“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered.” (Luke 2:1 – 3)
And it begins again; the same story from the past recounted again. Why things happened the way they did. And why it was fore deigned to happen. What the motivation was, and what set in to actions the players in this drama.
“Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Verses 4 – 7)
As I pondered the events of this nativity story, I tried to think of a fresh approach. One that maybe would take in the fact that this is actually a story of the past. And I wondered if Jesus (as a child) ever asked his parents about his birth. “Where was I born daddy?” “Mommy, why was a I born so far away from where we live now?”
“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Verses 8 to 15)
“Daddy, did shepherds really come to visit me?” Mommy, what did the singing angels say?”
“So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. . . . . The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Verses 16 – 18, 20)
You may think it foolish, or fictional, to wonder & imagine if Jesus asked such questions. He grew up as a “normal” child, for all of the accounts we hear & read about. Children are naturally curious about where they were born, and the details around that. They ask questions about what their very early toddler years were like, and like to hear stories about themselves. Why would the child Jesus be any different?
“But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (Verse 19)
I had posed the question several days back if Mary knew that her young son Jesus was destined to grow into the man and Savior Jesus. Did it break her heart? Maybe, beloved reader, just maybe the innocent days and questions of her young son helped her keep focused on raising him. And it helped Joseph feel he was a vital part of raising his son. It brings me joy to think so.
Christmas through a theological telescope
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-14)
In the approach of Advent, we think about how to prepare ourselves. Whether it be for the “festive season” of Christmas, or the season in which we celebrate the birth of our Savior. We prepare as much for the celebrating as the re-ordering of our soul and spirit. And we may find ourselves trying to find the balance between the two. If we are “short-sighted”, we may not see what the birth of Jesus heralds 30 some years down the road. But if we look only through the “long theological telescope” we miss the joyous celebration of the Divine brought this about and spread the news. We need to do both.
Now, let us look at what the gospel passage for the first Sunday after Christmas has to tell us.
“Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival.” (Luke 2: 41 – 42)
Jesus is now old enough that he would be learning about the Torah, or at least the scrolls that were used in those times for worship in the temple or synagogue. Past the age where he would have been asking about his growing up years, and coming close to the time that he might start thinking about his manhood. Maybe, as I suggested, the stories of his birth were leading him to consider who He was and what his purpose in life was.
“When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them.” (Verses 43 – 50)
The past, meaning Jesus’ birth, must have been such a long time ago. Or at least that is what the writer of the gospel of Luke wants us to think. I suspect that the Mary who hosted shepherds, magi, and Anna & Simeon in the temple would not forget. Yet, maybe the years of Jesus’ youth pushed away those memories and Mary was focused on the here & now. Think “short-sighted” & “long theological telescope”. However, as we read this was just a blip, a foreshadowing of what was to come. We are still at a distance from the events in Jesus’ adult life.
“Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.” (Verses 51 – 52)
At the time you read this, beloved reader, you will be looking forward to the following morning (I imagine). Let me be one of the first to say “Merry Christmas”! Peace & Shalom to all you hold dear! Selah!!