Found and Found Out

Luke 2:41-52

Today’s Gospel story is a story of mission, and its undertaking has consequences that effect humanity and divinity alike. God’s mission takes the form of an incarnational one. It discerns real vocation and pursues plain purpose. It beckons us to remember God in familiar places, but cries out to us in the wilderness of our lives to rediscover Him in unconventional ways. “Look for me here, instead of there,” that still, small voice of a 12-year-old boy might sing. When we say ‘yes’ to God’s direction, we act like His Mother: there’s a lot to ponder, hearts will be pierced, but in our own wreckage we discover the One who would be broken for us all. This is good news as it shows God’s trustworthiness over and against our own.

In many Bibles, today’s reading is sometimes labeled as “The Boy Jesus in the Temple.” It’s an honest, yet surface-level reading of the text. If I was to rename the headline, it might read, “God Invites Us to Join in His Mission,” or at the very least, and to quote The Blues Brothers, “We’re on a Mission from God.” Initially, there were two missions happening. One, Jesus’ parents were on a mission to find him. Two, Jesus’ mission is to be found and found out.

The first mission had Mary discovering Jesus in the Temple, waiting to be found out. The scripture reminds us that she treasured his [mission] within her very heart. What may have started out as two missions quickly began coalescing into one as she grasped her role to play in the great Theo-drama of God. Before this marriage of missions, however, she and Joseph searched for Jesus among their caravan of friends and relatives. Ultimately, they not finding him there. We may pause and ask, “Is their seeking Jesus among friends and family a form of discernment?” Is it not our friends and family who oftentimes help in our sensitivity of where God is and where God isn’t? I find comfort in the fact that even though their friends and family had insufficient answers for Mary and Joseph, their presence alongside the Holy Family allowed them to get a little closer to where the mission of God would ultimately turn out to be.

The second mission invites us into contemplation and discernment about the mission of God. Jesus, the text reminds us, was puzzled over his parents’ anxiety and scolding, but through these Mary and Joseph discovered something about discernment. Perhaps their trepidation was a test and a trial for everyone involved? Through their suffering and losses they found deeper respect and relationship for and with God. Put theologically, Mary and Joseph not only discovered their son, but uncovered the Son of God. Again, the Son of God allowed himself to be found and found out. In doing so, Jesus invited his parents into intimate communion where words fall short, but hearts expand.

Finally, Jesus was in conversation with his Heavenly Father about what his mission was and will be. This required a few things from him. He was to sit and pray; ask questions, and listen. Put simply, he was to contemplative the things of God. In his contemplation there in the Temple, he received his mission. From there, he returned to Nazareth accompanied by his parents, being obedient to them as well as to his Heavenly Father. (The paradox being that God is the one who accompanies us, both within our obedience and disobedience). Once his (read here our) priorities and mission were/are in order was when he/us may “increase in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.”

This little story has a lot to say to us at the beginning of a new year, if not for the rest of our lives. It’s now 2021. In 2020, we were a lot like Mary and Joseph. We discovered that we can lose and lose out when we take gifts of God for granted. We falsely believed that God wants us to be more comfortable, fall in line with selfish status quos, and feast – day in and day out. This was and remains a false conviction because God is calling us to mission. Part of the mission is discovering God over and over again in places familiar and not so much. Like a child, God plays hide-and-seek just waiting to be found and found out. Like a lover, He wants us to remember him by remembering who we are – in him. It’s more intimacy than falling in line. Remember, Mary and Joseph were in line to go home! This is where they could have gone, would have gone, and maybe even should have gone. They did not. No, Mary and Joseph turned around. They went against the crowd. They did call on their friends and family from within the crowd for answers for a time, but discovered those answers ultimately fell short. They didn’t need answers. They needed The Answer, and so they went to church. They got The Answer. Then they went back home. While at home and in their daily lives they never took God for granted again. Like a child, they got giddy anytime Jesus wanted to play hide-and-seek because they knew that all God ever wanted/wants is to be found and found out. Their mission now collapsed into God’s mission, and they were forever changed.

How has God changed you through the inconveniences, disruptions, and losses of 2020? What will you never take for granted again, or when you do, turn around and go back to him? Christmas reminds us that everything changes with the birth of Jesus, and we’re able to experience that change when we do as he does. When we sit and pray; ask questions, and listen at church, in our homes, and in our daily lives. This year may we all discover (and perhaps rediscover) the mission of God on earth as it is in heaven.