About a week ago, Ashley and I were together, watching Netflix, when a silver alert came through on our phones. The alert was for an unfortunate man who had wandered from home and was missing. The tone for the alert though, was startling, terrifying even. It was like a home break-in alarm going off or a tornado alarm (like you get when you live in a place that, like, gets tornadoes, and we at first had no idea where it was coming from. Once we figured it out, that it was coming from our phones for this silver alert, we talked about the shock of getting this alert.
Well that reminds me of our reading from the Gospel today, that when Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, figured out that Jesus was not in the group leaving Jerusalem, it was like an amber alert going out–Jesus is missing.
From the scene we read, we find that the Holy Family are traveling in a group together as they depart Jerusalem after their celebration of the Passover in the city. Remember the phrase, “It takes a village?” that’s what’s going on here, that the group is sharing in the mutual care and oversight of the children among them. So it was perhaps not that strange or irresponsible that they would not know where their son is at all times, and they could assume that he was with them. Someone had to know where he was. But at the end of that day, after they had left the city, he was not there.
An amber alert for Jesus.
So Mary and Joseph return to the city. Frantic. Looking for their son. And after THREE DAYS, they find him in the temple, at 12 years old, sitting with the experts in the Torah and the Scriptures, while all those gathered there are amazed at this young boy and the insight he possessed and the questions he asked of the teachers of the Torah.
Who is this kid? That can hold his own with the experts of the Torah?
And when they find him, they say, why have you treated us like this? I can’t help but to find the response so Jewish! Why have you treated US like this?! To which he replies that they should have known that they would find him in the Temple, that this is the most logical place for him to be and where they should have looked for him first.
Who is this kid? That tells his parents that they should have known to find him in his Father’s house, the Temple?
And that’s the sense that we’re left with: Who is this kid?
There’s most definitely something unique and strange and mysterious in the works here. That the little that we know about him at this point, that he is not your ordinary, average boy like you would meet in the towns and villages of first century Palestine. We haven’t seen him since his birth and know only a little about his childhood from the Gospels. This is the most that we see him, and the first time we’ve heard him speak, and this is the impression that we get. Who is this kid?
The crux from us and what we learn from this moment in his life can be found in the last sentence:
That Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
This is not the flashy and thrilling parts of the life of Christ presented to us in the Gospels. This is a glimpse into the everyday, mundane example given to us by the Christ child. And I find great encouragement in this, that this is something that you and I can and should strive for in our own lives in an everyday, mundane way: To increase in wisdom, and in divine and human favor.
I’ve shared with several people that Christianity has an increasingly bad reputation today. If you watch on social media, the impression that a wide swath of our country has is that Christians are mean, angry, and selfish people. That the values spoken so highly of in churches, of love and compassion, mercy, and caring for others in need, have not borne themselves out in the world around us, but instead what we see in the news and social media has been the opposite of these things, and that, agree with it or not, it is the narrative that has taken hold for many people.
I’m thankful that this impression is not true of us here at St. Bede’s, or in the Episcopal Church, that we regularly commit ourselves to such things as love, mercy, justice, and kindness, and particularly so in our baptismal covenant and in the preaching that you will hear in so many of our parishes. I see it with you all, and the work and concern that you all have to living out the model and example that we have in the Gospels from the life and teaching of Jesus.
But it does mean that we have our work cut out for us, that we are Christians, and my fear is that we will be lumped into that narrative of mean, angry, and selfish, simply by virtue of being Christians. That though we are Episcopalians and committed to our brand of living out the Gospel through our lives, that this is clouded out of the assumption of what Christians are like.
And which is why that last sentence from our Gospel reading is so important to learn from: That Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
That if we’re committed to love, mercy, justice, and kindness, that this can change the minds and soften the hearts of those we meet. That we can be part of changing the narrative, and in doing so grow in divine and human favor, that all may see the Glory of God through our lives. And this is why you will hear from me, regularly, about our need to let our faith and commitment to God in Christ flow throughout our lives. That no stone be left unturned in our hearts and in our minds by the calling of God in our lives, and of the giving ourselves over to the will of God. That we would take seriously what we say here on Sundays together, and actively work to patterning our lives after the imitation of Christ. Because the way of Jesus is the best possible way to live.