Christmas II: Luke 2; 1/3021
I wonder if you ever were separated from your parents when you were young, or perhaps lost track of where your young child. Then it would be easy to identify with the anxiety of Mary and Joseph when they couldn’t find Jesus—especially in the big city of Jerusalem when it was time to leave for home.
How could something like this happen? Men, women and children all worshipped in separate places in the temple. After worship, each group gathers together in their own group for a meal.
There was a separate group for educated teachers to gather and during the meal, discuss and sometimes argue to the point of quarreling, about the Torah and spiritual practices.
Showing great interest, Jesus was invited at age 12, as a new young adult to join in the meal and to listen to the teaching and discussion. The story indicates that Jesus also was involved in the discussion and teaching.
Joseph and Mary expected Jesus to be with his peers and when discovering he did not return with the group to the caravan to return home, with great angst returned to Jerusalem, searching all over until they found him at the temple.
I remember a decade or so ago how during the late news, the announcer would say, “It’s time for the evening news. Do you know where your children are?” In this case, Mary and Joseph did not know where Jesus was. They also were not aware of where his mind, heart and intentions were at the time which led him to leave his peer group and to seek God.
Jesus’ seeking wasn’t finished after worship. His seeking continued.
I think this story has much to teach us as adults:
Christianity is counter-cultural. Children tend to follow the culture and the culture of the family. Jesus at age 12, after his bar-mitzvah, continued to seek God in contrast to the majority of the youth and adults in church who after Confirmation, tend to have the mindset that they’ve graduated from church. Other things in the culture that appear to be more exciting tend to take priority.
Children and youth are more capable and hungry for God than we are aware of.
What do we model, not only for our children but for others? Do we include children and youth and other adults in discussions about our faith at the dinner table? Children on average watch 4 hours of TV a day often during meal time, not including cell phone internet use. They are waiting for us to lead them. If we don’t someone else will. I hesitate to compare how many minutes a week are given to teaching and nurturing in scriptures and tradition. Without God growing at the core of their being, children and youth are left with the maze of confusing and sometimes dangerous messages that leave them at risk. Jesus put a child on his lap and told his preoccupied disciples to forbid them not—by forgetting them. Are we aware of where our children are—not just their location, but what they are carrying in the minds and hearts?
One of the great realizations as a parent is that I have regular conversations with my two daughters in their late thirties about their spiritual journey, talking about how to negotiate the present world in the context of their faith. I have learned that parenting never really ends. It just changes in its process. As we share the journey our relationship continues to deepen.
We have the authority given to us by Christ to be his hands and feet to the younger generation. Sometimes, just spending a few minutes with a young person that we might not even know well will create a blessing. This was reinforced to be when the old track was open in the mornings and I was able to converse with members of the cross country and track teams. +Without realizing it, we may just be Christ to a young person without realizing it and influence their lives in a positive way. Many young people feel isolated and alone even when their persona may cover this.
Summing up, each of us, no matter our age, have the opportunity to reach out to the young. Think of the adults in your younger days who gifted your life with blessings. Now it’s our turn to be that blessing for them. We can model to others by our own choices that prioritize Christ first over cultural aspirations and values.
There are many ways we can metaphorically hug a child. Allow Christ to hug a child through you so that they may experience the Presence of God in the temples of their hearts.