Losing Jesus

Have you ever had the experience of losing someone or something important to you? That initial feeling when you realize that the person or object is missing often causes panic to set in. Many years ago, prior to our marriage, Anne and I were coming from different places and agreed to meet at a particular spot. I was in one car and Anne was in another car. Each of us thought we understood exactly where we were to meet, and yet, neither of us arrived at the “right” place. Since this was in the days prior to cellular communication, there was nothing to do but wait. And wait we did. After a couple of hours of frantic waiting, we somehow found each other. We were literally just a few hundred yards apart, but we didn’t discover that until after we had spent a miserable afternoon imagining all of the horrible possibilities.

In our gospel this weekend, Jesus is missing. The Holy Family was traveling in a large group which included relatives and friends. Logically, Mary and Joseph assumed that Jesus had joined in with part of the group. After not finding him among the relatives and friends, Mary and Joseph headed back to Jerusalem, where they found Jesus in the temple. After Mary and Joseph expressed their anxiety over their missing Son, Jesus informs them that He must be in His Father’s house.

In my corrections ministry, I meet many people who have lost Jesus. If we are being honest, we can probably all name a time or two in which we have lost a sense of Jesus in our lives. It may have been a time of difficulty when we couldn’t find our way, so we bolted from the Lord and ran into the waiting arms of evil. Many of the men and women I meet in correctional facilities are able to easily name how their lives went off the rails when they gave up on Jesus in favor of the pleasures of the world. Hurt, broken and without their freedom, they easily return to the One who can bring healing and mercy back into their lives.

In my own life, I have sometimes forgotten that I am a child of God. In 1 John we hear these words of comfort:

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. And so we

The interesting thing about losing Jesus is that it is always an issue in our own being that causes this to happen. God never leaves us–not even for one second! While there are times in our life of faith that God may appear to be hidden, He never ever leaves us. There are numerous places in scripture where Jesus reminds us that He is with us always, until the end of time. It is most often fear that causes us to run from the One who makes all things new. It can be lifechanging to experience the death of someone close to us, a sudden change in our life plans or the cumulative stress that we encounter every day in our earthly lives.  When we encounter these moments, it is important to turn to the Lord and bring our deepest worries and fears before Him. In our human condition, we often do just the opposite and run far from the Lord when we are hurting. Jesus always wants to bring healing and peace when we are struggling to find our way.

Mary and Joseph had a rough three days searching for Jesus. Like any good parents, they probably imagined the worst possible scenarios. They found Jesus exactly where He was supposed to be, doing exactly what He was supposed to be doing. Their worry, fear and anxiety gave way to joy, as they found Jesus safe and sound in the temple.

There is a beautiful lesson for each of us in our scripture readings this weekend. We are God’s children. This is who we are and from where our identities come. Our God is not a harsh and judgmental God, who departs from us when we sin. On the contrary, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who seeks us out when we are lost and broken. When it seems that we have lost Jesus, we can look deep inside our hearts and remember that we are His precious children, and He will never leave us or forsake us.

Perhaps you know someone who has lost Jesus, or maybe you are in that place yourself right now? Jesus is always waiting for us, knowing that we will return to Him. Like the father, who waits for the return of the prodigal son, Jesus welcomes us back with open arms without judgment or condemnation. We can take solace in the fact that even Mary and Joseph experienced losing Jesus, and yet their faith in God never wavered! Let us vow in this new year to stay close to Jesus. If we should get lost and lose our way, let us turn quickly to Jesus, who will always seek us, find us and bring us back.

In Christ,
Deacon Tim


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