In these or similar words ...

Dear Jesus,
Somehow I have always thought of you as fully formed. Yes, you were a baby, but then the Gospels suddenly have you leaving home as an adult. But what about all of those years in between? What happened when you left the stable in Bethlehem and your parents took you home?

I want to know more about the kind of child you were. Were you ever a “terrible two” as a toddler? I’ve never seen it written anywhere, but it is comforting for me to think of you as a delightful two year old, exploring, getting into things, climbing where you shouldn’t in the house, getting under foot in Joseph’s carpenter shop, playing on the floor in Mary’s kitchen. I like to see you like that, because it makes you so very human and it’s how you and all of us learned about things and developed our curiosities about life and others with us in it.

How did you learn to read? Did Mary take you on her lap and begin to teach you the Scriptures? Did Joseph take you with the men to the synagogue? What kind of playmates did you have? What did you learn about the world by watching the traders at the market, the neighbors, Joseph’s customers, and your relatives?

Joseph was such a strong influence on you, and you often stood next to him as he traded with merchants. He was gentle and trusting but strong. He even went to the market for the widow next door because the merchants always tried to cheat her. You watched as Joseph talked with them, insisting on fairness but never trying to get more than he was due.

With your engaging personality, you were a leader among the boys in your neighborhood, racing them through the town and then dashing back in laughter to Joseph’s shop. Once you cheated in a race and Mary saw you do it. She took you aside and quietly told you a story, a parable, about cheating, and you burned with regret. Her gentle correction was all you needed to return to the boys with a deeper sense of honesty and of your responsibility as a leader among them.

At twelve years old you had a favorite trip into Jerusalem with a huge crowd of family and friends from Nazareth. When you got there you peeked into the temple and were mesmerized by the discussion going on there. You wanted to stay and watch, but your friends pulled at your sleeve and soon you were off, racing through the streets of Jerusalem. I know you were excited about the huge market, with its foreign wares for sale, near the temple. You looked with such interest at the different kinds of people in this big city — so different from your small town.

But in a quiet moment you slipped away from your friends, drawn back to the temple by the power of what you heard discussed there. But, Jesus, didn’t you think about your parents? Sometimes I wonder about you at the temple. After all, you were a smart twelve year old. Shouldn’t you have paid more attention than that? Mary and Joseph must have been sick when they realized you weren’t with them on the journey back. But they were so relieved when they found you. As I picture the scene, Jesus, when you got home, they grounded you for a week.

But you were a wonderful child, and their discipline, love, faith, and sense of justice helped to shape you as much as Mary’s story telling and Joseph’s carpentry did.

I feel closer to you when I pray with all of this, as I see you slowly maturing into the adult I want to know more. When did you begin to feel that you had a special role to play? When did you sense that you were called by God in a special way? How did you begin to be a servant for others, a foot washer?

Dear Jesus, help me to understand you more so I can be more like you. Help me to find how I can serve God as you did. I want to be with you in this world and to be serving, like you.

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