Christmas 2 – St. Luke 2:40-52
What kind of parents do you think Mary and Joseph were?
Well that may depend on which part of our Gospel text you are reading.
They take Jesus up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, which is good. But then they lose Him, which is bad. But then they find Him, so that is also good.
But the question of what kind of parents Mary and Joseph were is probably not a pressing matter for you, for one simple reason: look at the child. Any parent is going to look like a great parent when their child is the Son of God.
Imagine how easy life was for Mary and Joseph when it came to raising Jesus – no calls from the teachers at school telling them that Jesus was disruptive. No report cards showing less than ideal grades. No worries about the police showing up at the door with a Jesus who was picked up for throwing eggs at buildings. Not even a concern that Jesus did not do His chores around the house.
Any parent can be a great parent when their child is in reality perfect, holy and sinless. And in fact in verse 51, we even read that Jesus went to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph, and that He was submissive to them.
But of course, this is not the only time that we bemoan what others have compared to our own.
Any town can do things when they have that many people. Anyone can keep their house perfectly clean and kept up if they had that amount of free time. Anyone could be that good of an athlete if they had that DNA. Anyone could be that well off if they had that kind of support from family. Anyone can be a good parent if their son is God.
For a real show of how towns and people react, strip away all of their perceived benefits. For a real challenge, put everyone on the same level playing field, and then we will truly see who is the best at sports, or housekeeping, or business.
For a real test of what kind of parents Mary and Joseph were, we would have to see their parenting skills when it comes to children who are not the perfect, holy and sinless Son of God.
But of course, we cannot do that. We know it is likely Mary and Joseph had other children, none of whom were the Son of God; but that also means we have no examples of their parenting recorded for us when it comes to those other children. Even when it comes to Jesus, we only have this one example from when He was 12 years old.
It may therefore surprise you that through this one account, we have more than enough to tell us what kind of parents Mary and Joseph were; and we have more than enough to give us an example to follow going forward.
It is easy to say that Mary and Joseph have gone to Jerusalem for the Passover, because everyone went to Jerusalem for the Passover, it was after all required by the law. Likewise, at the age of 12, Jesus also was not only eligible, but required to attend the Passover in Jerusalem.
But this does tell us that Mary and Joseph were faithful to the Word of the Lord. That the Word held some prominence in their lives, not just because their Son was God, not just because the grandparents kept bugging them about it, and not just because the local Pharisee came by and visited about their lack of participation; but the Word held prominence in their lives because they believed that what the Lord offered to His people was good and pleasing and beneficial to them in their daily lives.
And so we can also say that Mary and Joseph did not just make a token trip to Jerusalem to meet some vague requirement of the Law or to get others to stop bugging them about it, but because the Law of the Lord held a special place in their daily lives. And so we can also say that their home in Nazareth was a place familiar to the reciting of the Psalms; that meal time prayer was not just familiar, but a well-known practice before eating any meal; that regular worship in the synagogue was a part of the family’s weekly routine.
Mary and Joseph did not do this just because Jesus was the Son of God and He cast a disparaging glance at Mary as she began eating without saying grace; or that He lectured Joseph on the proper role of the father leading devotions in the household. Mary and Joseph did this with their son Jesus, just as they would do, and presumably did, with all of their children.
And so today’s Gospel text is not just an example of Jesus being faithful to the Lord from a very young age; today’s text is also showing us that Mary and Joseph were themselves faithful to the Lord, even as they were still imperfect people in a fallen world, doing their best to take care of the child the Lord had entrusted to their care.
They left Jesus in Jerusalem, they screwed up. Mary and Joseph had one job to do – take care of Jesus, get Him to adulthood, when He will lay down His life for the salvation of the world. All Mary and Joseph have to do is get Jesus to 30 years of age.
And yet today, they lose Him; they have no idea where He is for at least 5 days. What punishment will be rendered upon them for such careless actions?
And yet God does not immediately strike them dead; just as He does not punish them severely when they miss a devotion, or oversleep and not make it to synagogue; nor does He even lecture them in front of everyone when they neglect to ensure that Jesus gets a proper diet of fruits and vegetables.
God graciously and mercifully forgives them for their sins in parenting, even for leaving Jesus behind in the temple. And if God is willing to forgive Mary and Joseph for leaving behind Jesus in the temple, then He will most certainly also forgive you when you look at others and moan that they have it easy for the benefits they have that you do not.
Mary and Joseph know this. Not because raising Jesus comes with its own instruction manual; but because they are faithful and devout. They are in the Lord’s house hearing His word and His promises not just on the Passover, not just on Christmas and Easter, but whenever the Word is proclaimed.
Mary and Joseph raise a different Son than anyone else will ever be called upon to care for; and they raise Jesus the only way they know how: in the faith; the same faith their parents raised them in, the same faith they would raise any child entrusted to their care in.
What does this look like? It looks like regular worship attendance; it looks like daily devotions in the home; it looks like meal time prayer. But it also looks like husband and wife who love and honor each other; it looks like mother and father both disciplining and rewarding their children appropriately; and it looks like children honoring, serving, obeying, loving, and cherishing their parents.
What kind of parents were Mary and Joseph? We know they were not rich and famous; and we know they were not of royalty, nor were they of the religious establishment.
But we do know that they were the parents that God saw fit to entrust with the care of His one and only beloved Son because they were faithful. And we know that the way they raised Jesus is the same way they would have raised any of their children, the same way God calls on you to raise your children – in the faith, in a household that fears, loves and trusts in God above all things; in a manner in which sins are forgiven.
Today in the temple, we see what kind of parents Mary and Joseph were – they may have lost Jesus for 5 days, but they panicked, searched frantically and spared no expense to find the missing child.
In other words – Mary and Joseph were the same kind of parents most people are; the same kind of parents God calls on all people to be. They care for the wellbeing of their children, and they desire to bring their children up in the ways of the Lord.
What is their reward? For Mary and Joseph, we read that Jesus was submissive to them. May all children behave as such. But for children there is the same forgiveness extended by Christ that is extended to their parents, that is extended to Mary and Joseph.