Losing a child – even for a few minutes — is nerve-wracking for any parent, but doubly so when the youngster’s name is Jesus.
St. Luke, in the second chapter of his gospel, describes the day Mary and Joseph lost Immanuel — which, ironically, means “God with us.”
The family had visited Jerusalem for the annual Passover festival, and was trekking home when the nightmare unfolded. As was customary, they traveled in a caravan with friends and relatives.
They didn’t mean to lose track of Jesus; there was just so much activity around them. I imagine good-natured bantering, sing-alongs and the swapping of stories. All this while trying to keep track of the kids — Jesus’ siblings.
While Mary was a virgin when the Saviour was born, she and Joseph would raise a family. According to St. Mark, Jesus had at least four brothers and two sisters. He was aged 12; the ages of his siblings is unknown.
Mary could be imagined cradling one child in her arms, while another tugged at her skirt saying, “Mom-mmy, I need to go pee.” Joseph balanced a daughter on his shoulders while keeping two brothers apart who were both protesting, “But he did it.”
In the midst of the chaos, the parents were a day into their journey before they noticed the absence of their eldest. Panic set in, imaginations ran wild and travel companions were abandoned as they retraced their steps to search desperately for the missing child.
Three long days later, they discovered Him in the temple courts and an exasperated and somewhat disheveled Mary blurts out, “Why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”
Rereading the narrative recently, I was struck by how easy it is to lose track of Jesus — then and now. It’s not that we awaken one morning and decide to abandon the Divine. We just get busy doing life and gradually pull away. Long distances are traveled one step at a time.
Ironically, some lose track of their best Friend while partying with friends of the human genre. Jesus gets squeezed out by Twitter and Facebook and the pressing need to connect with others. And one day in the midst of the laughter and amusement they glance around and notice that Jesus is conspicuously absent.
Others immerse themselves in the raising of kids and the plethora of their activities: hockey, ballet, gymnastics, soccer. When there isn’t a practice, there’s bound to be an appointment. And somewhere along the freeway of child raising, they realize that Jesus got out at the last stop and wasn’t even missed.
Yes, there is no end to the options by which humans forget Jesus: career advancement, adventure travel, even some religious activities.
Thankfully, there is some good news in this tale of neglect and forgetfulness. Jesus’ parents turned around, searched valiantly and found their Son and Saviour. They provide a sparkling example for all who have ever lost track of what truly matters proving that distance can be overcome, relationship can be restored and the lost can be found.
Rod Barks is a Saskatchewan pastor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org