Who was lost: Jesus or Mary and Joseph? Where are you with Jesus as this new year begins?
Now Christmas day is over and the baby has been born, and the New Year is about to begin, we turn away from the great expectation we had and turn towards what this amazing birth means for us. We move from the tiny infant in the Manger and grow towards the God Man who was radical, outspoken and so revolutionary that he was killed for it….
I wonder, have you ever lost a child? I mean, in a shop, or a park or something like that? You hear stories about new mums so unused to having someone else to remember that they forget to take the baby home after shopping. Well I guess the baby has just spent nine months inside and didn’t need remembering. It was so much part of the mother that she didn’t need to think about carrying her child. It was just there. Then suddenly the child is born, and anyone who has had children will know that is when the hard work really begins. The expectation is over, the dream becomes a reality and it’s not so easy.
I can’t remember ever having lost a child, and I’m sure I would, if I had because I can imagine the panic I would feel. And if I’d lost a child for three days I think I would be now beyond panic and probably have just passed out completely. Can you imagine the police and newspaper furore of a child missing for three days and the parents hadn’t even noticed.
But I don’t suppose we can blame Mary and Joseph completely. Joseph, sorry Jesus was 12, and by now they had other smaller children to look after. They were travelling together with all their friends and family and they thought him safe. And then, after three days of searching, the cocky pre-teen looks up with that mixture of utter calm and confusion and says: ‘didn’t you realise I’d be here’ as if it was his parents who were acting a little dim. I don’t know whether I would have laughed, or cried or carried out some dreadful act of child beating. He would certainly have been ‘grounded’ for some time.
But I wonder if you have ever lost Jesus?
I lose Jesus when I think I can do it all myself and get so bogged down in organising, planning and actioning that I forget why I am doing and and what I am in the first place. I lose Jesus when I am too busy to consider him. I lose him when I have to deal with difficult people or difficult situations and wonder why people can be so cruel sometimes - especially if they call themselves Christians. It’s easy to lose Jesus: especially in today’s world.
On Christmas day Israel decided to bomb Damascus. No provocation, the just did it killing several innocent people who should have been able to celebrate the Lord’s day in peace. On Christmas day people in Indonesia continued to hunt for lost family members left behind by the tsunami On Christmas day 27 migrants seeking asylum tried to cross the English Channel hoping and praying for a better life for themselves and their families.
It’s easy to lose Jesus in the face of such horror.
Mary and Joseph were looking in the wrong place. They were travelling away from the Temple. Jesus had never left the Temple. They were travelling away from God. Jesus was not lost. Why are you searching for me? he said ‘did you not know I would be in my Father’s house (Luke 1.49). Jesus was now a man, developing his relationship with God in God’s house. Mary and Jesus thought that Jesus was lost and searched for him. They were still looking for a child instead of a man. They looked only among friends and family: those they felt comfortable with. They were looking in the wrong places. They were surprised to find Jesus in the Temple.
Are we looking for God in the wrong places? Maybe you are still looking for the Jesus of your childhood. When you pray do you think of Jesus as adult, or still as that baby? Or maybe we don’t pray to that baby any longer. As a child I imagine you were taught to pray by your parents saying this prayer:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
The Angels watch me through the night
until I wake me with the morning light.
Do you remember that prayer? Maybe you have taught it to your children. It’s a great prayer for little people But hopefully by now we have changed the way we pray. The Lord’s prayer is a very different prayer from our prayers as a child.
The Lord’s prayer shows spiritual maturity. When we pray the Lord’s prayer we are putting God first. We pray for God’s will not ours. We pray for bread - not just for us but for others. We pray for forgiveness - not just for ourselves but for others. We pray to God for the ability to be like God so that we can be forgiving of others. The Lord’s prayer takes us on a spiritual journey with God, forming us and making us to be mature disciples of Christ.
If we still look for the Jesus or the church of our childhood we might very well have lost him. He doesn’t stay the same child. He grows up.
Mary and Joseph were missing Jesus because they were searching only among the ones the knew and loved. They were moving from the Temple - instead of towards it. They were travelling away from God. So what about us? On our journey as a fellowship of Christ as a Benefice together. Are we travelling toward God or away.
Seeing and hearing God
As our faith grows and matures our ability to see God and to hear God grows. Over the coming year we have been asked by the Benefice to look again at our BMAP - Benefice Mission Action Plan’ to consider what we as a church in our communities are doing to bring the Kingdom into this place. We will consider what we are doing and why we are doing them. We will look to see what we do well and what we could do better and what we perhaps shouldn’t be doing at all. I don’t want us to think about more things we should do necessarily, but why we are doing what we do already. Are we following Christ or have we lost him? Do we have a purpose and a goal or have we become lost in routine? Are we only loving those who belong or are we searching for God among the lost and forsaken too.
So what of the stories we heard at the beginning? Where was God in those stories?
Well God was there: he was with those paramedics those doctors and nurses who showed up on their Christmas day to minister to others to those left behind, to show compassion to the dead,
God was on the ship SEAWATCH which picked up 344 migrant / refugees from the Mediterranean Sea on Christmas Day and will not let them go until she finds a safe place for them to seek asylum. God is in millions and millions of people who give up their time, money, energy and sometimes risk their lives to help others.
God is in you and in me if we love him and our neighbour as he asks.
Finally consider this. Mary and Joseph thought Jesus was lost. But he wasn’t: he was right where he was supposed to be. They were the ones who needed to turn around. They were the ones who needed to redirect their journey. They were the ones who needed to search for Jesus not because he was lost but because they were lost without him.
All of us would be lost without Jesus. Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ is the most important journey of our lives here on earth. It’s our journey towards God. This is the spiritual journey and it starts in the church with our Baptism.
So this morning and this new year, I invite us all to consider where we are on that journey. Maybe just starting out. Maybe you haven’t even really started yet, maybe you’ve been journeying with Jesus for years. But the good news is that Jesus is right where he’s supposed to be: here just waiting for you and for me to find him.