I love my family. They have been with me through thick and thin. My parents and brother supported me through my difficult teenage years when I was fraught with angst and at sometimes downright anger. Sure, we didn’t go through that time without the occasional (or more than occasional) yelling match, but we made it out the other side mostly unscathed. We still talk. We still play. We still listen. We still love each other.
This past Sunday I preached on the story of pre-teen Jesus in the Temple. When his family was about to leave Jerusalem, Jesus apparently ditched them and stayed in Jerusalem. What he did for those three days is anyone’s guess, but his parents noticed he was gone, went looking for him, and finally found him on that third day in the Temple (among certain circles, there is belief an allusion to Easter here – three days in Jerusalem = on the third day Jesus rose). You can imagine how worried, anxious, and downright distraught Mary (and Joseph) would have been at the thought of losing her son.
Of course, he is found, but Jesus replies with a little bit of twelve-year-old snarkiness, “Where else would I have been?” as if Mary should have known. Then Jesus returns home and eventually grows up. The next time we see him he is 30 and proclaiming the kingdom of God is near.
The interesting thing for me in this story is how the Holy Family, especially Mary and Jesus, interacts with each other. They almost seem like a real family. A kid runs away (or stays away), parents have to go find him, parents chastise the kid for the running away, kid responds with a short temper. This interaction seems eerily familiar to me (thanks mom!).
That’s one of the most intimate things about the Incarnation, God coming into the world as a human. God comes in through a family just like any other. They had problems: teenage mom, pregnant through disreputable ways (at least to the outside observer and Joseph), a big age gap between parents, snarky teenager. God came into the world through a family which had problems, not a perfect one. This gives hope to all families in the midst of trial and trouble: the Holy Family “it is of a family that lives into messy moments with the confidence that God in Christ Jesus has entered and redeems them from within” (William J. Dahner Jr.).
Jesus comes from a family like yours and like mine. A messy family. A troubled family. And for that, I give thanks.