By REV. Karen Hernandez,
Pastor of Living Hope-Kuna United Methodist Church
After preparing for Christmas by trying to wrap our minds around the idea that God comes to us as the Christ child at Christmas, now my congregation is considering what it means to grow up in faith. It’s not a matter of age, but really of maturity. As we watch Jesus grow from holy infant to young man to adult, we are seeking to grow deeper in our faith and to mature in the ways we live and practice that faith. This week we are considering the one story we have of Jesus as an adolescent (see Luke 2:41-52).
For those of you who are parents, have you ever temporarily lost track of your child? It can make your heart skip a few beats, right? That is precisely what happens in this story from Luke’s gospel. Imagine all of the fear or guilt or anxiety you felt, then imagine Mary’s experience when she lost the Son of God! Finally, a couple of agonizing days later, after Mary and Joseph backtracked some especially tense miles of dirt road, they found Jesus in the temple. I suppose all’s well that ends well, but I also suspect things were different from then on.
Jesus’ disregard for his parents is a down-to-earth, fully human behavior for sure! He did not ask for permission or even bother telling them that he would catch up with them later. It seems that his priorities are shifting, and clear communication with Mary and Joseph does not appear to make the list any longer. For Jesus, this is a shift from doing what his earthly parents expected him to do, to being who his heavenly parent created him to be (Satterlee).
In terms of spiritual maturity, Jesus has spent his time in the temple asking and answering questions. That is what maturing faith does. Children ask questions out of innocence that are sometimes humorous and sometimes give us grown-ups a moment of pause. As children grow or as people start developing an understanding of faith (or any subject, for that matter), early questions tend to be factual, black and white matters. But it is mature faith—a combination of understanding and wonder, knowledge and curiosity—that can spend days on end in a give and take of ideas, asking and answering questions in the temple with other people of faith. Do you have such a place where you can explore and grow by asking and answering questions with other people of faith? Anyone wanting to grow needs this.
Beyond such a group, in everyday life, do you know where to find Jesus? Are you like Mary and Joseph—assuming you know where Jesus will be and trusting that you don’t have to worry about him too much? According to Lutheran Bishop Craig Satterlee, generally, “We are not ready to accept that Jesus did not come to fulfill our expectations. He is not to be found in sentiment for the way things used to be or the way we wish things could be. Jesus is about the future. Jesus was born and lived and died and rose to be about God’s business of putting an end to our searching by making plain the way to God, even if that means shattering our expectations.”
Faith that is committed to growing and maturing not only survives but thrives when expectations are shattered. If you are willing to grow in your faith in this New Year—to grow not just in knowledge but in wisdom—don’t just wander or retrace your steps home, assuming that everyone is where they belong. Instead, begin this week by considering where you expect to find Jesus and which of your expectations Jesus comes to shatter.