Luke 2: 46-47 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.
Every year at Christmas I carefully unpack the various pieces of the Nativity. First comes the creche, then the animals. The people come next, with Baby Jesus, the star attraction, placed very last. I love this ritual, and I always ponder the miracle of God’s precious gift of his Son as I place each piece in its proper place in the tableau. Sometimes, I’ll hum or sing a Christmas carol as I work, or work out the special meal I’ll prepare for Christmas Eve for my family.
But this past Christmas, as I found just the perfect spot for the Nativity in our new home, I was struck with the realization that I was keeping Jesus in the manger—a baby, a sweet-smelling, pink, bundle of joy—and neglecting the powerful Son of God, who could calm a mighty sea, heal the sick, and redeem a broken life. Yes, God’s Son came to us a baby, but he grew up as all children do. He became the mighty, powerful, and yet gentle Jesus of Nazareth.
We know little of our Christ’s younger years. We know that by age twelve he was able to hold his own with the best of Israel’s religious teachers and that he stayed behind as his family left Jerusalem so he could teach in the Temple.
Except for that brief glimpse into what must have been a very remarkable childhood, we know nothing of his early daily life as he learned his lessons at the knee of his mother, and a craft in the workshop of his earthly father. He must have been physically strong as his work as a carpenter demanded strength and endurance. He must have been gentle as well as we see this attribute later in his ministry. He must have been obedient for it is unthinkable that Jesus would have been a rebellious child. Finally, he most surely was intelligent. He could quote the ancient scriptures from memory and speak in more than one language. Day by day, as he grew, he became the man, the Messiah.
When did he know what his earthly mission would be? Was it a gradual growing of knowledge, or a revelation from his Heavenly Father? We will never know this side of heaven, but we, like Mary, must let the babe in the manger grow up. Even as we celebrate each year the coming of the Baby, our hearts and minds must embrace Jesus as our Lord and Savior—all grown up, the Son of God, our Messiah.