Looking in all the wrong places

Published 12:56 pm Friday, December 31, 2021

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By Charles Qualls

I was about 4 or 5 years old when my only experience with getting lost happened. My family was at a K-mart store. I thought I was paying attention, except that something hanging on a rack or sitting on a shelf down at about my eye-level caught my attention. I took a couple of steps over to another aisle to get a closer look. That was it.

Suddenly, I realized I couldn’t find my family. I walked a bit and looked where I thought they were. No family. I began a frantic run, and I remember it so clearly. I started to cry a bit as I stumbled around and around. Scared out of my wits.

A kind lady took me up front, and the store manager called out for any parents who had lost a child to come up. The sight of my Dad walking toward me was one of the greatest sights I had ever seen, to that point of my young life. Until I read the room.

In this week after Christmas, we examine Luke 2:41-52. The holy family is on return from Jerusalem, where they and many other families have traveled to meet their obligations. We don’t get to know much about Mary, Joseph and Jesus now in this episode. Except that Mary was none too thrilled with her young son once they did find him three days later.

Jesus was 12 years old. Wouldn’t it be a happy image to think that Jesus was off playing with his cousins as the group slowly traveled? It wouldn’t have been unusual in a caravan of family and close friends for the kids to have traveled together, even under the watchful eye of others.

That which we struggle to understand becomes a little more understandable as Mary and Joseph realize a few days into the journey that Jesus isn’t with the caravan at all. They backtrack. Can you imagine the anxious, frightful and frenzied days until they finally arrived and found young Jesus in the Temple?

He was studying at the feet of the priests and rabbis, ostensibly. But in reality Jesus was holding court with them and quite nicely holding His own. Can you imagine the loss of control, the last shred of illusion that Mary and Joseph had any final say-so over protecting and guiding their children without flaw?

One pastor I know wonders where they looked for young Jesus for three days as they searched. For three days, they looked in all the wrong places. They probably went to where children might like to play and where the caravan had traveled.

They didn’t know yet to look where the outcasts were gathered. They didn’t know to check where the poor needed to be helped. Or to look where someone was discouraged or needed a new perspective. It didn’t occur to search where people were hurting and in need of some form of healing. Maybe, they should have looked where the sinners gathered and the tax collectors hung out.

They also didn’t think to look in the Temple at first. They didn’t know just yet where Jesus would grow up and spend his time, confronting the church of his day. If we want to look for Jesus, those places are where scripture actually tells us we should begin our looking.

It’s so easy to leave Him in the manger or as a little boy. But here, Jesus served notice that He knew what He had come to do.

Could it be that if we feel as though we can’t find Him, we just might be the one who got a little distracted at something just over there? Something hanging at about our eye-level? Jesus still beckons. He still says to any of us who will listen, “Follow Me.” That’s because he didn’t stay in the Manger. Nor as a 12-year-old. He grew up.

Now as a new year begins, maybe our faith grows up a little, too. We can get lost so easily. Or, we can get distracted looking in all the wrong places.