What a Kid We Have in Jesus
Christmas is a time for children, wide-eyed little people full of hope and excitement – ready to listen to the old family stories, put up Christmas trees and crèche’ scenes, hang stockings and electric lights and even light old-fashioned candles. There is love-giving, present-giving and family-visiting, and it is all good. At Christmas we also review our beliefs and the beliefs of our ancestors when we share the Christmas stories with our children.
How much actual God-talk, the children’s minds absorb during these annual celebrations, I’m not really sure. But I do know that God is there with us when we, be we big or little, eat and run and play and laugh with our friends and family at Christmas.
We draw parallels with the Biblical Christmas story. Joseph was taking his family to be enumerated, going back to his hometown. Today we take our families to meet the rest of the family wherever they might live. It is an important ritual to show the kids and remind us that we are part of something a little bigger than our immediate surroundings.
The wise men brought gifts – maybe not the same kind of gifts that we exchange these days, but gifts nonetheless.
We set up a little model stable in our churches and homes, with a mother figure, a father figure, a baby, animals, visitors, and angels – all symbols of family, friends and Immanuel, “God With Us”.
we read that Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to
This is the first part of what our scripture lessons are about this morning – passing on the traditions to our children. The second part has to do with discerning just whose values and traditions we wish to impart.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, we have a wide-eyed
little boy named Samuel being brought to the temple and left there for his
education. And we have another little boy, this time from the New Testament,
who finds his own way back to the
of one’s first born to God is a great theological theme running through the
Bible. Hannah, a childless woman, prays desperately for a male
child. When the Lord looks with favor upon her, she gives birth, and she
and her husband not only take the child to the
We actually are told more about Samuel’s childhood than we are told about the
childhood of Jesus -- at least in the books that made it into the official
canon of the church. In the official gospels, we are told stories about Jesus’
birth, his dedication at the temple, and his return to
Period. End of story.
(PAUSE) Twelve or so years later – we find Jesus and his family back in
about it for a minute. Your twelve year old has just wandered off in
While the search goes on, let us take a moment to think about what would it have been like to raise a kid like Jesus?
the official church canon gives us little information, some forbidden Gnostic
gospels have preserved a few theories. Some ancient Gnostic scrolls were
discovered in a cave in northern
Bart E. Ehrman chairs the Department of Religious Studies at the
I’m not making any claims for theological authenticity of any of these
writings, but they are fun because they contain clues as to what some people thought
about the childhood of Jesus during the early days of the church. Jesus may
very well have been a precocious, sometimes mischievous five-year-old. Probably
was. As he grew in maturity, he had to recognize that he thought
differently from those around him. He
knew and understood more. But he didn’t
understand everything. He himself knew
he needed an education. He is drawn to the
I bet he took in a lecture on the Prophecies of Isaiah. He might have even speculated that the prophecies could have a connection with his own birth.
Jesus might have learned about the wise men, the star, the hundreds of baby boys who were slaughtered on his account when Herod’s men could not find Jesus to kill him.
Who were these Zealots? These Essenes? All these religious and political parties vying for control of his tiny country? Jesus would be familiar with the Roman soldiers tromping around the capital city.
What on earth could it mean to be “the Son of God?” Was is, could it, be him? Twelve years old. Traditionally recognized as one of those transition stages where we begin to make decisions which will affect our whole lives and ultimately the lives of others. Jesus needed his three days of instruction at the Temple, but now what?
return to the
Joseph and Mary have found their son. Mary is understandably upset and says so. Jesus shoots back, shouldn’t she have just looked for him at the temple in the first place? Well, no, she says, he should have been standing right with the rest of the family, thank you very much.
try to envision the conversation between the couple from
“Why yes, Mr. and Mrs. Davidson, your son’s been here with us for several days.”
“Why no, Mr. and Mrs. Davidson, we don’t see anything unusual in this at all.”
“In fact, Mr. and Mrs. Davidson, we have noticed that your son is quite gifted in matters of church law, even spirituality.”
“He knows the Book of Order backwards and forwards.”
“But we have also noticed that he, well, expresses the idealism of a child. He needs a great deal of focusing and molding if he is to develop into the great religious leader we all agree he could be.”
“He needs the training he can get right here at the Temple.”
“Like the Great Samuel, he needs to stay right here – with us!”
“You wouldn’t deny your son the incredible opportunity we are offering, now would you?”
Mary and Joseph must have been taken back. It would be no surprise to them that Jesus was a special child. He’d been hiking around with his dad learning the carpenter’s trade, squabbled with his playmates and siblings, and was obviously theologically-gifted.
After all the speeches and offers by the high priests, and Mr. and Mrs. Davidson’s growing confusion, I see one last priest. The same priest who was present at the child’s dedication twelve years previously. Simeon was long expected to die at his now incredibly advanced age, but he has one more assignment.
waits quietly until the Davidson couple asks to have a few moments alone with
Jesus. Then the old priest approaches this
little family from the dusty, backwaters of
“Take the boy home,” whispers the ancient man. “Take him home.”
“But the opportunity,” Joseph begins. “Can we deny the boy such opportunity?”
“Psh. A trap. Take him home. Let him learn from the village. Let him learn from the people and the teachers there. He reads well. You’ve already done a good job. Get him out of here. He will return soon enough.”
listens. “Let’s go home,” he whispers.
And the small town carpenter and his family return to
Best wishes to each of you and your loved ones as you continue your own spiritual journeys into the coming new year.