Before Jesus called his Disciples to "follow him," he first had to learn to walk and follow Joseph and Mary.
Scripture doesn't include much about the early years of Jesus' life. We know that he is born in a stable surrounded by animals, travels with his parents to Egypt where they assume daily life. Then he appears in the Temple, teaching those present, as a youngster, when he runs off from his family.
It's not that I want to know what he was like as a child. Did he struggle to learn how to walk? Was he afraid of the dark? Did he fall and hurt himself, run to his mother, and did she kiss away the pain?
The stories of parents and their children in scripture are varied. Abraham invites his son Isaac to go for a walk and nearly sacrifices him. A young Joseph is the eyes of his father, reporting all the things his brothers are doing, and ends up being in trouble with his brothers. Moses gets placed in a basket and set adrift in the Nile. Mary, a young girl is told she will give birth to the Savior, and delivers him in a barn.
Let's face it, early childhood stories in the Bible would lead to years of therapy for those involved!
The early years of the Messiah and the earthly lessons Joseph surely taught have more than likely influenced each of us and our faith. The very prayer that Jesus taught us to pray, may very well begun with Joseph turning to his son and saying, "Now Jesus, when you pray, begin by saying, 'Our father, which abides in heaven.'"
There are many things I say today that didn't begin with me, or for that matter, didn't begin with my dad. We build upon the lessons of our fathers and mothers.
Jesus, like all of us, discovered the hands that would touch the hearts of humanity. He discovered feet, that he would stand on, and walk dusty roads, calling to others to "follow him." He would cry, laugh, and learn parables that would cause a tax collector to change, not just his name, but his life.
He would make friends, and when one, very close to him would die, he would call him by name, and from a dark tomb, wrapped in clothes for the dead, would walk into the sunlight.
The infant who brought the light of the world into existence would learn the lessons we all would have to learn.
I wonder what Jesus' first words were?
When the young Hebrew girl learned of her favor with the Lord, she sang. What lullabies did she sing, as she rocked her baby when storms raged?
Before the man walked with others, he walked as a child with his earthly father.
As a child, I marched behind a high school band as my dad lead as a band director. I sat in choir rehearsals where my dad directed singers in church. I remember times that his hands held mine, and times when a hard lesson involved those hands spanking me.
I've heard it said that children by the time they are three have lived through the most formative years. The most formative years of the life of Christ are left to us for discernment.
Like many families with newborns, a time of change was encountered. How difficult it must have been to be illegal immigrants in a foreign land while nurturing the son of God?
These are the unknown moments, the lessons, and the times when parents turn to God for answers.
As an adult I have walked with my dad. This photo is from a day my father walked beside me on the beach of Galveston.
I can imagine the two pairs of feet, walking beside one another, along the shore of Galilee. A father or mother with a child.
I wonder what it must have been like the first time this family returned to home after their exile? Jesus meeting his Aunt Elizabeth the first time. Did he and his cousin John make mud pies, or play hide and seek in the market?
I've often wondered how the boy Jesus responded the day his earthly father, Joseph could no longer walk beside him? Did he struggle to take care of his mother in a society where women required the presence of a man to survive.
The experiences we must leave to our imaginations.
As a person of faith, I'm left with the stories of the man Jesus. All of which have shaped, not just me, but my life and how I live in this world.
And as that person of faith, those missing years are the years when families become families. They are the struggles that all have encountered. Perhaps they were the human years that would invite us to see ourselves in a clearer light?
We all were infants, born to learn the same lessons that Christ himself learned.
Our challenge is to find ways to take those lessons and live as his example has shown.
For unto US has been born a Savior, who learned to walk with a father and a mother. Who came to save us, so that our lives, no matter if walking, crawling, or paralyzed, would know a better way of life. Where peace, love, forgiveness, grace, and the virtues learned from Joseph and Mary years ago shared with a small child, Jesus, can be lived out each day.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2017
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.