Sometimes, among the diapers and the cheerios,
in the middle of carpools
and homework wars and hockey practice--
in the chaos that surrounds any parent,
there are glimpses of grace.
Moments when God reaches
deep into the clutter of our lives
and brings forth a harvest
that we never knew was planted.
Moments when God ignores
all the barriers and debris
that we place between ourselves
and our redemption
and reminds us that we are holy.
And in those moments,
sticky hands are transformed into
instruments of grace
and stories of playground betrayal and forgiveness
become words of wisdom and hope.
In those moments,
ordinary events take on new depths of meaning,
and even McDonald’s
can become a cathedral.
In my family,
rarely came when the five of us
were kneeling piously in church.
They almost never happened
when the camera was loaded
and the neighbors were watching.
In all families, these moments tend to be elusive,
and holding on to them
can be as tricky
as herding a naked toddler
after a soapy bath.
These holy moments often come
with the suddenness of a stealth bomber strike
that can leave you
gasping for air.
as with Mary and Joseph,
these moments come in the form
of heart-stopping fear
and mind-numbing panic.
Mary and Joseph and Jesus
had gone up to Jerusalem
to celebrate the feast of Passover.
And as they were returning home--
probably in a large, confusing caravan--
they realized that Jesus
was no longer with them.
Returning to Jerusalem,
they found him three days later
sitting with the teachers in the temple,
wondering what all the fuss was about
and responding with a smart answer:
Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?.
This story strikes a chord
in every parent
who ever yelled,
“I told you to stay right there!
I told you, Don’t move!
What were you thinking?”
and then clutches the truant in a burst of love
it curls your toes.
This is a story for every sleep-deprived mother
who feared that she would
drive off in an empty van,
leaving the baby
in the basket at Walmart.
This story is for every father
with panic in his eyes
who scans the crowd at the football game,
or the mob exiting the subway,
looking for that one
This story is for every family
who makes a mistake sometimes.
For every family who gets angry
at a kid who should have stayed put,
This story is for every person
who knows what it’s like
to lose something precious,
and then find it again.
This story is for everyone
who discovers in the quirky wonder
of their own holy family,
the wonder of a God
who will leave the caravan
and come to find us
each and every time we are lost.
But this is not simply a story
about finding a lost child.
It’s also about a child
who is finding his own way--
even if that way takes him away from home.
It’s a reminder
that being created in God’s image
means that sooner or later,
we must all leave the safety of the caravan
and go where God leads us,
even if that path leads directly to danger.
It’s a reminder to parents
that these holy moments of discovery and growth
can come with the suddenness
that leaves us gasping for air
and frightened for the future.
It’s a reminder
that God calls us into families and friendships—
not so much to protect us,
but to prepare us--
to launch us into a journey of faith and mission.
It is no accident
that Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor
in the midst of a family.
A family that was sometimes panicked
and even fearful,
at the behavior of a 12 year old boy.
It is no accident that
God used that family—
as he can use ours--
to reach deep into people’s lives,
producing a harvest
no one even knew had been planted.
God came to live among us,
not in a temple
perched on a high mountain
or in a museum
safely locked behind glass.
No, the Word became flesh
and dwelled among us,
of the holiness that can be found
right in the middle of the homework wars
and buried beneath a pile of laundry.