Had this scene at the Temple taken place today it would be highly unlikely for Mary and Joseph to inadvertently leave twelve-year-old Jesus behind as they traveled a day’s journey home. They’d all have smart phones. Jesus would be posting status updates on Facebook. And Mary and Joseph would be texting him, “Ready to leave. Meet at the Sheep Gate in 10.” When he doesn’t show up, as so many boys his age are want to do, they’d send the inevitable “Where are you?” He’d reply. “Where do you think? In the Temple.”
Mary and Joseph would track him down. And take him home. No extended conversation with teachers. Nor with other inquisitive young minds. No opportunity to soak up the rich surrounding environment, ponder new ideas, entertain creative thoughts, be formed in the deeper things of life, experience God.
It all comes down to a question of time. Time to wonder. And time to make mistakes. Time to be with parents and family. And time to be among others. Time to be at work. And time to be at play.
Another year is nearly behind us. And my hunch is that most of us spent more time glued to a computer screen than the year before; more time online than offline; more time with smart phone in hand than any other of our belongings.
There are upsides to this constant connection. But, downsides too.
We respond faster. But not necessarily more thoughtfully. We are always available to others. But not to those we are with in person as we stand checking email. We can know exactly where we are and how to get there. But miss discovering something new when we make a wrong turn, walk down the wrong block.
God gives us this great gift called time. Our society increasingly demands it; our impulse is to always fill it in. Which may suggest it’s time to reconsider time.
We can’t change how we tell time: a 24 hour day; a seven day week; a 365-day, 52-week year. But we can find greater freedom in the time we have.
We can get lost with God in time. We can have a moment like Jesus had in the Temple, which brought him broader and deeper understanding. We can have a moment like Mary and Joseph had on their journey home, which prompted them to rush quickly to their child they love so dearly.
I’m convinced the more time we spend like Mary, Joseph and Jesus, the more we’ll experience our loved ones anew; the more creative we will become; the more complex problems we will be able to solve; the more delight we will take in ambiguity; the more life we will live; the more human we will be.
God gives us the gift of time. And in time we become even more wonderful than when we first began. “Increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor,” scripture tells us of Jesus. And because Jesus came to share our humanity, that is God’s promise for us, too. A gift. To cherish. To honor. To use, to be more human again.
God be with you in these final hours of 2012. And God be with you more and more in the new year to come.