In the last few posts, we’ve been looking at Christmas through Mary’s eyes. We began by considering Mary’s perspective on Christmas as she approached her own death. In today’s post we’ll look at Christmas through Mary’s eyes as a young mother who had “lost” her 12 year old son in Jerusalem at the Passover.
Mary is in her twenties. She and her husband Joseph have taken their twelve-year-old son Jesus to Jerusalem for the Passover.
Every male Jew living within a reasonable distance of Jerusalem was required to be there for the holiday. Mary and Joseph and all their family and friends from Nazareth made the long, arduous journey. It would have taken over a week by caravan.
When Passover ended, Joseph, Mary, and the entire community from Nazareth headed home. After traveling for ten hours, they arrived at their camp. Mary found Joseph and said, “Where’s Jesus?” Joseph said, “I thought he was with you.” Can you hear Mary shout?
They had just lost the Messiah, the Savior of the World, the Son of God!
Joseph and Mary hurried back to Jerusalem. Their sense of panic grew as they searched the city—for three days. They went from house to house. He wasn’t there. They went to everyone they knew. He wasn’t there. They checked among the sick and injured. He wasn’t there. Do you feel what Mary was feeling? Do you understand why, for the rest of her life, she told that story over and over again?
Luke tells us that finally, when Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the Temple, “they were astonished” (Luke 2:48). Now, the word astonished doesn’t mean they were excited. It means they were dumbfounded. Luke uses the Greek word odunao to describe how Mary and Joseph felt. Odunao is used elsewhere in Luke, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, to describe the torments of hell. So when Mary said she and Joseph were in “great anxiety” (Luke 2:48), she was saying they were overwhelmed with sorrow—or perhaps accurately, Jesus had put them through a living hell.
This is a story about parents and children of all generations and ages. This is our story. As parents, we tend to remember and retell those stories. The stories stand out in our minds as pivotal moments. And that is why Mary remembered this episode. It was one of the most traumatic moments in her child-rearing years. She had experienced three days of not knowing what had happened to her son— three days of grief.
We have this image of Christmas and of life that it’s supposed to be easy, peaceful, beautiful, and serene. . . . Life does have those moments, but it also has periods of grief and pain and hardship. Our Scripture reminds us that even Jesus gave his parents fits.
Notice how long Mary and Joseph hunted for Jesus before they found him—three days. Do you remember what else happened after three days? Christ was crucified, and on the third day he was raised. The third day represents the time when darkness turns to light, when our pain or agony or fear is resolved and we can once again feel hope.
So, one reason Mary remembered this story was undoubtedly because it was traumatic. But she also remembered it because it was a defining moment.
When Joseph and Mary finally found Jesus in the Temple, Mary said to him, “Your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” And then we hear the earliest recorded words of Jesus: “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).
Did you notice that? Mary said, “Your father and I have been searching for you.” Jesus replied, “I must be in my Father’s house.” Some believe it was there, at age twelve, when Jesus became aware that God was, in a profound sense, his Father in a way that Joseph was not.
There in the Temple, for the first time that we know of, Jesus claimed his special relationship with God, a relationship that would define his life. Some scholars believe that this scene is preserved in the Gospels precisely because it shows Jesus’ first affirmation that he was no ordinary boy.
Jesus felt an intimate connection and relationship with God. But he also invites us to do the same—to consider God as our Father and parent, and ourselves as God’s children. We read in the Gospel of John, “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12).
Today’s post is an excerpt from Not a Silent Night.