wasn’t out playing hacky-sack or pinball with the other 12 year-olds. Jesus’ commitment and zeal for the things of God were already clearly evident. Indeed, the Old Testament had prophesied this about the Messiah, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (Psalm 69:9) Some 18 or so years later, the disciples will remember this prophecy as they watch Jesus clear the Temple of money changers. But even as a young boy, Jesus had that passion for Church.
Even as a young boy, the Lord is setting the example for us – demonstrating that even though He was without sin, He still knew that being in the Lord’s House was important. And if it was important for the Lord to be in Church, it must be critical for us who need to receive daily forgiveness from God.
Let’s look at the next thing that the Gospel Lesson relates. Mary and Joseph find Jesus not only in the Temple, but they find Him engaging the teachers. He was listening to them and asking them questions. The Gospel Lesson tells us that, “… All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:47) Now listen, I’ve met some mighty precocious young folks. We’ve got some here. But what was going on with Jesus and the Temple teachers was just a bit beyond that. The lesson is saying is that young Jesus was literally blowing away the Seminary professors of the time with his understanding of things theological. And it is certainly incredible that a 12 year-old was demonstrating the sort of depth and maturity that typically only comes with a life-time of study and reflection.
Let me ask this question: "If Jesus, Who because of his divinity had a full understanding of things theological, found it important to engage God’s Word seriously - Bible study, if you will - what does that mean to us?" The tremendous priority of engaging the Word for us is shown to us by the 12-year-old Christ.