It finally happened. It was bound to; nobody is perfect.
So, Mary and Joseph got through the baby years without the savior of the world rolling off of the changing table. They made it through the toddler years without the Son of God falling fatally down the stairs. And, Jesus is apparently healthy and never succumbed to the crippling health effects of the Mac and Cheese diet. Good job Mary and Joseph!
But, all good things come to an end. No one is perfect, and Mary and Joseph finally take a misstep that puts God’s only begotten Son in peril.
It started out good. They took Jesus into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and learn about God’s salvation of the Jews during the Exodus, as any good Jewish parent should.
Now, you have to understand that this celebration in Jerusalem was huge with large crowds filling the streets, but they made it through the congestion of that celebration without a hitch.
It was the assumption that did it.
Is it not always an assumption that causes the problem?
On the highway, I always assume that an oncoming car would use their blinker before turning right in front of me. That is a bad assumption.
I once assumed that my high school cafeteria could not possibly ruin tacos…it’s just meat, a tortilla, and cut up toppings after-all. That also was a bad assumption.
And, Mary and Joseph assume that Jesus would be traveling home from Jerusalem with all the other family walking in their group. Surely, he was still hanging out with his cousins? That turned out to be a bad assumption.
Jesus, in fact, was not with the group. The cousins had no clue where he was. Are they their cousin’s keeper?
Mary and Joseph searched frantically through the group and then began a day long journey back to Jerusalem in search of the 12 year old.
They had finally done it. They had done what they had feared ever since Jesus was born. They had made a mistake raising the God's only begotten Son. They had lost Immanuel, God with us! They had lost the savior of the world. What is the punishment for losing God’s Son anyway?
One thing that is clear though: Mary and Joseph may have lost Jesus, but Jesus was not lost.
Jesus was right where he was supposed to be: in the temple; in his Father’s house. He was with God the Father. Mary and Joseph did not know where Jesus was, but God did. Jesus was not lost; it was Mary and Joseph who had lost sight of Jesus.
So, I continue to wonder: what is the punishment for losing sight of God’s Son? What is the punishment for losing God? What is the punishment for losing faith?
Here is a truth about my faith: my faith is like shifting sand. It gets blown and reshaped by the wind and the sea. I have God, and then I lose grip. I understand God, and then I do not. I trust and then something happens that causes me to walk away.
Do not be too hard of Mary and Joseph; it is rather easy to lose Jesus. For example, the typical Sunday morning dilemma: "Hmmm, go sit in a pew and worship the Lord or stay in my warm bed and watch an entire season of my favorite show on Netflix in one sitting, ice cream spoon in hand?" I think that to most of us the answer here is quite clear.
And, that is just an example from the normality of life. That does not even come close to addressing the real stuff…like the tragic losses and the life altering shifting of world views that wreak havoc on faith. The joy of Christmas comes and goes rather easily, and we lose sight of Jesus.
But, Jesus is not lost. He is right where he is supposed to be. He is one with his Father. It is not Jesus who get lost, but we who get lost and lose sight of Jesus.
But, just as Jesus was safe under the watch of God the Father the entire time, so are we. We may feel lost from God, but God knows right where we are.
When her daughter walked out the door to go to college, she could feel in her bones that this moment was the end of all she had taught her daughter. She just knew that her daughter would come back filled with new, dangerous ideas, and that all the values that she had been taught for 18 years would simply vanish.
The mother was right.
When her daughter called home as Christmas break approached, the words from her mouth echoed foreign values and even revealed a couple slips of the tongue, exposing newly found vulgar language. The mother’s heart was broken. She was convinced that her daughter was lost…from her and from God.
Except, except, when the daughter walked through the door the mother saw standing beside her a student from Guatemala. Her daughter explained that this poor girl had no home to which she could go for the Christmas break. As her daughter made the student comfortable, the mother learned that the girl from Guatemala did not have any money either, except for a handful of bills that she earned washing dishes in the school cafeteria.
Even though her daughter did not know this Guatemalan student extremely well, her daughter paid this student’s way back to her home, so that she might have a family for Christmas.
As the mother pondered this development in her daughter’s story she quickly realized that her daughter may or may not have lost sight of God, but God had obviously not lost her.
And, this student may or may not have felt lost in a new country, but God knew exactly where she was…choosing a family to call her own that Christmas. God had not lost her daughter after-all.
God does not lose us. If God needs, God will put on human flesh, come down from heaven, and stand right in front of us so that we might again take notice. That is the promise of Christmas anyway. We have a God who will go to any lengths that we might know we are not lost.
We may lose sight of Jesus, but Jesus is not lost. Jesus is always right where he should be.