It’s not just that Twelve-year-olds are much harder to keep track of than newborn infants, who are easy to hold, and who stay put when you lay them down. It has much more to do with giving up your children to God, first of all by taking them to His House and teaching them His Word.
That is the chief goal and purpose of parenting, in order that your children may have life with God. You know that, and you want that for them, but even so, it is still hard to let them go, to let them grow up into the purposes that God has for them.
You’d much rather have them stay with you, to follow your advice and your lead, and to stick with the familiar ways of life that you have known. And yet, there are all sorts of ways by which God may call them from you, whether it be school or work, or military service, or marriage, or death.
Truthfully, it is not only your children with whom you are frustrated and disappointed then, but the Lord Himself. Why has He treated you this way? For you have been so anxious to find the Lord Jesus — in and with and for your children — while hoping that you will be able to stay on top of the situation, to remain in control. But that is not yet to give up your children to their true God and Father. You’ve been looking for the Lord Jesus in all the wrong ways and places.
It is time to remember the ways and means by which the Lord is with you, and with your children, in mercy and in love. It is time to give attention to His Word, to listen and to learn from Him.
For the Angel of His Presence — that is, the Messenger and Face of God — He goes with you, and His Holy Spirit abides in your midst, as you make your way through the wilderness to and from Jerusalem. He is with you in the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and then likewise in the Temple in His holy city, where He causes His Name and His Glory to dwell with you in Peace.
That glorious presence of the Lord God, Yahweh, has now shifted decisively to the flesh and blood of Jesus, the Child born of St. Mary. For He is the Incarnate Son, who is Immanuel, God-with-us.
But you dare not separate His becoming flesh (His Incarnation) from the work that He has come to do, nor from the sacrifice that He has come to offer. For He has come in the flesh to fulfill the Law by His active and passive obedience, even unto death upon the Cross.
Now then, in this case of the Twelve-year-old Boy Jesus, you are given insight into His own journey through the wilderness, from His holy Nativity to His holy Cross and Passion. Here you also perceive the intersection of His humanity as your Brother with His divinity as your Savior: Not by way of “addition,” as though the one nature were mixed with the other; nor as some sort of side-by-side arrangement. But, precisely as the one true God in the flesh, the Lord Jesus lives as the true and perfect Man, which is to say, by faith in His Father, and in love for God and Man.
Because He is your childhood’s pattern, and He has come to redeem all of human life, He begins as a Baby, and then He really does grow up in every way, just like you, save only without sin.
To that end, He has the ears of a disciple. He listens, and He learns. He delights in the Word and the works of His Father in heaven. Oh, that you would be such a catechumen of Christ Jesus!
He is in the Temple, therefore, because that is where He lives in the presence of God; and, so also, because He is the presence of God in flesh and blood, whose Body becomes the true Temple by way of His Cross and Resurrection. Destroy this Temple, and in three days He will raise it up.
He asks questions; He grows in knowledge and gains understanding; and He answers His teachers from the Word of God, the very Word which He Himself fulfills. He does not keep it without knowing it, and He does not know it as true Man without hearing it and learning it from the Bible. He gains wisdom, in the fear of the Lord, from the Word that He is taught and which He keeps.
Consequently, in the same way that He keeps and fulfills the Fourth Commandment by honoring His human parents, Mary and Joseph, and submitting to their authority, so does He go to the Cross “according the Scriptures,” in the confidence of the Word and promise of His God and Father.
It is also in accordance with the Scriptures that His Father raises Him up on the Third Day. Which is why you find Him, not in the tomb where you feared that your search might end, but in the Feast of this true Passover, in the Temple of His Church on earth: wherever His Word is taught rightly in its truth and purity, and the Holy Sacraments are administered in the Name of this Lord Jesus.
Here in His preaching of the Gospel, in His spoken Word of forgiveness for all your many sins — and in His own holy flesh and precious blood, given and poured out for you — right here is where His Name and His Glory abide with you, and where you abide with Him by faith in His promises.
You will not find Him and His Life in your own works, nor by your own anxious and exhaustive searches. Neither will you find Him in your family and friends, though you do love them in Him.
But Jesus remembers you, and He comes to you, and He finds you here in His Father’s House — to which He calls you by His Gospel-Word and Sacrament. So does He also go with you from this place, to your home and family, and to your work and play. He has made your life His own, in order to make His Life yours. And as He has increased in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and man, so do you also grow and learn, by His grace, in faith and love, unto the life everlasting.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.