Summary: Being a teenager is not easy. Parents and family are important. Lord help us to grow in your timing.

“The Tween Age Jesus”

“Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they attend the festival as usual.” Luke 2:41-42 NLT

Intro: Being a teenager is not easy. The struggle starts way too early in the morning as you have to wake up every weekday for school. There is always someone you can’t wait to see and someone you can’t stand to see. Then there is that homework that is due or the quiz or test. School food is awful and the bathrooms disgusting.

Then there are all the rules: no standing in the hall, take those headphones off. Put your phone away. Also the other rules: These rules are unwritten but they determine your social status as either a freak, a weirdo, an outcast or a popular person that everyone wants to hang around with.

This hierarchy of public rank can be dramatically changed by almost anything from simply tripping over your shoestrings in the cafeteria and spilling food all over the place to giving the correct answer to a question that the teacher asks. Not to mention the whole lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender confusion. Can I get an e-cig? Does anyone know where the is party? Does anyone have some crank, some spice, a pipe, a pill of any kind? If you are a teenager and manage to avoid the illegal stuff there is enough prescription drugs being prescribed for depression, the cramps, birth control and steroids to mess anyone up. “Oh, my head hurts, I am too fat, I am too skinny, I am moody, I am angry, my hormones are raging, I am depressed.” Being a teenager, or a twelve, eleven, or ten year old is very complex and difficult.

I recall my own teenage years. I can still remember the first time I drove my car to town by myself. It is as clear a memory as any I have. I can also clearly remember some things about my teenage years I had rather forget.

Have you ever wondered what Jesus was like as a teenager? Well all of that is missing in the bible. The closest we have is the story of when Jesus was twelve years old. Today we would call that “tween age.” A “tweenager” is age 10-12 and is described as the age of being “in between” ages. No yet turned a teenager. But just old enough to begin going through adolescence and puberty.

The title of today’s sermon is “The Tween Age Jesus.”

“Every year Jesus’ parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover.” Luke 2:41

What does family mean to you?

As a young girl Alana Levinson struggled with the shame of her father’s substance abuse. She writes, “My father totaled the family car during a drinking binge, took all the money out of the bank accounts, showed up at my mother’s office begging for money to buy drugs, and tried to pick us up at school without permission.”

Over 8.3 million children, nearly 12 percent of all children in the United States, live with an addict. Unemployment and poverty create social barriers. Parents and children have a delicate task to explain and understand that the modern family may now have “two mommies” or “two daddies” with the legalization of gay marriages. Gender identity is often confusing among children and youth. The concept of traditional family is being redefined.

Several years ago I worked part-time for a children’s home transcribing therapist notes to hard copy. So I had some insight into both the thoughts of the clinician and the individual. It did not matter whether there was abuse, abandonment, neglect or a stable environment. One common theme was that no matter what the background of the parent child relationship there is always a longing for the child to know their parents and to have family connection and bond. Methodist or Baptist, Christian, or Atheist, clergy or laity, immersed or sprinkled, Republican or Democrat, male or female, straight or gay, a saint or a sinner all of these labels and divisions are set aside when it comes to the love between a child and their parent.

Family is important. For good or bad the strongest influence on a child’s life is their parent.

The word family occurs only one time in the New Testament Strong’s 3965 patria (feminine) for whole human race. Ephesians 3:14-15 “For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” This family includes past, present and future people who believe in God as the source of creation. The church is the family of God. There is only one way to get into God’s family. It’s called being born again. It is something God does for you. It is what happens when you believe that God is who the bible says God is and you decide to turn your lifestyle into the Christian way of life. We turn to a God who loves and cares for us and a Jesus who is our Saviour. That happens suddenly when we realize we are experiencing Jesus in our life. But then it continues gradually as we actively gain knowledge and familiarity of what faith is. God does both for us. God give us new birth and God continues with us as we grow in our family relationship with Him. You become a child in the family of God. This means the church is not something you go to. The church is something you belong to.

In the Old Testament the word family is used to identify the tribe or patriarchal linage.

You may have grown up in a very dysfunctional family. Your parents could be divorced, in jail, or deceased. The thread the makes you part of who you are is the relationship you have with your parents. It is a human instinct that I believe God has created in us. Not only to make us better individuals but also to make us better parents ourselves if and when that day should ever come. I am convinced that Joseph and Mary were a priceless benefit to the boy Jesus.

The bible story of Jesus staying behind at the temple while his father and mother traveled toward home gives us a glimpse of why parents get so upset sometimes. I can just hear Jesus now… “Mom, I was at the temple, why are you and dad so upset? You have to admit that is pretty good excuse. I have been at the church for the past three days.”

The next time your parents get upset at you because you are late or not where you are supposed to be. Know they are upset because they care about you. They care about you. Their frustration, their anger is the way they express that love and care. I want to talk to the parents for just a minute. Parents you may need to work on how you show and express yourself. Love needs to be expressed through other ways than just anger.

Kids, get ready. One of the newest parenting tools today is “technology grounding.” That means that mom and dad take away your access to computer, cell phone, internet, Ipad, for 24-48 hours. “Technology grounding.” It might make you upset with your parents at first, but learn that they are trying to protect and care for you. Maybe the next time you start to get in a car with a friend and go across town you will use that technology device and call your parents to talk with them about it. The next time you are going to be late just send a text message. Practice ran longer than usual. The checkout line was backed up longer than normal. Even, we got carried away and lost track of time is a better response than not calling or texting at all.

“When Jesus was twelve years old, they went up as they always did for the Feast. When it was over and they left for home, the child Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents didn’t know it.” Luke 2:42-43 It would have been customary for people to have traveled to and from the Feast of the Passover in groups for safety and defense from robbers along the Palestine roads. At age of 12 the tween age Jesus would have been at that in awkward in between age where he could have gone either way with the women and children or walked with the men in the caravan. So it is understandable that Joseph and Mary both thought that Jesus was with the other parent in the other group. But when the caravan left Jerusalem, Jesus stayed behind. I think it is important to note here that Jesus was not “left behind” the bible says clearly, Jesus stayed behind. Luke 2:43. It was a conscious choice by Jesus. Some of the smartest teachers and rabbis would have been at the Temple courts. At the Passover there would have been a lot of discussion about coming Messiah because the priests were expecting the Messiah to come soon.

“Thinking Jesus was somewhere in the company of pilgrims, Joseph and Mary journeyed for a whole day and then began looking for him among relatives and neighbors. When they didn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem looking for him. The next day they found him in the Temple seated among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.” Luke 2:44-46 Message

Here is a 12 year old joining in a discussion with religious leaders at the temple in Jerusalem. The poor Nazarite boy is sitting and talking with some of the greatest minds and teachers of the law. The teachers were all quite taken with him, impressed with the sharpness of his answers. But his parents were not impressed; they were upset and hurt. His mother said, “Young man, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been half out of our minds looking for you.”He said, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be here, dealing with the things of my Father?” But they had no idea what he was talking about. Luke 2:41-49 Message

From Ruth Graham’s column “Safe Place: Being Authentic in an Inauthentic World,” on Beliefnet. Billy Graham’s daughter Ruth knew what it was like to put on a fake smile. The third of Billy and Ruth Bell Graham’s five kids remembers having to pretend nothing was wrong – even when her world was falling apart.

All preachers’ kids endure that. All families experience this to the degree they are known in a community. A kid stepping out of line can result in community gossip or even a front page headline in the News. The more known you are the more celebrity you become the more public your life is.

In the 1990 Ruth’s world fell apart when her marriage of 18 years ended in divorce. Then just a few months after the divorce, she remarried “on the rebound” but knew within 24 hours knew that she had made a terrible mistake. Her life was in shambles. She loaded up everything she had and sought refuge with her parents. Ruth remembers, “I thought, ‘What are they going to say to me?’ As I rounded the last bend in my father’s driveway, Daddy was waiting for me. He wrapped his arms around me and said, ‘Welcome home.’”

What followed was a time of personal, emotional and spiritual crisis. She admits, “I decided I was tired of doing it God’s way. But that just made things worse.” Ruth Graham recalls “I had thought I was doing everything perfectly. I was a good wife. I was a wonderful mother. I was active in the church and I was teaching Bible studies. So, why didn’t God take care of me?”

Her children suffered, too. One daughter developed an eating disorder. Her son entered a drug abuse rehab program. Another daughter gave birth to two babies out of wedlock while still in her mid-teens.

Ruth felt abandoned by God. “It was really a crisis of faith. How come the Lord didn’t intervene?” Why didn’t God protect her – keep her from having to go through the fire? The answer is simple, she knows now: “He had something to teach me about the difficulties of life: to show me that none of us are exempt, that we all have hardships. We all have things that happen to us that we don’t ask for, but we have to endure. “And it’s OK. I didn’t like having to go through that – none of us do.”

God gives us grace. God is a covenant-keeping God. He is faithful even when we are not. We have an audience of One. As long as God is happy with you, then that’s OK. You can’t please everyone else all the time. There’s always somebody who doesn’t think you measure up. Ruth Graham wanted us to learn: transparency, authenticity, honesty. “We feel we have to put on our masks and say ‘Everything’s OK and I’ve got it all together and I’m doing just great.’ “But, people aren’t doing just great. They aren’t OK and they don’t have it all together. “So, we hide it. We don’t feel we can be honest. We can’t take off that mask and be real. We fear that if we do, we’ll become targets — marginalized, criticized, victimized.” “I finally decided that I was going to admit that I don’t have it all together – but God does.

Being a teenager is very difficult. Growing up is not easy. Living with our mistakes and the consequences of our choices can be embarrassing, awkward, uncomfortable. The parents get upset and are hurt. They have worried about Jesus for two days. Because they care about him. Your parents are very valuable to you. They love you. They support you. For the most part they have good advice and help you. Think about all the things your parents do for you. So he went back to Nazareth with them, and lived obediently with them. His mother held these things dearly, deep within herself. And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people.” Luke 2:50-52 The Message Version

Closing: Lord thank you for watching over us during our tweenage years, during our growing moments in life. Everything happen in God’s timing. Lord help me to grow in your timing. When my life seems difficult, when things get unbearable, when it looks like things can’t get any worse, when I hit rock bottom Lord I know you will be there. Lord I commit myself to your keeping into your good hands. Amen.