Author: GFG Team Member, Matt Ouellette
Luke 2 is a popular chapter to blog about this time of year, but I want to jump to the end of the narrative. Long after the little town of Bethlehem, Jesus is a junior higher at Nazareth Middle School. And in verse 41 we read about a twelve-year-old Jesus and his parents — none other than Mary and Joseph. It’s here we’re given a look at one of their religious rhythms. “Every year”.. “as usual”.. they went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. Luke wants us to know this journey was familiar, predictable, even budgeted for. Every good Jew who was able would maintain this religious rhythm. It was out of devotion, remembrance, and it was often one heck of a party. You’d take a week off of work, catch up with old friends and family, and reignite your heart for the things of God. “Every year”.. “as usual”… it was rhythmic.
Verse 43: “After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth” ..as usual. Everything up to this point has gone according to plan. It’s been familiar, predictable, and perhaps only slightly over budget. But relationships were rekindled in every way that matters and everyone was eager to get back to the simplicity of everyday life in Nazareth. “But Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.” Leave it to a junior higher to disrupt a comfortable rhythm.
Jesus stayed behind. This didn’t happen every year. This wasn’t part of the plan. This was unpredictable. This was unfamiliar. I mean, c’mon, Jesus. We had a good thing going. We were steeped in a religious rhythm. Why are you disrupting it? We don’t have to study the Scriptures long before we begin to see that Jesus was often unpredictable.. unusual — not in an unstable way, but rather, in a very intentional way. He often disrupts our plans. He seems to frustrate the familiar. And this is never for the sake of simply frustrating or disrupting us, but is always an honest pursuit of tilling hardened soil.
The narrative continues in verse 43, “His parents didn’t miss Him at first because they thought He was with the others.” These annual expeditions were often traveled in a caravan for obvious reasons of safety and companionship so it isn’t hard to believe the “misplacing Jesus” moment. But there’s a sobering truth as well - they didn’t miss Him because they assumed He was among them. Go ahead, read that again.
In their religious rhythm, they didn’t notice Jesus went missing.
I believe this holds heavy connotations for each of us individually as well as collectively. See, “Every year…” their religious devotion was evident “as usual.” But in the familiar, we often forget. In the routine, we grow rote. In the everyday, we tend to overlook. And it is in our religious rhythm, we don’t notice that Jesus went missing. Ironically, because it’s a religious rhythm, we assume He’s there.
This isn’t a matter of whether or not the Spirit dwells in us. It’s a matter of our sincerity in process and programs that naturally calcify. Yes, God has worked in this way at that time, but He is not bound to that way this time. There is an agility to God’s working. It’s alive. It’s often unpredictable and unusual. It’s adventurous. It involves dreamers and name-changers; water-walkers and mountain-climbers. God’s working can be excruciatingly loud and terrifyingly quiet. It can be vividly clear and subtly seen. It can be this way at that time, but He is not bound to that way this time. In their religious rhythm, they didn’t notice Jesus went missing.
It’s December and we’re steeped in religious rhythms. And it’s because our rhythms are religious, they’re most susceptible to overlooking His absence. This isn’t a call to abandon them by any means, but is simply a call to take inventory — to take roll call and ensure that we aren’t assuming He’s among us. Perhaps this year, we might anticipate the unusual — disrupting our plans and frustrating the familiar — in all the right ways.
Spoiler alert: They seek him and find him.