B8 CHRISTMAS - The Holy Family
St. Luke 2.vv.41-52
~ Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travellers, they went a day's journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents' saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety". He said to them, "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?". But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour. ~
In recent years we have had numerous examples of children being lost and of hearing their anguished parents pleading for their safe return. For those who think that only bad news is given to us by the media, it is good to know that such appeals result in thousands of people joining in the search for missing children, and great is the joy and relief when the lost are recovered. We can well understand the joy of Mary and Joseph when the child Jesus was found after three days in the Temple.
As the church of Christ we have a natural love and concern for children. We welcome them into the church as part of the family of Christ. Nevertheless we could learn from the Jewish people a good deal about the sanctity and value of family life. From the earliest days little ones in the Jewish home are taught to pray, to obey, honour and respect their parents. If later they rebel (as do most children) at least they know what are the guidelines that they are rejecting, because they have been nurtured in body and spirit in security. If we seek to know why proportionally there are less Jewish people in prison than Gentiles, it may well be that they are more constantly prayed for by their families. When Monica the mother of St. Augustine was concerned about her wayward son, she was reassured by the words, "How can it be that a child so prayed for should be lost?".
The value of an early upbringing in the faith of Christ is seen when we have to "let our children go", for it is then that we realise that in letting go we often find that we "keep" them, or perhaps in time they return to us and to faith in Christ.
The story of the Child in the Temple must have been given to us by Mary, the mother of Jesus, an authentic glimpse of the eighteen "hidden years" of Jesus' early life.
Perhaps so much is made of the search for Jesus, that we tend to forget that in a sense this story is really concerned with Jesus finding himself. For Jesus, this was an opportunity for him (young as he was) to test his vocation, to discover his true identify, to discover his relationship to "Abba", his Father.
Sometimes we fail our children in over-emphasising the family sense of human fatherhood at the expense of the spiritual nature of God as an all-loving Being who loves all his children, for all too often the human fatherhood falls so woefully short of the divine love.
Jesus was never in any doubt about the nature of God's love but for him (as for us all) a "second-hand faith" was of no "earthly use". He had to be sure, and so do we.