"When parents of Jesus found 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.' He said to them, 'Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?' But they did not understand what he said to them."
Mary and Joseph prove, once again, that you will always find what you are searching for in the last place you look.
Why did it take them three days to find young Jesus in Jerusalem? Why didn't they just make a bee-line for the temple right off the bat? After all, this was the child about whom the angels sang. This was the child hailed by certain poor shepherds and by foreign royalty as the newborn king prompting the sitting King (Herod) to acts of horror to eliminate the competition. Maybe twelve anxious years of parenting from son up to son down caused those Christmas carol-worthy moments to fade.
Or maybe the temple was the last place they thought to look because Jesus was twelve at the time and twelve-year-old boys are not known for unanticipated, unscheduled visits to church. Nevertheless, Joseph and Mary were "seeking" Jesus, which put his parents in the same position as the rest of us. Jesus' astonishment at their astonishment when he is "found" begs the question of whether or not Jesus was the one who was lost.
You know the old joke: A woman returns home from a church revival one evening exclaiming that she had "found Jesus!" "Found Jesus?!" said her husband. "I didn't know he was lost!" Or, as a man in my congregation likes to say, "If I'm feeling far from God, guess who moved."
Even at twelve years old, Jesus was clear about his purpose. His purpose was not to be found. His purpose was to "seek and save the lost" (Luke 19:10). That, after all, is the work of his [heavenly] parent and Jesus appears to know, as God's son, that he will inherit the family business.
How many of our churches are in the business of going out into the world, seeking and saving the lost? How many of our churches, by contrast, prefer to stay put, waiting to be discovered by the lost? If these questions make us uncomfortable or anxious, perhaps we have yet to know the joy of being fully found ourselves.
Lord, may I be caught up in the searching, sweeping, seeking grace of Jesus and be about his work for the glory and joy of your kingdom. Amen.
Order Spring Cleaning: 2013 Lent Devotionals - new from the Stillspeaking Writers' Group and other favorite UCC writers. Lent starts Feb. 13.