Mary and Joseph lost their focus. We shouldn't be too harsh on them, I suppose. They were busy people, after all.
Following the shocking news of Mary's pregnancy, announced by an angel, the long trip to Bethlehem, and the stable-birth of their baby, they found themselves refugees in a foreign country, forced to flee for their lives in the middle of the night. Years later, things seemed to have settled down, as Mary and Joseph were able to move back to their hometown of Nazareth and raise their family. But, like most of us have experienced, life just seemed to get busier and busier. Mary had a very special child to care for (and, according to the Gospels, more children came later). Joseph had his carpentry business to tend to. There were bills to pay, children to feed, education to provide; there were family obligations, community obligations, and work obligations.
And so, 12 years after the birth of their miracle baby, Mary and Joseph seemed to have lost their focus. On their way back from their yearly Passover visit to Jerusalem, they lost track of Jesus. As they prepared to make camp that first night on their return journey, they looked and looked but couldn't find their son. They had assumed he had been walking with friends or relatives, but no one could remember seeing him that day.
Trying hard not to let panic take over, Mary and Joseph quickly retraced their steps all the way back to the big city. After searching for an entire day there, they finally found Jesus right where they had left him two days earlier: In the temple. Their initial joy at finding Jesus quickly gave way to anger, however. "How could you treat us this way?" Mary demanded. But Jesus respectfully but firmly turned the question around. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" he asked.
Mary and Joseph had lost focus. They hadn't only lost sight of their firstborn, they lost sight of who he was and why he had come. They seemed to have forgotten that this adolescent was the Messiah, and that the angel had told them he came "to save his people from their sins."
What happened to Mary and Joseph happens to us. There are bills to pay, children to clothe and feed, appointments to keep and volunteer activities to see to. We make our busy-ness our business. And so we easily and frequently lose focus on what's important in life and why we're here. Worst of all, we take our eyes off our Savior, and lose track of him.
This new year, let's make a resolution not to let our busy lives distract us from our Father's business, and keep us from our Father's house. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, look to the direction he gives us in his Word, remember the home in heaven he has prepared for us, and live to serve him and each other.
That's our business. That's our joy and our peace. That's our focus.
- Brent Merten is the pastor at Gracious Savior Lutheran Church in Eagle.