Sermon in the United Methodist Church In Blantyre, Malawi, by Pauline Njiru, WCC-EHAIA

How we can reach and accompany young people?

How to bring young people in the epic entre where the decisions are made?

How to amplify the voices of young people?

Text: Luke 2:41-52

This is popular text for many preachers

A good text to study as we consider our challenges parenting young people.

Mary and Joseph had similar challenges parenting Jesus.

What is this text about?

It is about a Jewish couple who is religious and observed all the Jewish religious festivals year after year and they took their son Jesus along with them.  This particular year their son was twelve years old and they took him along. The festivals went on normally and it was time to go home.  At this moment the twelve year old did not leave with his parents. A few themes emerge from this text.

Being unaware

Are parents aware that their child was not with them?

In Verse 43 Mary and Joseph journeyed for a whole day unaware their twelve year old was not with them.

They had taken all measures to have their son was with them


Verse 44-45 the parents assumed that their son was with the friends and relatives

They assumed that Jesus was still a young boy who will be following them unquestionably. My image of this trip can be equated to a pilgrimage: recently I was in Uganda ahead of the Martyrs day. As we drove in the night we met many people walking to Namugongo. People in groups walked long distance to celebrate the Martyrs’ memorial.  Some could walk slowly or faster.  This is the same with this journey, Mary and Joseph walked slowly or faster, and then after a day’s journey they realized that their son was not with them. They looked among friends and relatives and to their dismay he was nowhere to be found.

Today parents have many assumptions that the children are safe with their friends, our friends, our relatives.

Verse 49 Jesus  also assumed the parents ought to know he is the son of God and had to be in God's house hence he saw no need to inform them of his intention to remain behind. Assumption is a huge theme in this text.

Let us look deeper at these two issues and ask ourselves, are the parents and church leaders aware where our children are?  And let the young people also ask themselves; are our parents aware where we are? Where are they in issues of spirituality, education, relationships and the challenges they are going through?

Mary and Joseph assumed that Jesus was among the relatives and friends. What are some of the assumptions that the parents and church leaders have about the whereabouts of the young people?

After you are unaware that your child is not with you and that your assumptions of his/her whereabouts is wrong, what do you do?

Mary and Joseph decided to go back.

And this is the other theme that we can learn from this text.

Going back

Mary and Joseph took the action of going back. Going back to look for him, and they began to look at the place where they had left him.  Wherever they had seen their challenge last, they went back to the temple. When you realize that your child is not with you, what action do you take?

Being lost

This theme brings about the awareness of the generational gap and disconnects that exit between the young people and the parents and the leaders.

The parents though Jesus was lost they even went back to Jerusalem to look for him, on the other hand Jesus was comfortably sitting in what he called his father’s house, in his mind he was not lost not at any single moment.  Parents think the children are lost while the young people are adventuring. Who is lost? May be both  are lost in the other’s world,

Searching for the lost child

If we think of Jesus, his action of remaining behind can be seen through two lenses; the reason he remained according to him, he had to be in his father’s house, and the parents understood that since they could not see Jesus he was lost. One can imagine on their way back they went asking their friends “have you seen our son, we have lost him and are looking for him.” Today many young people are lost. Have we taken the action of going back to look for them, do we have an idea where we last saw them.  When Mary and Joseph went back to Jerusalem, they found Jesus sitting among the elders and the teachers of the law, listening and learning from them, and also asking questions.  And those leaders in the temple were astonished because of the questions he was asking them.

No longer a child

Joseph and Mary had a strong feeling that their son was a child, that is why they have to go back looking for him, on the other hand Jesus sees himself as a man sitting in the midst of men asking and answering questions, and in a highly patriarchal setting the men leaders must have seen him as a man so as to sit and listen to him.

At what point do parents realize that their children are no longer children? One of the questions parents ask is at what age should parents start teaching their children sex education, and for most of them they would like to wish away the need to teach sex education.  However the reality shows that children are getting exposed at an early stage to sexual activities and information.  So it is an important question for each parent to explore, at which point do children cease to be children in terms of where they are in the issues that affect their lives.  Many parents are still waiting for their children to grow to be able to share with them matters of concern for example sex education, reality has it that young children as young as eight years are engaging in sexual activity.


As a parent you have been unaware, and assuming the whereabouts of your child.

Mary and Joseph appear to have a clue of the whereabouts of Jesus.  Do you know where to search for your lost child? Do you know in which company your child is? It is time to humble yourself, swallow your pride and go searching for the lost youth.

We need to own up where we have missed the mark and search for our lost youth.


After Joseph and Mary searching and finding Jesus, they expressed their disappointment and Jesus expressed his displeasure at his parents for not knowing that he had to be in his fathers’ house but they reached consensus and this is the beauty in this story that Mary, Joseph and Jesus agree to go home together. Let us create safe space of mutual understanding where all of us can be heard and understood.


And Jesus grew in mind, in stature, and gaining favor with God and humans.