Every year around this time, I create a series of New Year’s resolutions. I do this because, as do many others, the end of the year is a great time to reflect on the past year and commit to change in the new year. For some of us, this is a time when we reflect on the past year and begin to realize we have not made our relationship with Christ a high enough priority in our lives.
Maybe we have not been good stewards of the time, talent and treasure God has blessed us with. It is possible, in anticipation of the upcoming year, we will commit ourselves to more faithful attendance and participation in the life of the church. These are certainly good resolutions for one to embrace.
For others, in our reflecting on the busyness of the past year, we realize the challenge is not more activity but greater purpose to our activity. What some of us have found out is that activity level does not necessarily equate to an experience of being closer to God or growing more in our Christian walk. We are busier, but have we become more faithful and more fruitful?
This is the central question raised by the text before us. It is clear from the text that Jesus came of age in a household where religious practice was taken seriously. His family had been faithful to annual attendance at Passover, and this year Jesus was with them. However, something peculiar occurred this year at Passover. When Jesus’ parents and family were returning home, they realized Jesus was not with them. Instead, Jesus had remained in the temple with the teachers.
Now, it is easy to make this the central focus of the text. It is quite surprising that a 12-year-old would stand in the midst of the great teachers of Israel, engaged in a serious and substantive discussion with them. However, it was Jesus’ discussion with His mother I want you to notice.
His mother understandably was concerned that Jesus stayed behind without their permission. His actions caused them great consternation. One might expect to find at this point in the narrative a remorseful Jesus apologizing to His parents for the distress He has caused them, but notice Jesus’ response. He suggested He simply has been faithful to His Father’s purpose.
While Jesus understood His actions may have strained His relationship with His parents, and while He understood the importance of their participation in the Passover and His need to return home with them, His greatest concern was doing His Father’s will. This is not to suggest Jesus’ relationship with His family was not important to Him. It certainly was. However, His relationship to the Father and His pursuit of His Father’s will was more important to Him. If it meant that He had to act in a way contrary to His parents’ wishes, He would do so to fulfill God’s purpose.
More than Just Activity
It’s here that Jesus teaches us a valuable lesson. During this holiday season, the church rightly emphasizes the importance of family. Family is an important element of our lives and a place where God expresses His love and joy in our lives. However, we must ask ourselves whether there are times when we have let maintaining relationships with others hinder our walk with God. Have there been occasions when we have engaged in religious activity but not necessarily been faithful to pursue God’s purpose for our lives?
Jesus emphasizes that first, it is His relationship with His heavenly Father that is most important. All other relationships are secondary. This has to be the mindset of every believer—not that the relationships God has blessed you with are unimportant—but the Christian life is a life dedicated to pursuit of God’s will above all else.
Serving Because of the Father
Additionally, pursuit of God’s will defines the Christian life. Ours is not a life that celebrates activity in the church for its own sake. Rather, we engage in activity in the church as expression of God’s purpose for our lives. It is this simple realization that dramatically can change how we serve in the church.
Whether in choir, Sunday School or church leadership, what gives consistency and substance to our service is that our service is in pursuit of God’s will for our lives. As was Jesus, we are called to pursue God’s purpose for our lives above all else. Let us commit ourselves in this new year to place God’s purpose for our lives as the guiding light for all that we do.