I can imagine Jesus as a baby. It's not that hard. Look at any department store, and there he is--cute little bundle, no tear streaked cheeks or mouth agape in screams as he lays serene and warm in a sterile bed of white rags and wood. He is the perfect baby--always cooing, always smiling, always napping on schedule and sleeping through the night from birth.
Mind you, I never had one of these perfect infants, but many a mom has testified they do still exist. And so, I imagine the perfection of a Holy Savior trickling down to a perfectly content disposition in the flesh like these other wonder-children (again, not mine).
The problem comes when I try to imagine Jesus as a little boy. Perhaps it's because I have two preschool boys born under the curse, boys who overtly disobey, throw the occasional tantrum, talk back, and walk with little feet as close as possible to every line I draw in the red Louisiana clay.
This afternoon, I caught a glimpse of my sons in Christ when I read the story of the child Jesus' worrying his poor earthly parents frazzled when he went missing from the caravan.
There is a long day of frantic searching, of traveling the long road back to Jerusalem. Then came a second long day of searching, checking in with relatives, moving throughout the city shops and homes.
I've only been in Mary's shoes for a few minutes when I couldn't find my child. In the first few seconds, every worst case scenario flashes through a parent's mind. Thirty seconds into the search, this mother was literally begging God to find her son. Honestly, I can't imagine two days, two nights.
Surely, Mary wept in prayerful anguish, tears choking out the words. Sleep must have been near impossible. What if she never saw her child again? What if the angel had misled them about Him being the Messiah? What if...?
Then came day three, and there he was. Sitting. Calm. In the temple. Teaching.
Mary's words may sound archaic, but the emotion of a distraught mother screams through the text: "Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You" (Lk. 2:48).
What were you thinking, Jesus? Do you know how many days we have been searching for you? We worried you may be dead. Kidnapped. Enslaved. And you're just sitting there calmly instead of leaping up in apology?
Jesus responded with the answer of a child: "Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?" (v. 49).
Such a literal matter of fact answer, a "well, of course I'm here. What did you expect me to be?" answer I've heard so often from my own children.
If I blink, I might miss it. But for an instant, here, I see the connection between this Holy Son and my sons.
And in that flash, it directs me to a connection I notice almost daily between the Christ child and my sons.
A love of their father.
The grown man Jesus was always slipping away to spend time with His heavenly Father. In my mind's eye, I can see Him doing the same thing with his earthly father...something my own sons do no matter how hot or cold it is outdoors. Where daddy is is where they want to be.
Perhaps the young Jesus went to the carpentry shop to sit at His earthly father's feet, watch the planer curl thin strips of wood into ribbons and fall to the pile of sawdusty shavings on the floor. Or maybe, as many scholars have suggested because of Israel's lack of lumber, a carpenter would have worked more with stone so that the child Jesus would have spent hot days outdoors watching Joseph with chisel and hammer, chip away slowly to mold stone.
Like my sons, Jesus would have stood to the side to watch, eyes glued on his father's every movement. Then, he would have gained enough courage to pick up a tool much too heavy for his small hands before wielding it clumsily in effort to mimic His earthly father. At times, maybe the young Jesus was like my sons, doing more harm than good, breaking that stone with too hard a tap or crushing one he only intended to smooth.
But I imagine his father looked on him with love, with patience that fathers seem to have more than mothers at times. And yes, even though Joseph's blood didn't run through the boy's veins, I am sure his heart swelled with pride as he watched that little boy Jesus mimic his movements...as he saw a little bit of himself in him.
Photos: Emerson and Wyatt helping their daddy dig / fill in a water line trench.