It’s all about a person, male, just now he’s new born. He’s lying in this rather basic cot – more like a cattle feeder – which is all his apparently rather improvident parents could supply him with, (I’m sure the straw must have been very itchy ) and he’s looking up, a little out of focus still, at the early morning sky of his very first day. Maybe he’s thinking ‘bright light, pretty’, or maybe ‘Hey, when I put it all together in the beginning, there wasn’t a star just there, what’s gone wrong?’ or as God incarnate, perhaps both thoughts are going on in his head simultaneously at totally different levels.
That little boy is the most passive person in the Christmas story. In the gospel records he’s born, he’s wrapped, he lies in a manger, he gets taken to Jerusalem, and passed like a parcel around the elderly care department of the Temple; he sits on his mothers lap, is run away with to Egypt. All sorts of people visit him, from the local labourers, to exotic foreign scientists. But what was the child Jesus like, and what did he do? And how can we, and our children, relate to him?
The Christmas story is supposed to be for children, because it’s about a child. But it’s not. I mean it’s neither. God ‘incomprehensibly made man’ is a bit above my head, let alone a five year olds. I cannot grasp it. Truly Gods thoughts are bigger than our thoughts. Way bigger.
And the other reason it's hard for kids, is that the image the world presents us of the Child is alienating. The books I was given when I was small that told me about His life and what He did and said made Him feel like a member of another species. And it’s not just the capitals.
‘Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He’
Puke factor ten.
In my younger sons favourite carol 'Away in a manger' he doesn't even cry. (He's a BABY. How can he not cry? He's Human.)
That may be the start of the average child’s alienation from Jesus.
Meek? Yuk. Mild? Pathetic. Gentle? Useless. Not the kid everyone wants to play with. Or be with. He’d show you up, and tell tales on you. He’d refuse to play all the good games in case you woke the baby or annoyed the neighbours. He’d eat his vegetables. He wouldn’t laugh at your jokes. And he is absolutely bound to refuse to go apple scrumping with you…..
But the only real encounter we have with Jesus as a youngster shows someone very different. (Luke 2 v 41)
- He’s twelve, nearly grown up in those days, and probably in his own estimation too. But he‘s not grown up, not really.
- He’s independent. He is presumed by mum and dad to be travelling with friends, and his Mum and Dad haven’t seen him all day. But they have enough confidence in him not to worry until evening.
- He’s got guts. He purposely gets himself left behind alone in a big metropolitan city, one occupied by a militaristic power; where violence and terrorism are common. The only way home is on foot, over dangerous rough roads
- He’s bright, and inquisitive. He knows what questions to ask.
- He’s pushy. Maybe I should say assertive. How does a builder’s boy on holiday come to the attention of important men reputed to be the wisest in the city?
- He knows his own mind, and he knows himself.
- He’ll disobey his parents, if he feels it’s the thing to do. The impression given in the last sentence of this story is of a boy who obeys because he chooses to.
- He’s not just a local boy, he’s been around; he was brought up in Egypt possibly for some years.
- People liked him. He was ‘in favour with God and man’.
That's the real Jesus child. I'd like to have met him. I wish my kids could get to play with him. I'd love to know what sort of a son, a big brother, a schoolboy he really was.