Have you ever lost something? I’ve spent days looking for the remote for the TV only to realize that I put it in the freezer. How do you feel when you lost something? Imagine losing something precious – imagine losing a child! If you ask the “how could they do that?” question to Mary and Joseph, they might start looking down at their feet, shifting their weight due to discomfort. Not a dissimilar plot at all. They take off from Jerusalem without their boy – worse yet, God’s boy. Does it get any worse than losing the son of God? Talk about a bad day!
But listen to the story! Mary and Joseph just assume that Jesus was hanging out with the other kids somewhere else in the pack, all of them returning to Nazareth. They don’t see him at breakfast, but he must be around. Lunch? No, but he’s probably having a tuna sandwich with the others. Finally after dinner, when everyone returns to mom and dad at night for safety to settle down, it dawns on Mary and Joseph – he’s not there! And after a little checking with some cousins, no one has seen him all day.
It’s interesting what’s been happening in Luke’s Gospel. We’ve had at least three angel visitations, miraculous pronouncements, song lyrics, and the birth of the Savior of the world. But look at how it concludes – something more mundane and earthy – the loss of one’s child. Panicked parents. A frantic search. It all starts with angels and ends with paging for a lost child on the PA system at Wal-Mart. It took a day to get back to Nazareth, but they’re stuck with three days of anxiety. Most parents would freak out after 15 minutes of losing their kid, but Joseph and Mary have three days!
What do we do when we lose things? Well, we retrace our day and look in the likely places first. If you lose your car keys, you check the coat pockets, the counters, the drawers, and then the car. But then you start looking in other places – the flower pots, the freezer, the sofa cushions. And Mary and Joseph do the exact same thing. He can’t possibly be in the Temple, can he?
Did Jesus get a spanking? Was he put in time out or made to kneel on rice? Who knows. What the Gospel does do for us is make him very human. After all the tinsel and glitter, the hyperventilating of the media, the tons of decorations to make this season “special,” the Gospel invitation is to come back down to earth and watch God’s drama of salvation unfold quietly and steadily. We come back down to earth because that’s what God’s Son did too.
Happy New Year! The Christmas celebrations were good ones. Have you recovered yet?