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Dec 31, 2021

When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:48-52)

 

The folks at the temple were amazed at Jesus’ answers.  His parents were astonished too, but for a whole different reason: “Son, why have you treated us like this?”  I suppose even the Holy Family has their days.  Anyone whose parented can be thankful Luke included this story: even God himself drove his parents nuts from time to time.  And all of us who have been children or are right now can take heart too: even Jesus got himself into hot water sometimes. 

And that is part of the point of this story: Jesus was a normal kid.  Mary and Joseph were normal parents.  Their family was a normal Jewish family.  They had their tensions, they had their worries, they had their big family stories of “remember that time when Jesus ditched us to stay in Jerusalem?”  “Yeah! You nearly gave your father and I a heart attack!”  All that normal family stuff.

There is an ordinariness to this story.  And part of that ordinariness is not only about telling us how the Holy Family had their issues too, but also how ordinary the life of faith and faithfulness was among them.   Jesus would not have been likely to get lost “in his Father’s house” unless Mary and Joseph brought him there sometimes.  But they did, every year.  The house of God was a familiar place to Jesus because his family went to church.  And when Jesus got to church, he had something to say at the feet of the Rabbis because his family talked about the things of God at home around the dinner table and on the way to the grocery store as Deuteronomy 6 called them to. 

Most significantly though, over the past 12 years of faithful family life, Jesus had formed a living relationship with God, his Father, such that here in these verses he is able to make his public profession of faith.  All sorts of folks have said all sorts of wonderful things about him over the past few chapters of Luke: angels, shepherds, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon, and Anna.  But here, for the first time, Jesus speaks for himself.  His relationship with the Father has become his own.  It’s not Zechariah, Elizabeth, or John’s faith, not Simeon or Anna’s, not even his parents’ faith anymore: Jesus has come to know God the Father for himself.  “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” he says.

Far from making him arrogant, however, that relationship with God inspires a deeper commitment in Jesus to God’s ways.  From this time on, he is said to keep the 5th commandment to “honour his father and mother,” even as he grows in wisdom and stature, in favour with God and man.

Study after study shows that the faith life we live at home matters more to the faith of our children than what happens at school or church.  And it’s the small, simple things.  Don’t discount the role of small devotions around the dinner table or before bed: even if you don’t always “get something out of it,” a faithful time set aside to attend to God in the life of your family forms the fabric of faith and gives opportunity for faith to find a way into your hearts, lives, and conversations.

Of course, this is also an invitation to those of you 12 years old or a little more or a little less to think about your own relationship to God.  You parents faith is not your own, nor can it be.  You have to find your own relationship with God and give voice to it yourself if it really is to be yours (that’s what we call Profession of Faith).  Jesus had to do it too.  We all do.  And today is as good a time as any to think about whether you’re ready yourself to claim this God as your Father.  I’d be happy to talk more with you about it if you have questions or whatever about that.  Let me know.

And parents, despite all our anxieties, that transition of our children into their own responsibility before God is one of those things hidden in the mystery of God that sometimes we can do nothing about but pray and ponder through, like Mary, in our hearts.