“Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.
When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom.
After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.
…..they began looking for him among their relatives and friends.
When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.
…..they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers,
Listening to them and asking them questions.
Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.
…..his mother said to him “Son, why have you treated us like this?
Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you”.
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked.
“Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.
But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.”
(Luke 2: 41 – 52 abridged)
As I read this account of an incident in Jesus’ youth, I am struck how there are echoes of almost every parent / teenager relationship. Mother and father lose track of their young one for a while. Parents do not understand what he is about. He does not understand their concern. Does this scenario ring any bells?
This is a wonderful story about growing up. Jesus is becoming aware of who his true Father is – God. He is becoming aware that he has a destiny. He has a mission to fulfil. As he grows physically, he also grows intellectually and spiritually. He has a hunger for knowledge, and wants to prepare for the future. He has no desire to hurt his parents, but is single minded about what he needs to do. He shows a high degree of self-confidence for one of twelve years old. No doubt an insight into the kind of person he will grow up to be. It must also be noted that he is willing for submit to his earthly parents, and obediently return home with them.
In her anxiety and concern for his safety, Mary, Jesus’ mother, shows remarkable humility and strength of mind and spirit. We are told that she “treasured all these things in her heart”. There is no anger or blame – just love and understanding. It does so often seem that it is mothers who are able to hold quite unconditional love for their children – the kind of love God holds for His children. A kind of love that is able to understand and forgive – always and unconditionally.
For every generation, and in all parts of the world, I believe it true to say that family relations can be fraught and often quite difficult. This can be particularly true in the relationship between young people and their parents. There is invariably a tension of what parents believe to be best for their child; and what the young person feels to be the best line of action. Young people so often need to learn by experience, but, as parents, we so want them to remain safe. A difficult balancing act. As parents, we are challenged to give our youngsters “roots” and “wings”. Roots of a secure family life, where good principles are learned. Wings where they soar to reach their full potential and achieve their ambitions.
For our young people, you are presented with a challenge to try to understand the position of your elders. They invariably want the best for you. You, in your turn, can benefit from the deep wealth of knowledge and experience that your elders hold. Life experience is an invaluable resource, which can only be gained throughout life. The logical conclusion being that, the longer the life, the more experience can be gained. It is a great sadness that each generation invariably does not benefit as much as it could from the wisdom of the former generation.
So, my encouragement this New Year is for us all to take up the challenge presented by generational differences. As parents, let us double our efforts to understand our children, and in turn support and encourage them during the young years of their lives. As we love our children, we strive to do this, but struggles and tensions are invariably part of the package of family life. Young people, I encourage you to benefit to the full from the wisdom of your elders. Just the exercise of us all striving to understand each other can lead to improved harmony.
My prayer for us all this New Year, as we enter the year 2013, is that we may increasingly value family life and each member of our family. May we cultivate the habit of praying for each other and supporting each other in all we are and in all we do.
On behalf of the Anglican Church in The Gambia, Senegal and Cape Verde, and the Church of the Province of West Africa, which also includes Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau and Cameroon, I wish you and all your loved ones a very happy New Year; and good health, peace and prosperity throughout the coming year.
Happy New Year!
Your Friend and Archbishop,