A day and a half ago we heard of the birth of Jesus and we were talking about an infant. If you were listening to Christmas carols and music since right after Halloween like Pam and I, then you got to enjoy thinking about the baby Jesus for a few months. If you are a strict observer of Advent in your life away from Sunday mornings, then get ready for whiplash because times up, Jesus is now a preteen. I have heard this story my whole life. It’s a great one to hear as a kid because you can totally relate to Jesus. Now, I hear it from a different point of view. I’ve been a youth pastor, worked in the school system, have driven a school bus and I am a dad. He was 12. I have met a lot of 12 year olds and I have been one. Some you can’t tell apart from 20 year olds and at that time you truly begin the journey of coming of age. You begin to see the world differently and start the process of thinking for yourself. My great grandmother was 12 when she got married and 14 when she had her first child. While she was still very young, she had to pack up and move 2 babies back to NC on a train by herself. Over her lifetime she had 11 children and moved about 100 times. So I think the pictures I saw as a kid and imagined don’t exactly hold up, and that panicky feeling I felt for him being left behind has been somewhat transformed by experience. Jesus wasn’t a five year old. But we don’t want to underestimate Mary and Joseph’s situation. Mary and Joseph had been Jesus’ parents for 12 years and they had to search for three days. David Keck, a NC native pastor writes: To those who have wondered how Mary and Joseph could possibly head back home from Jerusalem without their 12-year-old son, I know from experience that it is quite possible for loving, attentive parents to lose track of their children during religious festivals. Our home church in Raleigh, North Carolina, had a tradition of a come-as-you-are Christmas morning service. (Kids in pajamas were welcome.) For years, our family would gather with other church members as well as folks from other churches who had heard of the service and shared the desire for Christian fellowship on Christmas morn. iIt became my favorite holiday tradition, especially when we started sharing Christmas dinner after church with three other couples and their children. My wife and I came to realize that this gathering had become part of us, that seeing a particular set of friends and their children was the greatest gift we could give ourselves for Christmas. One year, when our children were 11 and eight, like Mary, Joseph, and Jesus we “went up [or down] as usual for the festival.” After the service we lingered with the pastor and friends from the congregation as our children played with other kids and explored once again the building they had known for years. Eventually we realized it was time to go, and my wife and I drove to our friends’ house nearby where we would continue our catching up and have our meal together. Since our children had been playing with their children, we thought they must have gotten a ride with one of the other families. At the house, we finished dressing the salad and warming various casseroles for the potluck meal. Eventually we sat down to the dinner table and prepared to say grace. Noticing two empty seats, we asked our friends’ children where ours had gone. When stories of the return from church were compared, we realized that they had been left behind. And so rushing to the car, we began “searching for [them] in great anxiety.” Fortunately, they were “in [their] Father’s house.” Or rather, they were waiting outside the locked doors of the church after having wandered in their pajamas outside empty area storefronts looking unsuccessfully for an open shop with a phone or at least some shelter from the late December cold. Like Jesus, our children rebuked their parents.” The Keck kids were my age, and I assure you there were no cell phones or easy ways to locate your kids back then, especially when the town was pretty much shuttered for Christmas. But they were resourceful and returned to where they knew their parents would look for them. Being older in years doesn’t guarantee wisdom, bravery, resourcefulness, ability or stability or much of anything. We usually see people grow and mature in these things, but they are not guaranteed, and after all we are all human and not impervious to incorrect assumptions. Jesus did not rebuke because he was left behind, but because they had searched for three days and the Temple was the last place they looked. It reminds me of a movie line, “What is it with you? You can’t make the right decision until you’ve tried all the wrong ones.” Had they forgotten their individual encounters with the angels? My dad and I got lost once. I’m not sure if I’ve told you this story or not, but it is one of those examples that’s always at the forefront of your mind because of the profound mark or impact it had on you. We were hiking in the Appalachian mountains and were using a map and compass. Our brains must have gone on vacation, because somewhere along the way we started to rely on familiarity and instinct. Then we realized we were lost. Getting lost is not hard to do and no big foul there. Where we went wrong was the next part. The familiarity and “we passed right by here” and “it has to be that way because it makes sense” and then, the coup de gras, “this compass is cheap, something must be wrong with it.” We were both over 12. You can do some awesome things at 12 or younger and you can lose your way at much older, and vice versa. What we were missing, where we went wrong out there was our self reliance and what we thought we knew. Maybe that was Joseph and Mary’s problem too. When Christians and churches get comfortable with Jesus—when like his parents we presume to know where he should be and what he should be doing—Jesus rebukes us with what should have been obvious. He is not where we think he is supposed to be, rather he is doing the work of his heavenly Father. Have you ever been asked the question, “Have you found Jesus?” Jesus is not someone you have to search for. Jesus abides with us EMMANUEL GOD WITH US Yet we often keep looking because we shut our eyes to the reality of who and where he is. Kind of like not believing a compass or living with the Son of God for 12 years and not checking the church when you can’t find him. We travel that same road in sin and in our worldly way of dealing with things. We have our expectations or our desires, our wants and they cloud the way. We will go through and try to fit every other peg that we want to fit and push away the one offered because it doesn’t fit our plan. So, who is truly lost, the one being searched for or the one who is distracted, blinded by decoys or with no idea where to begin because we refuse to see who is standing beside us?? God does not require us to go on some epic journey to “find Jesus” or to “find God”. That is the beauty of the miracle of Christmas, while we were lost Jesus came to us and is Emmanuel, God with us. So what is it we are looking for? Our human wisdom to finally work out? Recognition for finding our own way? Proof that we are self-directed and self made? Master’s of our own destiny? So often we tend to navigate with a compass that only points to ourselves. Our compass to navigate this world is Christ Jesus who, by his Amazing Grace has found us, opened our eyes and seeks to guide us outward to carry the light into a world where so many are lost in the darkness.