1st Sunday of Christmas 30.12.12 Luke 2.41-end

23 12 2012

Anxiety and Astonishment in the Temple

This is a shocking story for any parent to read, and it is easy to get stuck at the emotional level of response. Yet maybe it teaches us that growth in wisdom often begins in something which astonishes some and causes great anxiety to others.

Luke 2.41-end

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44Assuming that he was in the group of travellers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When 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.’ 49He said to them, ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ 50But they did not understand what he said to them. 51Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour.


To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

‘Head Questions’

  1. Read through Luke’s gospel quickly, picking out all Jesus’ encounters with the Temple. What story emerges?
  2. Jesus listened and asked questions. Good boy. Questioning makes for better listening. What’s your question about his questions?
  3. Jesus was obedient to his parents after this. What are the implications of that?

‘Heart Questions’

  1. How did his parents feel when they noticed Jesus was not among the group going home?
  2. How do you feel about Jesus’ single-minded pursuit of wisdom?
  3. Notice the word ‘astonished’ when his parents found him. This is an important word in the gospels. What astonishes you? How does that feel?

‘Hand Questions’

  1. This passage is framed by the observance of tradition. Is that something you value highly enough? How might you be challenged to be more traditional?
  2. How are you going to become a wiser person in the course of 2013?
  3. His mother ‘treasured’ all this. That was a mature response. How can you learn to treasure more challenging and anxiety-generating experiences?


These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you.  That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands.  Take your time.



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