For Mary, celebrating the Passover was nothing out of the ordinary. It was something that she did each year, like how we celebrate Christmas and any religious holidays. Her family, her friends and her relatives made long trips to the temple in Jerusalem to take part in the festival, and it was a tradition which she faithfully kept. In today’s passage, we see that she visits the temple again when her son, Jesus turns 12. But this time it turns out to be no ordinary trip. On their way back home, Mary and Joseph realized that their child is missing. The scripture tells us that it took them about a day before they realized he wasn’t with them. Each week, every Friday we have our staff meeting and at our staff meeting, each week we usually have a passage that whoever’s going to preach on, we reflect on them together, so we share our thoughts on what the passage means to us, and Pastor Sunny read this passage and said what kind of parents would do something like this? I mean, how could they be so forgetful? But I think it’s important to remember that back then people travelled as a large group, like in a caravan. But it was just normal to assume that your child was just somewhere in the mix. When Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus is nowhere to be found, they go back to Jerusalem to look for him and we can only imagine the anxiety they must’ve felt. What if something happened to him? What if he got lost and is looking for us too? I mean, the thought of losing your own child is a nightmare for any parent. I mean, before we started praise practice, I mean Nolan was just running around and I saw Josh going and saying to Nolan, just stay where I can see you.
This is a parental instinct to do that, and even my own parents, they used to tell me how when I was a kid, I was a very curious kid so I would get distracted very easily. So if something interested me, I would run. I would just go off. So they would always look for me and they always told me how much grief I caused them with all that. And it got so bad that I don’t know if they still have this anymore, but they bought like a harness that they attached to my arms so that I wouldn’t go too far, but anyway, after a few days, Mary and Joseph finally found Jesus at the temple. They see their son sitting amongst the teachers, impressing them with this knowledge and understanding. Like any parent would Mary reprimands Jesus for worrying them, but her son, this kid doesn’t apologize. Instead, he tells her, why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my father’s house? The 12-year-old acts like she should’ve known better as to exactly where he’d be like there’s nothing to be anxious about. I wonder what Mary thought at that moment. Scripture tells us that neither she nor Joseph understood what Jesus had said. She probably felt this mixture of anxiety and confusion by this curveball that her own child has thrown at her, and as if nothing happened, the boy goes back home with her and remains obedient to his parents, but what is particularly interesting about today’s story is that we see this change in Mary after the incident. When she’s at the temple, she’s anxious, relieved, and confused all at the same time, but when she’s back home, she seems a little different. Luke doesn’t tell us what this change is exactly, but only that his mother treasured all these things in her heart.
It’s not that she had finally understood what Jesus had said at the temple, but that there was something special about the entire experience, that she had. Something special that led her to keep all of these things close to her heart. When we looked at Mary in the scriptures, we see that she’s a very reflective person. She rarely lets an experience just pass her by. She pays attention to what she hears and sees and she ponders and meditates upon them. There’s this sense of maturity and thoughtfulness in the way that she lives her life, even from a young age. At our Christmas service this past Tuesday, we saw how she reflected on the experience she had with the shepherds, the shepherds who came and told her what God had told them about Jesus was just born and scripture tells us that, but Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. She listened to the words of the shepherds and meditated on them, and in meditating on their words, she recognized God’s reminder that she was not alone. She remembered the promise that he had made to her Emmanuel, God with us. That God was truly present in our lives and in the world, and in today’s story, Mary remembers all these things again in our experience of losing and finding Jesus she was reminded that her child is was not her own but God’s. That Jesus is God’s gracious gift to her, into the world. God reminds her that he’s watching over the life of her own son, that he will take care of him. I mean it had been a few years there to them, a number of years since the last incident had happened and after all these years, God once again reminds her that in the most unexpected of situations that his promise to her still stands, it allows Mary to find assurance and peace in the midst of all the uncertainty and mystery that lay ahead of her.
Today’s the last Sunday of the month and to me, it just feels like December has just flown right by and for many of us, December is probably the busiest month. I mean a lot of us are finishing up our studies, trying to get our Christmas shopping done on time and then after Christmas there’s boxing day again, gathering of families and friends, some of us travel to places. Never mind the events that we have here at the church. We had the choir festival at the beginning of the month and the Christmas concert, Christmas Day service and all this, It’s just nonstop. And it can be a fun and a busy time for a lot of us, but for some of us, it can also be an anxious and stressful time. It can be depressing and lonely. People close to us, maybe away or absent or it can bring back unpleasant memories. We all experience the holiday season differently and in the midst of it all, I think it’s easy to simply neglect or forget the promise that we’ve been given on Christmas. The promise that God is with us. Like Mary, I believe it is important that we meditate upon this simple promise from God deep within our hearts, and this is why I focused on Mary in today’s passage. I mean, the focus seems to be really on this young boy Jesus, but I see it as being her story just as much as it is Jesus’ story. We often reflect on Mary and her story during Advent and on Christmas, but we rarely talk about her once Christmas is gone. But the more I think about her, the more I realize what a special person that she was. Throughout the gospels, we see that she remains an important part of Jesus’ life, not just in his childhood but throughout his adulthood until his death on the cross. She’s just there. She doesn’t impose herself, but you just see her there and we see that her life is not without difficulties or challenges as a young girl, about to be married, God comes to tell her that she’s going to have to give birth to a baby that’s not really hers. Then once the baby is born, she finds out that the king just wants him dead, so she ends up running off to some other country, Egypt with her husband to seek refuge. She goes through all these ordeals and she even witnesses her own son die later but throughout these ordeals, God reminds her of his promise and then gives her the strength to move forward in faith.
Today it’s not really the new year, but we are in a sort of a transitional phase between Christmas and the new year and as we now transition between those two, I like to encourage us to remind ourselves of the simple yet very powerful promise, that God is with us and will be with us, that we remember the steady hand. I mean as Peter prayed for us today, that carried us through the ups and downs of this year. Facing the new year is like facing the unknown. It comes around every year, we know, but we have no idea what’s in store for us. It makes us wonder and ask all sorts of questions. It seems too big to understand, to comprehend and for that, some of us can feel excited but others it can be daunting for them and it can make us feel very anxious and worried, but when we remember God’s promise and his faithfulness to us, we will be able to venture into the unknown. I believe that is the way that we can truly and fully embrace the mystery that is before us with hope and confidence. God has been with us throughout 2018 and I believe he will be with us throughout 2019. Guiding us and leading us in our never-ending journey, not just in our own individual lives but in the life of our church as well. I mean, personally, I’m excited to see what will come of this new theme of leadership that we’ll be embarking on. I mean to the transition from going to worship into leadership. I mean, I can only imagine what will come with that and as we will sing our response some shortly, let us be really intentional and take the time to reflect on the year that we’ve had. Let us remember how God has been faithful to us. Let us really treasure all the experiences that we’ve had and let us centre ourselves in God and begin from there. Maybe we’ll enter into the new year with confident and abundant hearts. I know it’s early, but Happy New Year. Can we turn around to the people next to us, behind us, in front of us and wish them a Happy New Near too.