The Tenth Christmas
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong.
“The Hidden Years”: That’s the name some people give to the first thirty years in the earthly life of Jesus our Lord and Savior.
We know a great deal about events surrounding his birth. We know a great deal about events surrounding his death. We know a great deal about the three years leading up to the cross and the empty tomb. Other than that, . . . we really know very little about the life of Jesus.
Only once in those thirty years does Scripture lift the veil and let us see Jesus as a boy. This, of course, is the well-known story about the trip to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve, as related in Luke 2:41-52. Other than that, . . . silence.
Pious imagination has long been at work, trying to fill in the gaps. One ancient story tries to tell us that when Jesus and his playmates were making toy birds out of clay, the little birds made by Jesus sprouted feathers and flew up into the sky. That sounds to me more like a fairy tale than it sounds like the childhood of our Lord. Many other legends about the Boy of Nazareth seem equally fanciful.
Yet . . . human curiosity still longs to know more about “The Hidden Years.”
What was Jesus really like as a boy? We know he did not live a pampered life: In adulthood he was known as “the carpenter.” We also know he did not live a solitary life: Christians have differing ideas as to the exact meaning of Biblical references to Jesus’ brothers and sisters, yet all agree that he grew up in a family setting.
Ten years after the birth of Jesus, what did Mary most remember about that extraordinary event? When Jesus was a ten-year-old, to what extent could Mary see anything unusual about her firstborn son? Remember, at the time of “The Tenth Christmas,” it was still two years before the boy Jesus would linger with the teachers in the Temple; it was still twenty years before the man Jesus would begin his public ministry of preaching and teaching and healing.
The Bible tells us that Mary was a thoughtful person; she “treasured” things and “pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). The Bible also tells us that Mary was specifically warned, in connection with the young Jesus, that a sword would pierce her to the very soul (Luke 2:35).
What follows is not just another fanciful legend, trying to fill in the gaps that Scripture has left in “The Hidden Years.” Rather, it is a Bible-based poetic meditation, reverently wondering what might have been going through Mary’s mind when Jesus reached his tenth birthday.
“My, how tall he’s grown!”
Mary stood and watched him lift
a block of cedar, idly thrown
beside the bench. How strong, how swift
his sun-browned arms, his sturdy hands!
How quick when Joseph gave commands!
“Soon he’ll be a man.”
Mary wondered where he went . . .
that tiny Babe whose life began
in stable for her chamber lent.
Not long ago? Ten years, ten years
of pondered hopes and piercing fears.
“Not a Babe today.”
Mary smiled to see him run —
half boy, half man, half work, half play,
his shadow stretching in the sun
past chasing playmates, teasing friends,
past saw and plane and ox-yoke ends.
“What will come of him?”
Mary slowly shook her head.
The memories would never dim:
The shy young shepherd by her bed,
the myrrh, the kneeling noblemen,
the Egypt road and home again.
“Father, use my Son!”
Mary wiped her eyes, her cheek.
Had his work for God begun?
How to know it? Where to seek?
Only God sent grief and joy.
Only God could guide her Boy.
O Lord, help all of us as parents who believe in You today to realize what Mary had to realize long ago: The future of our children lies in Your hands, not in ours. Amen.
Copyright © 2014 by Perry Thomas