A few weeks ago we put a wooden Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in our church bag. The next Sunday, my husband showed me something he pulled from the Bible/hymnal rack. It was baby Jesus. He put it in his pocket, but my youngest toddler immediately wanted to play with it so he gave it to her. She eventually put Jesus back where he was in the Bible/hymnal rack. Soon, she went into the church bag and grabbed Mary and Joseph. Later during the sermon, she started asking, “Jesus, where are you?” The Gospel reading that Sunday was Luke 2:40-52. It is when Mary and Joseph can’t find Jesus when he is 12 and find him in the Temple.
We quietly chuckled for multiple reasons. Mostly, for how appropriate this spontaneous acting out of this Biblical account was. To me, it’s amazing how Jesus answers Joseph’s question. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” How often do people look for “Jesus?” They desire a religious or spiritual “feeling.” If they’re not “feeling” it, they look somewhere else. While feelings are useful, they can be fleeting and changing; unlike our God who is steadfast and unchanging.
I’d guess most people have experiences and moments where they felt closer to God than other times. Maybe it was a church retreat, low point in life, or Christmas or Easter service where everything came together perfectly. There are times we will always feel nearer to God than others. However, God always exercises steadfast love toward us. Think about our own relationships with our parents or children. There are times we feel closer to a parent or child than other times. That doesn’t mean we love the individual less; it just means feelings aren’t always the best indicator at all times in our life.
Instead of using our fleeting feelings as a gauge, let us look to where God tells us He will be found. God promises He will be present in the Word and Sacraments. When we read God’s Word we will find God. When we go to church, we receive God’s blessings. When we partake in God’s Sacraments we receive forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. He is truly present in these places and that’s where He will be found. Yes, we will find God’s fingerprints in many places, but God promises us He is in the Word and Sacrament. Those two things aren’t based on feelings. They are based on God’s steadfast and everlasting love and His promises to us. We don’t need to chase God or look around for Jesus. He tells us where He is. Just like Mary and Joseph, we shouldn’t be surprised to find Jesus in the Father’s house. He tells us that is where He will be.