By Richard Aguirre, director of corporate and foundation relations
Scripture: Luke 2:41-52 (NRSV)
Our Christmas Eve text places us not on to the road to Bethlehem or in a humble stable with Mary and Joseph, but inside Jerusalem’s great temple with a precocious 12-year-old Jesus speaking about his identity and calling.
This sole Gospel narrative about Jesus’ adolescence is simple yet profound. It also reminds me of one of my parents’ favorite family stories – the time one of their children went missing.
After one big family gathering, amid the chaos of hugs and loud goodbyes in Spanish and English, my parents drove away, certain they had packed all seven kids in the big Chevrolet station wagon. After arriving home, however, Dad got a phone call from my grandmother: “Did you forget something? Count your kids; you forgot one.” For many years, this cautionary tale humorously suggested that my parents had so many kids they couldn’t always keep track of them. At times, however, I’m sure Mom and Dad felt shivers of fear when they temporarily lost track of a child.
Mary and Jesus certainly panicked after leaving Jesus behind in Jerusalem, searching three days for him, and then finding him in the temple, calmly engaged in conversation with leaders. After modestly rebuking her son for giving them such a scare, Mary reportedly was confused when Jesus replied, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Mary’s confusion seems odd. Had she forgotten what the angel told her before Jesus’ divine birth, the testimony of the shepherds, the praise and gifts of the wise men and the angel’s warning to seek exile in Egypt? More likely, Mary remembered all that, but was just protecting Jesus from harm; she wanted to hold on to him as a child, as we all tend to do with Jesus this time of year.
Still, the text is rewarding because, as a coming of age story, it relates to the reality of our lives – that we have the freedom to make choices on the road to maturity. Luke also compels us to reflect on the true nature and meaning of Jesus then, now and always. Like Jesus, we have the opportunity to grow in wisdom and strength “and in divine and human favor” by making good choices. May that message continue to inspire us.
As we are reminded in Isaiah 9, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.” As we prepare for the birth of the Christ child, may we open our hearts and minds to the great gift of Christmas. Help us, God, to share in the joy and song of the angels, the curiosity and wonder of the shepherds, and the wisdom and worship of the wise men. And may the blessings of Jesus – his example, his teachings, his suffering and sacrifice – be with us this season and help us to renew our faith. “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”
Scripture: Luke 2:41-52 (NRSV)
Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a days journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw 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. 49He said to them, Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Fathers house? 50But they did not understand what he said to them. 51Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.