Thoughts on the Word:
It’s a remarkable story isn’t it – one that we perhaps have trouble understanding – how could Mary and Joseph leave and head off on their journey without Jesus?
I remember when I was growing up, I was able to have pretty much free reign, I just had to be home by dark, otherwise I was allowed to ride off on my bike with friends, head off to the park, walk to and from school unaccompanied… things have changed haven’t they…
Things were different 2000 years ago in Israel too. Back then it was assumed that your children were safe as part of your wider family and friends. There was no need to be chasing up and supervising their every move because of the communal nature of society. Whilst not everyone was related by blood, everyone had a shared family responsibility in the care and raising of children and in caring for and showing love for each other. We are called to the same vocation now as members of God’s family.
Joseph and Mary when they realized that Jesus is in fact missing, frantically race back to Jerusalem and begin to desperately search for their son – can you imagine the panic and pain in their hearts as they searched for him for three days? Then they find him – not where they were expecting, clearly and Mary like many of us as parents, turned the blame on Jesus – she didn’t you’ll note, say Jesus we are so sorry that we left you behind! Mary no doubt feeling both relief and frustration accusingly asks Jesus why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been searching for you!
Jesus though will have none of that, he simply says respectfully Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? Or another way of translating it would be didn’t you know I have to be doing my fathers work.
Like Mary and Joseph, we sometimes take for granted that Jesus is walking with us on the journeys we take in life. We become so focussed on what our own priorities and our opwn goals are that we forget to check in with him and see if he is still walking with us.
We may want to reflect on whether we have taken Jesus himself for granted; if Mary and Joseph could do it, there is every reason to suppose that we can too. We mustn’t assume he is accompanying us as we go off on our own business. If we become distracted by the business of this world instead of focusing on the business of God and his Kingdom we may well find that we have left Jesus behind. But if and when we sense the lack of his presence, we must be prepared to hunt for him, to search for him in prayer, in the scriptures, in the sacraments, and not to give up until we find him again.
We must be ready too, that when we do meet him again he may not say or do what we expect. When we find him if we challenge him and accusingly ask where have you been? He may well challenge us, just as he did Mary and Joseph, after all he is busy with his father’s work, and so too should we be.
During this time of year, when we are often recovering from our time spent with family over Christmas - or for others, still dealing with the pain of not having family with us, it is important that we step back and take time to give thanks for what we do have. When we grasp that gift of forgiveness that Jesus is holding out to us, we become a part of a bigger family, a family that is made up of people just like you - some are rich, some are poor. Some were raised in Christian homes - others like me are adult converts, some have never had a run in with the law, and others are reformed thieves, addicts and even murderers. None of them perfect, some of them like your blood relatives will drive you mad, but the thing that unites us, the thing that makes us brothers and sisters, is not blood. It is that we have all been remade, through the forgiveness and redemption given to us through accepting Jesus our old selves are buried and we rise remade as members of the body - the family - of Christ.
However when we are adopted into the family of God we also take on the responsibilies associated with being in that family. We as members of the family of God, as heirs and inheritors of his Kingdom are called to be about our fathers work. We are called to be living lives which speak of our transformation, lives which draw others to seek out God’s Kingdom, and for them also to be adopted as our brothers and sisters.
Paul in the letter to the Colossians tells us how we as God’s chosen ones, God’s family, are to live out our calling, he tells us how to be about our fathers business. And so I want to conclude by simply reading those word to you again.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.