The following reading comes from Word & Craft’s 2016 Advent Devotional. If you would like to download the full devotional, you can do so here.
Read: Luke 2:39-47
I remember the panic on the young mother’s face as she frantically darted back into the foyer. The church service had ended twenty minutes ago, and the same old stragglers stood talking in the fellowship hall. Of course, I am always one of them.
She looked hurriedly around the room, her distraught voice shaking just a bit: “Has anyone seen Jonathan?” My heart sunk for her. She had made it almost home from church before realizing that the third of her four children, Jonathan, was not there. When a child goes missing, even for a moment, everything in the heart of a mother wants to protect her child at all costs.
“Yeah, he’s back in the Sunday School rooms,” a teen shrugged. Her face evidenced a severe ignorance of understanding for the mother’s experience. Within minutes, Jonathan was found and buckled in the minivan. All the dust and panic had settled, and the mom gave into a good cry.
For every parent who has left a child behind at church on a Sunday morning, let this passage be a comfort to you. When we reflect on the lives of the parents of the Messiah, we must remember that they are only human. We’ve all left a child behind, haven’t we?
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. (Luke 2:41-42)
Mary and Joseph are clearly raising their Son in the Jewish faith tradition. They are honoring and respecting the tradition of the Passover celebration by making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The annual ceremony was a reflection on the Passover of the Old Testament. When the nation of Israel was enslaved in Egypt, God promised to deliver them and sent Moses to tell Pharaoh to release God’s people to follow Him into the land He promised to give them. Pharaoh, who neither respected nor revered the God of the Jews, was unmoving in his determination to keep his slave force intact and would not let the nation leave. God, in His power and mercy, tells the nation of Israel that He is going to give the nation of Egypt a sign of His power and punish them for their refusal to release the people of God. God was going to send an angel of death through the land, killing the first born son of each home. But His promise wasn’t without hope: for those who trusted in God, those who believed that His promises would come to pass, God provided a way out. If they would take an unblemished male lamb, slaughter it, and mark their homes with the blood of the lamb, then the angel would pass by their homes. This promise was for the Israelites as well as the Egyptians; the line of blood on the doors traced the lines that divided those who believed God and those who did not. Just as promised, the angel of death passed over the homes of those who believed – those who marked their homes with the blood of the lamb. That night, Israel gained their freedom.
And this is what the Israelites celebrated each year. The Passover celebration commemorated the promise God kept to pass over the homes that followed His commands, and were marked with the lamb’s blood. The Israelites, years later, would sit and eat the lamb of the Passover meal, and they would remember the day in which death passed over their ancestors.
Take it in, sister – the young Jesus Christ sat and ate the Passover lamb. The One who would be for all of the slaughtered Lamb of God that those marked by His covenantal blood might be passed over by eternal death celebrated the Passover as a young boy. Jesus Christ, our Lamb, ate that Passover meal knowing that one day He would go to the cross as true and better Passover Lamb, that eternal death might pass over you and I.
And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. (Luke 2:43-45)
Mary and Joseph cannot find their Son, even after they have started for home. As they search for Him, like the mother in the church foyer, their hearts must have wanted nothing more than to protect their Son. When a child wanders in the store, from the park, or around the corner, all our gut-instincts tell us that we are to protect them. And while Mary and Joseph were entrusted with raising, training, and yes, protecting Jesus they know that He ultimately came to protect them. Their panic after the Passover stands as a reminder to them – and to us – that their Child would suffer, that He would die, and that He would do it that we might be saved.
Spend some time today thanking God that He sent His Son so that eternal death might pass over you. Thank Jesus that He came suffered on your behalf, that He knowingly became the slaughtered Lamb of God.