31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
January 23, 2022
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
As I was studying this passage, this Bible story of a lost 12 year old, frantic parents, a mad search to find their child, I pictured the movie “Home Alone”. If you have not seen this movie since its premiere 32 years ago, please let me recap it for you.
The movie begins with eight year old Kevin McCallister, his parents, his four older siblings, his aunt and uncle, their children, plus some additional cousins all preparing to fly from Chicago to Paris for Christmas. The household is utter chaos with all of those people and all of the things that need to be done, and it only gets worse because the night before they are scheduled to leave, the power goes out, and none of the alarm clocks go off.
And while it doesn’t seem possible, the household becomes even more chaotic as they all rush to get ready. The oldest daughter is charged with counting to make sure all of the kids are accounted for, and she lines them up and counts them twice. Except, the neighbor boy has accidentally been included in the count, so no one notices that they are actually one child short as they scramble into the two shuttle vans to the airport, as they frantically rush through security, and barely make their flight – where of course, the adults are seated in a separate part of the plane from the kids.
It’s no wonder Kevin gets left behind.
Attending the Passover Festival in Jerusalem was even busier and more chaotic. It was like going to the Big E, or the Macy’s Day Parade, or Mardi Gras in New Orleans. So many people came to Jerusalem for Passover. So many faithful people came to praise and honor God as they told again the story of how God had freed their people from slavery in Egypt generations ago.
Mary and Joseph were among that crowd of faithful people. Every year, they traveled with their relatives, neighbors, and children to Jerusalem for the Passover, and every year, they traveled home –without incident. Until this year, when after having walked a day’s journey, they discovered Jesus wasn’t with them.
Mary and Joseph travel back to Jerusalem and frantically search for him for three days. Three days! Three days of not knowing where your loved one is, wondering if they are safe, if they are okay. Three days! I am sure my anxiety and fear would have worked me up to such a state that if I had been Mary, I would have had a lot more to say than “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” (Luke 2:48)
It is really easy for me to focus on Mary and Joseph, to put myself in their place and think about how they felt in this situation. It’s easy to get distracted by the drama of this story – a lost child, a frantic hunt, a relieved reconciliation. That’s not the point of this gospel story though. That’s not the point of any gospel story actually.
The gospels are the good news of Jesus Christ. Every single gospel story was written to help us focus on Jesus, on who he is, and who God is. As we enter into this gospel story, into any gospel story, we are invited to know Jesus and hear why his life and death and resurrection are good news for us.
So when we focus in on Jesus, we discover that this isn’t a story about a boy left home alone. This is a story about a boy who is at home.
Jesus’ parent should not have been surprised to have found him in the Temple. Really, it should have been the very first place they looked, because they raised Jesus to be a faithful Jew and because this was who Jesus was, at home in God’s house, at home with God.
Often, when we think about God’s house, we think about a place: a church, a cathedral, a synagogue, a mosque, a retreat center. Being at home with God is not about being in a certain place though.
Being at home with God is about a certain state of being. It is about being welcomed; it is about being safe; it is about knowing you are loved.
In Following Jesus: Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety, Henri Nouwen writes “Home is what the incarnation is all about.” (Nouwen, pg 21)
Home is what the incarnation is all about. Home, welcome, safety, knowing you are loved so you can heal and love others, that is what Jesus is all about.
Through Jesus’ life and teachings, he invites us to be at home with God, to be so connected with God that wherever we go in life and on life’s journey, we will know that God is with us. That in every room, we will experience this union with God, this wholeness, this feeling of welcome, safety and love. This feeling of home
And from the age of twelve, Jesus role models for us how to be at home with God. Not only as he sits comfortably in God’s temple, also as Jesus engages with the community of faith, asking questions and listening so that he might grow in wisdom and grow in connection to God and to others.
Throughout his lifetime, Jesus shows us that to be at home with God means to keep nurturing our relationship with God through participation in a community of faith, through study, through worship, and through prayer, especially through prayer. The gospels are full of stories of Jesus taking a moment, taking hours, taking the night, to be alone and pray, to be still and know God.
And day by day, as we connect with God and are still with God, as we come to be more and more at home with God, knowing God’s peace and love, we realize, as Henri Nouwen writes, “that right where we are, right here in this body, with this face, with these hands, with this heart, we are the place where God can dwell.” (Nouwen, Following Jesus: Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety, pg 21-22)
We are the place where God can dwell. We can be God’s home. Each of us can be the embodiment of God’s welcome, peace, safety, and love. We discover that no matter what happens in life, no matter what anxiety is in our lives or in the world, no matter what chaos or uncertainty we face, we are safe, we are loved, we are already at home with God.
It’s good news for us. It’s good news to know that even in this world that can often feel dangerous and overwhelming, we are safe, embraced, loved and cared for.
And it’s good news for the world. Because just as Jesus invited us to know God’s love and to be at home with God, we can offering healing and hope to the world. As we embody God’s welcome, care, and love, we invite others to be at home with God, to know the good news that no matter where they go in life or on life’s journey, that they, too, are welcomed, safe, and at home in God’s love.