So any of you get any cool toys for Christmas? My kids sure did. We had a lot of fun on Christmas early afternoon after church sitting around the tree picking gifts, opening them, screaming in excitement, then asking me to open up the package so they could play with them. It was hard enough keeping the order in the midst of the excitement, but trying to open up those packages needs like Batman’s utility belt. Seriously, I don’t know when the last time was that you opened a kid’s toy, but man alive they are packaged tight. Like, toight tight. Toight like a tiger.
So of course, the kids get impatient as they need me to have their toys open NOW. But they don’t get that there is the initial round of tape around the box, then if it is a display box then there is another round of tape holding the toys in place in the plastic packaging, then there are these little twist ties that very discreetly hold them in place with the force of a thousand suns, and that is just one piece of the whole set. And even after everything is opened and out of the box, there is a possibility that they have some assembly required. Unless it’s Lego, then assembly is like always required. The point is the wait gets longer and longer.
And this anticipation just kills my kids. They all want their toys and they want them now. If they don’t have it now, then they need to find something that doesn’t require so much waiting to play with in the meantime or else they would literally die of boredom. That is what they claim to happen, at least.
Now before you think that my kids are the most impatient brats in the world, I’d say you’re only half right. While they are impatient (brats), so are the rest of us.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that we are impatient by choice, but we can’t help it. Society has conditioned us to expect what we want to come basically instantly or it isn’t worth it. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you were at a restaurant and didn’t notice that your order took over 20 minutes to get to you? Or that you didn’t feel the anxiety waiting for a red light to change? Or when have you actually sat through a commercial break without flipping the channel, going to get a drink, or fast forwarding through it? Or, who here would put up with anything less than blazing fast internet speeds?
And I’m sure you all know the frustration of waiting sometimes. We urge efficiency and rushed motions and actions. We need to go go go or else we might feel like we aren’t getting anything done.
And maybe that is the problem. Maybe when gratification isn’t exactly instant, we think that gratification is never coming. If we don’t get what we want right now, then maybe it is somehow in our heads that we’re never going to get it. If we don’t arrive at wherever we’re going in the shortest possible time, then maybe we feel late and have already missed out on whatever we would have experienced had we been on time.
I wonder if this impatience was a contributing factor to Mary and Joseph losing 12-year-old Jesus. Maybe in the hustle and bustle of packing for their journey home, coordinating with the other caravaners, making sure that they get a nice head start on the road to beat that slow moving camel traffic, they lost track of their one big responsibility in the form of a human kid. And we hear this and think that it is so irresponsible of Mary and Joseph, it just testament of how unfit they are to be parents, and how ridiculous it is that they didn’t even notice he was gone for like a whole day.
But really, this kind of thing could happen to anyone. Any one of us could get really distracted, lose track of what we’re doing, and maybe lose a kid in the process. I say this because that is what happened to me those couple times that I’ve lost a kid. It wasn’t for long, mind you, no need to call Social Services, I just lost sight of them for 2 to 3 minutes, 15 tops. Also, Mary and Joseph lost their kid too and look at how he turned out, he done saved the world, that Jesus. Anyway, those few times that it happened I was either really overwhelmed with trying to juggle a few things at once, or really deep in conversation with someone, or completely engulfed by looking at a comic book cover. So you can see how it could happen to anyone, really.
So I get how Mary and Joseph, in their need to keep it moving somehow forgot about their kid. I can see how they really just wanted to get things done and got distracted enough to lose track of their child. I understand how their desire for efficiency, for productivity, for that sense of accomplishment of getting home sooner than later caused them to set their eyes off Jesus, the Son of God, Word made flesh.
But once they snapped back to their senses, it was all hands on deck to find Jesus. They made their way back to Jerusalem and spent another 3 days looking for him. And when they finally found him in the last place anyone would look for a 12 year old boy, their response is classic flustered parent, “child, why have you treated us like this?”
Guys, you lost him.
Jesus didn’t run away, he was left behind. He wasn’t hiding, he was forgotten. He wasn’t mistreating his parents at all, they were too caught up in their own business to keep their eyes on Jesus.
While this is pretty much the only “official” account of Jesus’ childhood that we have in our bibles, I have this funny feeling that this isn’t the only time that Jesus got into some mischief. It’s probably not the only time that he “treated” his parents like this. It’s probably not the only time that Jesus was just a kid and acted like a kid.
And I know, we don’t like to think of Jesus like that. We don’t like to think of Jesus anything less than a pristine kind of nice-white-robe wearing, clean-sash-thing draping, combed-hair and well-groomed Jesus. We don’t like to think of very human, bruise-able, bad breath, body odour, greasy hair Jesus. We don’t even really like to think of beaten and killed Jesus that much.
Rather, we want Son of God Jesus. Resurrected Messiah Jesus. Saviour of the world Jesus.
And there in creeps our impatience again. We want Jesus right here and now. We don’t want a baby Jesus, dependant on his parents, unable to do much but be cute and stuff, but we want adult Jesus to teach us, forgive us, proclaim God’s promises to us. We don’t want little kid Jesus that keeps getting lost and stuff, we want capable Jesus to lead us and protect us. We don’t want dead and buried Jesus, we want resurrected and alive Jesus, here and now, ready to save us and welcome us into God’s eternal and everlasting kingdom and life.
Now. Now. Now.
If we don’t get it now, maybe we’re afraid we might not ever. If Jesus doesn’t make us feel better now, then we need to find another source of comfort and support that would instantly gratify our needs. If we don’t feel the benefits of God’s promises, the joy, the peace, the blessedness that everyone talks about, then we question the validity of these promises and just move onto others that keep their promises in a more timely and efficient manner.
But the thing is, as with much of life, our spirituality isn’t an “instant” kind of thing. We don’t say one prayer and get exactly what we want. We don’t come to church once and become an expert. We don’t just say “yes” to God and all our problems go away.
It takes discipline. It takes time. It takes patience. And maybe that is why it is so difficult.
In a world where we are inundated with these technological advances that are supposed to make things faster and faster and faster, we have forgotten how some things just take time. In a world where efficiency and productivity is the top priority for all aspect of life, we have forgotten how to wait and be patient. In a world that promises quick results when it comes to diet, exercise and relationships, we have forgotten that even Jesus took 30 years to grow in wisdom and stature, and even in divine and human favour.
You see, our relationship with God and Jesus and the Spirit is more of a marathon than a sprint. It isn’t instant, but the gratification is there. As with Jesus, we all have some assembly required, but I assure you that it is worth the wait. Jesus was born an infant after all, he wasn’t all influential Rabbi Saviour right out of the box, but even he needed the time to grow and develop and be. And what he is, is in our world, with us, for us, as one of us.
For in the time used in being, in waiting, and in preparing, our eyes can be set more on Jesus, who isn’t hiding or running away, but present and active in our lives, lifting us up and giving us peace, empowering us to be formed and reformed more in his own image, and strengthening us to act with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
And when that impatience creeps up again, we can remember that Jesus took those 30 years before even changing water into wine, that even Jesus needed time to grow and be prepared, and that regardless of how lost we might feel he is, how absent he seems from our lives, how we can’t see or recognise him regardless of how hard we try, Jesus will be found in time in God’s house, immersed in God’s Word, among God’s people.
This is the hope of the season, the promise of God, the work of the Messiah, that we are not alone or without peace, but that in time all will be revealed to us.
As we are still in the Christmas season, the time where we reflect on the indwelling of Christ in the world, may we not allow the hustle and bustle shift our focus, but take the time to wait and see what God has in store for us, knowing that Jesus is present and active in and around us. Thanks be to God. Amen.