After the Manger
This article was written by Grace Sutton and published by FTC
Christmas is over. The presents were unwrapped, the food was eaten, and the stockings may or may not still be hung. The lights have a leftover glimmer on the trees and houses, and in a few days we might un-deck the halls, then wake up to a new year.
We celebrated Christ born in Bethlehem. Now, life must go on, and so did his.
After the Manger
He “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man,” Luke tells us (Luke 2:52). Readers blink and the gospels transform the infant Savior into the prophet, teacher, miracle-worker, and sacrifice promised for centuries (Matthew 1:21). Luke, however, uniquely different than all the other gospel writers, includes one more chapter in Jesus’ life between the manger and his ministry: his childhood.
Christ the Boy
Jesus was once the baby we sing about in our Christmas carols and see in our nativity scenes, but he was also a child. He learned to walk, talk, read, write, and take care of his household just like any other Galilean boy would have.
In Luke 2:41-52, we find the 12-year-old Jesus making the trek to Jerusalem with his parents, just as they did every year at the Passover. Imagine the Son of God hiking the dusty roads with his people to celebrate a deliverance that would pale in comparison to the one he came to accomplish (Exodus 12:1-28). This deliverance would not come from a runaway prince, ten plagues, parted Red Seas, and dead lambs, but from God in flesh to redeem all flesh for himself. His triumph would not merely be over human kingdoms but heavenly ones, disbanding sin and death, not merely Pharoah’s armies. And yet he, in the form of a 12-year-old boy, made his way with the rest of the Jews to the Passover. The deliverer walked with those needing deliverance.
After the Passover, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem (unbeknownst to his parents) to listen to the teachers there and ask them questions (Luke 2:46). Why would the omniscient ask questions? Didn’t he know everything? They asked him questions, too, and “were amazed at his understanding” (Luke 2:47). He did not hide his awareness that he was the Son of God, and yet he still took the form of a pupil.
Imagine his temple conversations interrupted by Mary and Joseph’s gasps. After days of looking for him, they finally found their son, though he made it clear that he was not merely their son. The temple was his “Father’s house,” yet it was not beneath him to return his earthly parents’ home and obey them (Luke 3:49, 51).
Lowly Lord Jesus
The boy Jesus, while maintaining his divinity, showed unexpected lowliness—at least, unexpected to us and our own egos.
How often do we truly stoop to the level of the needy and broken for their good, instead of praise for our own charity? When do we look like Jesus walking to Jerusalem, looking like those in need of deliverance and remembering God’s faithfulness?
When do we choose to be humble, listen to others, and be curious with them and about their thoughts, even when we could know as much as they do, or more? The lowliness of Jesus’ posture in the temple is lower than we will ever stoop. Athanasius, in his work On the Incarnation, wrote on the lesson of Christ’s human form: “For as a good teacher who cares for his students always condescends to teach by simpler means those who are not able to benefit from more advanced things, so also does the Word of God,” who is Christ. Christ himself as a 12-year-old boy was the lesson the teachers needed to learn—their long awaited Savior had come for them! And yet, Jesus did not boast about his known divinity. In humility, he listened and asked them questions, as if his greatness was not “a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:6). What freedom to listen and ask about the truth without ourselves and our greatness getting in the way.
Do we gladly and willingly submit to our God-given dependencies, like to parents or employers or our basic human needs for rest or work? It was not beneath Jesus to follow Mary and Joseph back to Nazareth. He did not resist the care of his parents, even though he would take care of their eternity on the cross, and neither did he discard their authority over his human wellbeing.
Children of God
In this week that bookends Christmas and the new year, I hope you remember that Christ was not only the baby born for you and the man who died for you, but a boy who lived for you. Our childlikeness, humility, and dependency on God is mirrored in him.
I don’t know what this year has been like for you or what the next year holds, but I do know God did not make us into an image of either helplessness or self-dependency, but the loving care of the Father. He will take care of you this coming year and always, because you are his.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1)
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