Other than His birth the only story from Jesus’ childhood was when He was twelve years old. A routine trip to and from Jerusalem turned into a drama Mary and Joseph discovered that they didn’t know where Jesus was. The Gospel of Luke tells us that they left Jerusalem thinking He was in their company (2:44). In the hustle and bustle of the day, in the preparations to head home and the packing of their bags and gathering of food they would need along the way their most Precious Cargo of all was left behind.
It shouldn’t be thought that Mary and Joseph failed in their parental responsibilities or that they did not love Jesus. In these days, the men traveled together as a group while the women and small children followed behind. Jesus was at that in between age when a young boy could comfortably travel with either group. Mary assumed that Jesus was with Joseph while Joseph was certain He was with Mary. In assuming that Jesus was among them, they moved along making very good time that first day. Then the awful truth dawned on them. Going against the stream of pilgrims heading out of the city they went back to find Jesus again. Thinking He was in their company… In fact He was not.
Too many of us approach yet another Sunday having never uttered a word of invitation to our great Lord to make Himself welcome among us. We plan our programs without ever seeking His leading and then ask Him to bless that for which He has been an afterthought. We go and see our friends, sing some songs we either like or dislike finally listening or daydreaming through whatever might be served up from the pulpit. That the altar is empty, that there is no sense of God’s Spirit at work among us often is of little concern. We had a good day today. But He was not in our company. Grieved that we spoke around Him rather than to Him, saddened that we sought for an experience instead of a Savior, distressed that we have focused more on lifting our emotions instead of bowing our hearts before Him, He has been absent from our company. We hardly missed a beat.
A group of seminary students decided to visit Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, to hear the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon and hopefully discover the secret of his spiritual power. An elderly man greeted them as they walked in and asked, “Would you like to see the church’s heating plant?” Stacks of coal and dirty pipes in a dark basement were among the last things that the students wanted to see but out of respect they followed him down a couple of flights of stairs. They came into a large open room where they saw over 700 people in earnest prayer for the meetings of the day. “This,” said the wise man, “is what heats this church.” Judging from the thousands who sought and found Christ at the church God blessed where He was invited.
Someone will remark that because God is omnipresent that He is always in every gathering of believers. But there is a difference treating God as another spectator in the stands or seeing Him as the star of the game. Frequently what we call worship is a performance for each other rather than setting the stage for the One who rides above the currents of time, whose breath brought life to dust, whose blood can make the foulest clean. Worship to be real worship does not assume that the Lord is automatically in our company. Worship is our heart’s pledge that if He will not go with us we will not go, that we would rather suffocate that take a breath without Him, that if He will not be our song we shall never sing a note again.
If you are not praying for God’s presence in this Sunday’s meetings then you be the first to kneel at the Mercy Seat and seek forgiveness of the Holy One you have ignored. Don’t assume someone else has invited Him or excuse yourself because others have not. It is your prayer He is waiting to hear, your heart He is longing to fill. Like Mary and Joseph, retrace your steps until you find the place where you left Him behind.