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Arise and Shine (Luke 2: 41-52)

If you’ve been a youth minister for a few years, you have to confess that (at one time or another) you’ve had teens sneak out of their room on a retreat, camp, or mission trip. For me, it was a Confirmation retreat when eight of the brightest teenagers I have ever served (yes, that is sarcasm) thought they would sneak out on a cold Saturday night at one am. Unfortunately, for them, nature called; a Core Member woke up, and teens were found missing. CSI: Confirmation High School Retreat Interrogation Search Team (also know as CSI: CHRIST) went into full effect. We may have slipped on black ice, trampled through snow, and ruined our Uggs, but we caught them! I mean, why else would I tell this story?

I was so heated; I had the “brilliant eight” go into the chapel and sit in individual pews while I stayed outside to cool down (literally and figuratively). It took 20 minutes for me to calm down and hear that God wanted me to say…

Nothing! He told me to say nada.

I don’t mean He was ignoring me. No, He told me to say nothing.

So, I walked into the warm chapel where eight teens were shivering more from fear than I was from hyperthermia, and said, I needed time to pray about what happened and told them to all go to bed.

By the next morning, the great escape was the talk of the retreat, but I continued along with the schedule. They had no clue how worried I was about them. I didn’t care that they snuck out; I just cared about finding them. I wasn’t angry; I was sad.

In those 20 minutes I spent in the cold, waiting for the Lord’s instructions, I heard God speak to my heart. He spoke through parables about the lost being found: the prodigal son, the lost sheep, and the widow’s lost coin. The final Gospel I recalled was the triumphant moment that Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple.

I can only imagine Mary and Joseph’s fear. The Gospel of Luke makes it sound so unassuming, as if God the Father had another Christmas star shining down pointing out where Jesus was preaching. No! They searched and asked people if they had seen Him. They didn’t have flashlights or a picture they could show strangers. Luke’s Gospel shares their worry when Mary says, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” (Luke 2:48).

There it is! Mary and Joseph were anxious! You have no clue how reassuring this was to me. Mary was born without sin, but that doesn’t mean she never feared. Mary and Joseph lost their son, someone so valuable to them and they feared they wouldn’t find Him.

When I found out teens had snuck out, my worry was first for their safety, but it quickly switched to something more. I feared losing them.

I feared losing them to the temptations of the world when they got off the “retreat mountain.”

I feared they would lose faith when life got difficult or cruel.

I feared the decisions they would make that would lead them far from Christ and cause them to lose their relationship with Him.

I feared they would lose their love for God.

I feared they would lose a passion for the sacraments and be romanced by non-denominational churches’ vibrancy, worship, and passionate preaching.

I feared I wouldn’t see their faces in heaven.

Then I looked into the chapel they were sitting in and heard very clearly the words of Christ, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” That is where they were – in the Father’s house – safe, in silence, in prayer. More than likely, they were praying I wouldn’t call their parents. But never the less, they were in the Father’s house, praying.

We are youth ministers because we want to find the lost sheep. We want to welcome them home with open arms as the father did with the prodigal son. We want to find the one coin and invest in them time and time again, no matter how many times they disappoint or hurt us. More than anything, we want to see them in the Father’s eternal home: heaven.

As the New Year approaches, who are the lost that need to be found? Who are the teens you haven’t seen for a while? What about the college students who have been away from home this semester? How can you connect with them over Christmas break and direct them towards Christ? Who in your family is God calling you to speak to and share the Good News?

God is challenging us to look at the lost this Christmas season and point them back to Christ. Let us accept this challenge with open hearts and open arms.

About the Author

Tricia Tembreull

Tricia Tembreull is a California girl with a Texas-size heart for hospitality. She said yes over twenty years ago to God’s call to youth ministry and never could’ve imagined the adventures and people He had planned for her to encounter along the way. She serves as a Parish Coach for Life Teen and joyfully travels around the globe training, empowering, and praying with youth ministers. When not on a plane, you can find Tricia in a church, spending time with family and friends, in the kitchen cooking up something delightful, or on the beach for an evening walk.

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