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Growing Up Fast

12/27/2015 First Sunday of Christmas The text is Luke 2:41-52.

Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

“It happened in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye.  One minute, he was there beside me as I flipped through the racks of clothes in the store.  One minute I had my eye on him, watching him as he played with his toy truck.  One minute he was there…and the next he was gone.  My son, my only son, then just 6 years of age, had come with me on this shopping trip as he had so many other times.  All those other times, he had stayed beside me, sometimes even clinging to me.  But now he was gone.  I called but he did not answer.  Immediately the panic began to rise in my stomach, a cold fear clutched at my heart.  All sorts of horrible images flashed through my mind, the stories of every stolen and abducted child about whom I had ever heard came back to me and I started to feel ill.  Frantically rushing from aisle to aisle, calling his name, grabbing sales clerks to enlist their aid, I was like a man possessed, a veritable whirling dervish as I rushed to find my child.  After what seemed like an eternity, but was in fact only a few minutes, there he was, standing at a shelf of televisions, checking out the machines, oblivious to the crowds of people around him and even more oblivious to my own panic and fear.  But even as the relief swept over me, even as I rushed up to hug him, my fear and my worry and all my emotional turmoil bubbled over and I proceeded to lay into him about how he should stay with me and not wander off.  In response all he could do was look at me with those innocent eyes of his and tell me that he knew where I was all the time and so, in the great innocence of his youth, everything was okay.”

This story of Patrick Rooney is probably one that makes a connection with most parents.  For no matter how caring and careful a parent you are, a child can wander off in a flash of inspiration.  He or she can be with you one minute and gone the next.  For children, in their innocence, have little understanding of how their actions can affect the adults who tend to them.  They can frazzle the nerves of even the most patient parent or guardian.

If you are a parent or caretaker of children, you know the emotional roller coaster ride.  You never know what is going to happen.  It seems like one minute you are trying to encourage your child to go faster on his bicycle, to get up enough speed to stay balanced, and the next, you are pleading with the same boy, now at the wheel of a car, to slow down and live.  One minute you’re urging a shy daughter to say hello to a stranger, and next, you’re trying to discourage her from responding to strangers on the internet.

It’s hard being a parent and guardian.  Children don’t come with manuals and each one is different and unique.  This is especially true in this age where it seems that children are growing up faster.  Knowing how to raise the, to protect them, and to give them the room they need to develop is a challenge.  But then, it’s always been challenging to raise children.  The “perfect” child hasn’t been born.  Not even Jesus Christ fits the image of perfection when it comes to his relationship with Mary and Joseph.  For here we are, only a couple of days from Christmas, from the baby lying in a manger, and already the adolescent Jesus is wandering off on his own and driving his parents crazy.

We know how Mary and Joseph must have felt when they discovered that Jesus was not among the other travelers, that he was not with his family and friends, and that somehow they had lost him.  Fear and panic must have risen up in their guts as they ran among the group, calling his name, asking all whether they had seen him, trying to find their lost boy.  Anger, helplessness, horrible thoughts must have flashed through their minds.  For, this was not like the good little boy who had traveled with his family to Jerusalem for other events.  The only thing they could do now was go back and search for him.  And, when they finally found him in the temple, of all places, Jesus was not apologetic.  He showed no remorse for what he had done – for the pain and inconvenience he had caused his family.  Instead, he told them simply that they should not have worried about him for he had been about the business of his Father, in his Father’s house.

Now, I’m sure that Mary and Joseph were none too pleased by Jesus response.  He was their son after all.  Yes, they knew that he was the miraculous fulfillment of the prophecy.  But, he was their son, their son, who like no other, had been conceived by the Holy Spirit, by God, himself.  He was their son, their child, their concern, their responsibility.  They were his guardians here on earth.  And here he was, questioning their authority.  Here he was disregarding them as he questioned the teachers of the religious tradition.

In the process of growing up, Jesus scared his parents half to death and I can picture them, in their frustration, grabbing Jesus by the back of his shirt, escorting him out of the temple and giving him a swat on the behind.  And yet, Jesus, like all children, was merely stretching his wings.  He was finding his place in the world which was different and unique as he was beginning to understand who he was beyond the child of Mary and Joseph of Nazareth.  Jesus was asking questions.  He was listening intently to learn.  And at the same time, the twelve-year old Jesus amazed everyone with his understanding and his answers.

Here, in the temple, Jesus is searching for his identity and purpose.  Here, in the temple, Jesus declares independence from Mary and Joseph and embraces the unique relationship he has with God, the Father.  Here, in the temple, Jesus begins the process that eventually leads to the cross.  Here, in the temple, Jesus is beginning to understand himself and his role as the One who will lay down his life for us so that we may be part of his kingdom forever.  As Jesus takes his first steps in the direction of his calling, his mission, his role in salvation history, he is growing up too quickly, too tenaciously, too independently for his parents.

None of the other details about Jesus’ childhood matters.  We can fill in the blanks with our own experience of raising children in the confines of a loving home and family.  What is important is that the Christmas babe embraced his relationship with the heavenly Father, in a way that only the Son can do.  He grew in understanding and in obedience to his will of his Father, and in the end, fulfilled the prophecy embodied by the incarnation.

As you remember how the baby Jesus developed and grew into the Savior of the world, be sure to hug your own tenacious children when they begin to spread their wings, wander off and ask questions.  Let them know that they too are precious gifts from God.  And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Have yourself a merry Christmastide and blessed and wondrous new year!



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