A Gospel story
It may seem strange on this Sunday after Christmas to jump ahead
in the timeline of this child born in Bethlehem, but that’s what
we will do. In Luke’s gospel, after those befuddled, visiting
shepherds left the stable, Mary and Joseph circumcised their baby
boy, whom they named, “Jesus.” When the time was right, they made
their way to Jerusalem to present him in the Temple, and then they
returned home to Nazareth to begin the hard, but rewarding work of
raising this child. These boyhood years of Jesus are left out of
the four gospels we have received, except for one story, told only
children are present, say: “Listen”
and proceed to read
If there are children, continue.
I suggest that we actively tell this story. To do so, I need some
helpers. To be precise, I need three, but I can always make use of
more. Any takers? Great! Come and join me. The 3 parts are:
someone to play the boy Jesus, who is 12, and then 2 of you to
play Mary and Joseph. (any others can be fellow pilgrims) No instructions. Just follow my
lead. We’ll figure it out as we go. But we need to start in the
back of the sanctuary. Oh, I almost forgot. The rest of you in the
congregation? You will all be rabbis in the Temple, teachers who
are astounded by what this young whippersnapper has to say. Got
it? Let’s go.
Let’s start slowly walking forward, because we are a group of
pilgrims making out way from where we live to a very holy place to
celebrate a very important holy day. We’re on a “pilgrimage.”
Here’s the story:
Now every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the festival
of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as
usual for the festival.
Here we are. We’ve made it. What a privilege to remember in
Jerusalem the night when the angel of death passed over the
children of Israel and took the firstborn of their Egyptian
masters. The Israelites were slaves, and this was the last straw
that set them free. Remembering this event involved a very special
meal, and that whole week there were wonderful celebrations,
especially in the Temple. And Jesus was at just the right age to
make the most of it, right at the point of moving from childhood
to being an adult. All this has happened, but all good things come
to an end.
When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy
Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.
Okay, Jesus, you stay here and pretend you are talking to all
these rabbis here, who are “astounded” by what you have to say.
Come on, folks, let’s do a good job of acting this out. Mary,
Joseph, and the rest of us will mosey on home.
Assuming that Jesus was in the group of travelers, they went a
day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their
relatives and friends.
Imagine finally realizing your child is missing. How would you
feel? I think you’d be pretty desperate and scared. Start asking
folks around you if they’ve seen Jesus, to which everyone just
shrugs their shoulders. Keep asking. Look worried, REALLY worried.
When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search
Keep looking (but don’t find him yet. I know he is right up front,
but you haven’t found him yet).
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting
among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his
Okay, Rabbis, let’s show some amazement!....
When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said
to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your
father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.”
Your turn Mary and Joseph, give us a look of astonishment! Now,
Mary, you have been really worried, scared that something bad had
happened to your baby. When we’re afraid, we sometimes get mad.
Have your parents ever gotten mad at you and you realized they
were scared for you? Joseph, stand behind Mary and put your hands
on your hips and look stern. Mary, don’t yell, but speak with a
strong voice, asking Jesus, “We’ve been looking for you
everywhere. … We thought something bad had happened to you. … Why
did you do this?” Joseph, more stern look!
Jesus said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not
know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Jesus. You’re not upset that they are upset. In fact, you don’t
have a clue as to why they were worried. You knew where you were
and why. Just look at them, and say, “I was here all the time …
right where I should be … in my father’s house.” … Think about
that for a second. We sometimes pray, “Our father, who art in
heaven, hallowed be thy name…,” a prayer Jesus later taught his
followers. But I wonder if - when was 12 years old - he knew
something about himself that made him different from other
children. It was hard for his parents to figure out, that’s for
But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went
down with them
Okay, it’s time to return home. Let’s travel back together.
Rabbis, say “goodbye” … “Shalom.”
And they came to Nazareth, and Jesus was obedient to his parents.
His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus
matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God
Thank you for helping to tell this story! Return to your seats.
Revised Standard Version
copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States
Used by permission. All rights reserved
except for the last verse (52) taken
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002.
Used by permission of
NavPress Publishing Group