By Laura Viau
What might it have been like for Jesus to look up into the night sky and see the stars so very far away, when he had been the one to place them and name them? What must it have been like to hold such tremendous capacity for compassion and love in the mind and heart of a child? Did it overflow and reveal itself before the stories we are told in the gospel accounts?
Children are probably the most unfiltered bearers of the image of our Creator, who spoke the time and space and all that we experience into being. That same God stepped into time and space as a flesh and blood human, experiencing night and day, water and dry land, fish and birds and livestock through the curious eyes and ears of a child.
Children are constantly observing, learning, creating, exploring, and playing.
That is part of what I loved about The Young Messiah: seeing some of the untold story of Jesus’ childhood years imagined and brought to life. Watching Jesus play, get bored, challenge his parents, stand up against a bully, and even blunder into situations that put him in harm’s way. Seeing the fear mixed with pride in his eyes as the power to bring wholeness and healing into a broken world manifest itself through his own small grubby hands. Witnessing the classic parental struggle as Mary and Joseph fret over what to say and when, worried that he’ll grow up too fast.
The truth is that this holy family as imagined by writers, directors and actors is very much like families of faith across the ages. They struggle to make the best decisions they can make at any given time. They have been entrusted with a treasure and no instruction manual. They love each other and get annoyed with each other. They aren’t perfect. They are human beings who love God, but aren’t always sure they understand or hear him very well.
In the end, we know that this fully human young messiah must find his way from childhood to manhood. He will outgrow his sandals and tunic, as well as his toys. Games will give way to lessons in carpentry and conversations with rabbis. The protective boundaries set by mom and dad will expand and allow for exploring more of the world, more of the community. And eventually, he will take on the work for which he was sent into this world.
Until they are taught otherwise, children love and trust with gleeful abandon. We grown-ups can tend to take ourselves, our beliefs, and our rituals very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that our efforts to get it all “just right“ put us at risk of pushing the wonder, awe and joy right out of our relationship with God.
What a joy to imagine a young Jesus running with abandon, being tickled and giggling uncontrollably, crying out in fear from a nightmare, experiencing the world in all its beauty, messiness and imperfection -- and loving it all the same. That is the joyful, compassionate Christ whose saving grace is offered to all the beautiful, messy, imperfect people who call upon his name.
Reverend Laura Viau serves part time as interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Apopka, Florida and part time as the Communications Director for the campus ministry of Cru. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University and the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. When not writing and speaking, Laura enjoys exploring Central Florida on her motorcycle and catching up on the latest BBC shows.
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