At some point every parent needs to come to terms with the fact that as their children grow they don’t need us for the things we’re so used to doing for them or at least need our help.
It’s jarring to one day have your kid say to you: “Mom, I can tie my own shoe.” “Dad, I can pour the milk myself.” “I don’t need a ride, Mom and Dad. I’ll drive myself.”
Part of being a parent is to learn how to constantly let go. Even when you know these milestones of independence are coming it’s still a bit of a shock when they happen.
Mary and Joseph were no different. Their son has entered into a new phase of his life. It’s not like they forgot they were visited by an angel to tell them they would be the parents of the Messiah. But even though they knew their child would be different from the others it was still a shock when Jesus fully leans into his role as the Messiah.
I find Mary and Joseph to be very relatable as parents.
They’ve made their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover as masses of other faithful Jews did the same.
But now that Passover is over they’ve started their journey home. They are a day into their journey when they realized “we’re missing a child.” After checking with friends and family with whom they were traveling to makes sure no one else had Jesus, they rushed back to Jerusalem. When they finally found him in the temple I like to think they freaked out just like any good parent would: “Where were you? What were you thinking? Do you know the amount of anxiety you gave us?!”
Then Jesus said to them: “Why were you looking for me? Don’t you know I must be in my Father’s house?”
While they didn’t understand what Jesus was saying we’re told that Mary treasured all these things in her heart.”
When they found Jesus in the temple he was sitting with the teachers of the Temple listening to them and asking them questions. And people were amazed at the wisdom this little 12-year-old possessed. It’s like a 12-year-old being able to hang in the conversation about physics with a bunch of rocket scientists. We’re told Mary and Joseph were astonished when they found Jesus, because this was their little boy who was now sitting and holding his own among the religious leaders.
Jesus had entered into a new phase of life and new level of independence.
In that moment, as his earthly parents, Mary and Joseph had to learn to let go. Let go of the reality that their son was growing up and leaning more into the call God had always had on his life.
In the same way we too need to let go of the Jesus we’ve come to know.
We’ve just celebrated Christmas, the miracle of Jesus born into our world. That God came to be with us as one of us as a helpless little baby. We’re now in what many call one of the most depressing weeks of the year. The build up to Christmas that included, for many of us, the rush to buy gifts and numerous get togethers, is over. It’s kind of a let down. I don’t know about you, but I really hate putting the Christmas decorations away. It’s so depressing. But it’s time to let go of Christmas and move on.
This was the season to focus on Jesus as a little baby.
But now it’s time to let Jesus grow up. But I think we have the tendency to keep Jesus as a little baby in the manger. To keep him contained. To keep him as a sweet infant who doesn’t ask anything of us. To keep the warm glow of stars and the peacefulness of that holy night going. That’s a picture of Jesus we want to cling to. But the fact of the matter is Jesus, like all infants, grows up.
Who is Jesus now that Christmas is over? What image of Jesus do we need to let go of and accept the Jesus who is? The reality is that Christmas for many of us was a nice distraction in the midst of a raging pandemic. Or maybe for many of us Christmas magnified our anxieties and the stress of the pandemic and already strained relationships with family. Who is Jesus to you in those moments? Who is Jesus to you today?
I’ve been struck lately but the truth is that Jesus is the same when life is good and when life is not so good. But what does that look like? My guess is that the way we pray looks different when life is going swimmingly vs. when life is difficult. And that’s okay. The key is to keep praying. To keep connected to God through prayer, worship, Christ-centered community and reading the Bible in a way that helps us see Jesus in the middle of whatever it is we’re going through. Whether things are good or bad.
Notice that Jesus eventually goes home with Joseph and Mary when he very well could’ve said: ‘Listen. You both have very little faith so I’m done with you and staying at the temple.” But he doesn’t say that. Instead he remains with them despite the fact that they don’t understand this milestone in Jesus’ ministry.
In the same way, Jesus remains with us even when we don’t totally understand what he’s doing in our lives and in the world this very moment. Jesus does not abandon us, but remains with us. So as we move on from Christmas my prayer for you and for all of us is that we would continue to ask God to give us eyes to see that Jesus continues to remain with us. But in order to see that, we need to let go of the manger to see that Jesus continues to travel along side us.