Behold, your Father and I have been searching for you in great distress (Luke 2:48).
Years ago I lost my son in East Cobb Park.
Who knows how these thing happen? But happen they do – and they seem to happen so quickly. I guess I could have been paying closer attention at the moment. My kids knew this park well, so it never occurred to me that finding an uninhabited park bench and reading a book was a bad idea.
Until I looked up from the book and couldn’t see my son.
Panic in the Park
Closing the book I started walking the play area where he had been. Seconds passed. No John. I moved a bit quicker, investigating play structures where he might be hidden from my sight. Still no luck and more seconds are passing. And with every passing second my anxiety is rising. My thoughts are racing to very dark places, imagining an abduction, news reporters and police reports.
My fruitless search soon had me running about, scanning the wide field adjacent to the play are. A few Mothers who are naturally dialed in to this type of crisis were kind enough to offer their help, asking me questions about what he was wearing and where I had last seen him.
After what seemed like an eternity someone casually mentioned that a couple of kids were down in Sewell Mill Creek. Deep in a ravine, the creek was not visible from the main part of the park. And there, standing in that ditch with mud caked shoes, was my son.
Outwardly I was all rebuke and reprimand. Inwardly I was sobbing with gratitude.
There was a time when parents allowed their kids to have free reign of the neighborhood, often not hearing from them for hours at a time. They may not have known precisely where their child was – but they knew the neighborhood and the neighbors. A child’s extended absence was no cause for alarm.
That kind of thing is probably what was happening in Luke 2:41-52. Mary and Joseph had taken their twelve year old son to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When it was all over they set out for the eighty mile trip back to Nazareth, assuming that Jesus was among their friends and relatives, never imagining that he had stayed behind in Jerusalem. They traveled a full day before they discovered that he was nowhere to be seen.
While Luke is telling us about “the boy Jesus,” the story is nevertheless significant for the season of Advent. Far too easily, we too lose Jesus. This is not to say we lose our faith or that we abandon our belief in Jesus. Not at all.
The problem is not renunciation. The problem is alienation.
Retracing our Steps
The Advent season can be an especially painful time when we sense that Jesus is absent. We sing the joyful songs but we aren’t especially joyful. Somehow, somewhere, we lost Jesus. Maybe we left him behind while working long hours. Maybe we lost him in the dullness of familiar routines. Perhaps Jesus is lost in the midst of financial pressures or a family crisis or in a fight against illness. Very often we can lose Jesus at church, of all places. The Christ child is eclipsed by our busy celebrations of his birth.
Advent is an excellent opportunity to retrace our steps. This season is an invitation to go on a journey to Jesus. To go back and search for him and ponder who he is and what he came to do.
There’s still plenty of time. Maybe the journey can begin for you right now.
Lord Jesus, even those who love you can lose sight of you. In these days of Advent we would seek you in a fresh way. Guide us on this journey that we might discover afresh who you are and the power of your presence among us. Amen.