If We Miss You ...
12As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
41Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When 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.” 49He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he said to them. 51Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
You’ll always find what you’re looking for. Unless, of course, you’re Mary and Joseph, looking for your preteen son on your road trip home from the Passover festival in Jerusalem.
This is the scene found in Luke 2:41-52, the Gospel reading for the final Sunday of 2015. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus joined other travelers on their annual pilgrimage. At the end of the festival they begin their trek home. Mary and Joseph assume Jesus is behaving like a typical preteen, avoiding his parents and traveling with other friends and relatives. But after three days of searching for their twelve-year-old son, Mary and Joseph find him back in Jerusalem, talking with the teachers at the temple.
This is a story about searching for Jesus. This is a story about finding what you’re looking for.
One of my first jobs after college was at a church where I led a ministry for preteens. I created environments and resources for these nine-, ten-, eleven-, and twelve-year-olds, inviting them to discover themselves as a part of God’s unfolding story and to find God in whatever they do. One year at our annual summer camp we challenged everyone to pay attention to all the places they find God. We had hundreds of blank cards, a bucket of thumb tacks, and a blank wall waiting to be filled.
At first these preteens wrote the more stereotypical responses: “I found God when we were praying” or “I found God during our morning Bible study.” But by the second day I began to see different responses popping up on the wall: “I found God on the zipline because I was afraid but my cabin kept cheering me on.” “I found God in a blade of grass because a ladybug was crawling on it and it was awesome.” “I found God in my camp counselor because she helped me fall asleep last night.”
This was our own pre-adolescent exploration to find God in all things. By the end of the week the wall was overflowing with cards, each offering a glimpse at the diversity of places this group of preteens found God. Once you start looking for God everywhere, you will find God everywhere. Because you’ll always find what you’re looking for.
Take this psychological experiment, for example. Stand outside with your eyes closed. Pick a color and silently repeat it for thirty seconds. Open your eyes and look around. Chances are you will see that color everywhere, objects standing out that you would normally ignore or overlook. When your mind is primed for a specific color, your eyes will start seeing it everywhere. Similarly, once my preteen students were primed to look for God everywhere, they began to see God everywhere.
On the other hand, at times we find ourselves having difficulties to find what we are looking for even though that is right in front of us.
When I was a young kid like five or six, I was a hotheaded kid. I was too hasty so I often missed finding a stuff that I was looking for even though that stuff was right in front of me. For example, one day I was looking for my favorite fairy tale book in my bookshelf, but I couldn’t find the book at all. So I asked mom to help me. Mom asked me, “Did you really look in every nook and corner?” So I shouted her back, “Yes!” and Mom said, “If I go there and find the book, you will be in trouble!” And she came to find the book together. Guess if she found the book or not.
Yes she found the book as soon as coming to the bookshelf, and I had to be scolded for a long time for not being attentive.
Right- at times we are not able to see what we are looking for even though that is right in front of us. In order to find what we are looking for, we need to discipline ourselves enabling to find what we are looking for.
We stand at the end of one year and the threshold of another. This is a season of year-in-review videos and mashups from the best of 2015. At times we find ourselves like Mary and Joseph on their trip home, desperately looking for a Jesus who seems to be missing. At times we find ourselves in the group of travelers who are wandering to find Jesus who seems not to be there.
Where is God in the midst of the headlines and our heartache? In the midst of all the suffering and tragedies that we’ve seen, where can we find God?
And at other times we find ourselves like the preteens at my summer camp, finding God in every rock and tree and sky and sea.
Sometimes we see God in the raised hands of protesters, in the radical welcome of the stranger, and in the global solidarity after an international tragedy.
Wherever you find yourself, look for Jesus, because you will always find what you’re looking for.
Mary and Joseph were searching for Jesus and eventually found their preteen son in the temple. We don’t require the same pilgrimage to find God, for as the Psalmist reminds us, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.”
Wherever you are, whatever you do, you, we are able to find God even in the smallest things of the world. Simply open your eyes to discover God always and already around you. As you look back on the year behind, where do you see Jesus? Looking back on your year behind, are you able to find God? Are you able to see Jesus teaching teachers at the temple in your life? You’ll always find what you’re looking for. Don’t miss Jesus who has always been there with you in your life like me who couldn’t find the fairy table book that was right in front of me. Jesus is always there where you are looking for him.
And as you go forward into the year to come, keep looking for Jesus, because you will find what you’re looking for. In the next year, I pray all of us find Jesus even in the most trifling thing in our lives and every nook and corner of your lives. Thanks be to God! Amen.