I’ve been wondering what Jesus was thinking when he arrived.
In this series, I’ve been imagining and trying to recreate the experience for lots of folks: Mary, those deciding whether to take Mary in, the Shepherds, those astrologers we call “Wise Men,” and Zechariah, among others.
What did Jesus think as he arrived? That’s a mystery beyond my capacity. No one knows what infants think nor exactly how that works. The incarnate God infant? Definitely next step mysterious and unknowable.
I remember my father-in-law (a wonderful, kind-hearted man*) many times lovingly watching my baby daughter and commenting, “How does all this look to her? What’s she thinking about us?”
The difference between our babies and Jesus, the difference between any other child and Jesus, is that Jesus chose to enter human life. If Jesus just happened to come as a poor Jewish baby who would soon become a political refugee fleeing his nation’s murderous leader, that would be pitiable. But I believe God chose to come in this specific place and time, to face this suffering and identify with those who suffer the same.
I think Jesus knows and understands me, but Jesus did not choose to be born in the U.S. Midwest to middle class parents in a small city of a rural community. God did not choose to identify with that social position. I consider the position Jesus chose enormously important when Jesus begins his ministry in Luke with these words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” Jesus chose poverty and powerlessness–Jesus the Almighty Creator to whom everything belonged and in whom every living thing existed.
I can’t tell you what Jesus thought as a baby but I can tell you something of Jesus’ intention in becoming a baby.
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
“I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.”
“For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.”
“I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.”
One of the impenetrable mysteries of our faith is when Jesus became conscious of his identity, when he gained full awareness of his mission, and how much he knew. If he experienced life as a human being does–which I believe–then he did not open his eyes the very first time outside Mary’s womb and know all things. But of course, Jesus experienced life as a human similarly yet very differently than we do.**
But we know this: Jesus came to make things better for us. Jesus made himself poor to identify with the poor. Jesus chose a family that would become refugees so the he, too, would know what it is to be a refugee. These were not accidents but intentions on his part. He didn’t have an adoption with a wealthy, comfortable family all set up but it fell through. Jesus chose a life in which he would face racism and prejudice, in which his mother would be told there was no room for her, no comfort and safety even for his birth.
Jesus chose this specific life to complete his work. I infer that means he could best offer us life abundantly, be our light and bring us out of darkness, bear witness to the truth, and proclaim the good news of God’s Kingdom as a child of poverty. His experience, his suffering, his lower class upbringing were integral to being our Messiah.
That’s wild to me. God so loved the world that he gave his only son in exactly these conditions. Jesus was born into poverty and an object of racism and brought light into that darkness. Jesus was rescued by his parents from politically-motivated murder (a king fearing for his throne and killing babies to keep power is political, through and through) and they fled with him to another country and in this Jesus bears witness to the truth.
From the lower class–and believe me, the power elite in Israel noticed it and commented on it–Jesus proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Today, this Advent, celebrate that Jesus loves you! Celebrate that Jesus brought–brings!–light into your darkness. Celebrate that Jesus bears witness to truth for us. Rejoice that we are offered life abundantly, rejoice that we know the good news of God’s kingdom and Jesus invites us to partner in that Kingdom with him!
Then explore what all these things mean to us in the context of Jesus’ words and life.
The baby came–“For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us”–to grow into a man who would say to us:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
*Don’t worry that I’m saying these things about him; he won’t find out.
**For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus experienced temptation as we do but didn’t sin as we do, which makes his experience pretty different than mine. Plus, the power he had and the miracles he performed as an adult were far outside my life experience.