Mild he lays his glory by
Saturday, December 30, 2017
From Luke 2
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him. - from Luke 2
No, thirteen month old Miles does not yet strut from place to place with his head held high. But perhaps it won’t be long. He’ll be walking very soon. And his home is his castle. Already, you can feel his hegemony, that confident claim on all that he can see.
Sometimes Miles stands straight, with one arm behind his back like a soldier reviewing troops. He’s learning to swing his arms just so, with precision. He’s not quite walking but even so, in turns and sweeps, he moves along with grace. He’s firstborn, a golden boy with jet black hair, melt-away eyes, and a spontaneous, cheek-splitting smile.
Miles waves goodbye, but usually after the departing parent has left the room. He stands on his own, and appreciates our applause. He’ll clap for us sometimes, and we all know his words are coming soon. He has ample opportunity to learn humility, even as he comes into his confidence and strength. In his room Andi and Aki have hung a simple drawing of a running rabbit with a thought from artist Dave Eggers: “Courage - may it be common.”
Of course we’re accustomed to think of Jesus the young boy as Jesus the young boy-god. And our creed makes it clear that this is what we believe. But we also believe that Jesus was the young boy-boy. “… Being of one substance with the Father … and was made man.” Just like Jesus, like his dad and like his mom, Miles will have some complicated days now that he too has been “made man.”
In the Ignatian Exercises, retreatants are asked to rely on their imaginations to return to the days of biblical yesteryear and become part of the stories that they read. “The child grew and became strong.” Along with Jesus and Miles, I sit on the floor in Joseph’s workshop, smell the sawdust, listen to the hammer and the saw, and play hide-and-seek now and then with Joseph.
Then we all go in to lunch together. The bread is warm, and the olives are ripe and sweet.
“ … filled with wisdom.” Reading is a wonderful thing. But before the letters come together into words, and the words into sentences, and the sentences string out into stories, what then? Jesus and Miles pick up books and turn pages as fast as they can. There is something special about getting to the end of just about any picture book.
I look forward to when Miles discovers his own love of story, begins to share once-upon-a-times with us, and embraces the rhythm and rush of one new idea after another. It’s coming … it’s coming.
Last Christmas, when Miles was seven weeks old, I shared with him whatever I was reading at the time. Maybe it was theology, maybe it was fiction. Miles was quiet, listening. Of course baby Jesus would be listening too. Holding them close, we can watch them both fall headlong into our soft murmurings, not yet anchored to anything but sound. Lullaby words, by and by. Fall asleep words. Goodnight moon.
“And the favor of God was upon him.” Every morning Jesus wakes up, and the favor of God is on him again. Mary won’t give him the run of the house, not yet, so she picks him up from bed and sets him down on his own two feet.
Mother and son feel the floor, squeeze the dirt between their toes, and walk into the kitchen. Miles comes along too, and along with both the toddlers, all of us know for sure that God loves and loves and loves us all.
It’s time for breakfast.
You’re right here, Jesus, in all my moments of growing and wisdom and favor. You were a baby like I was once, and Miles too, and Margaret, and Andi and Aki, and each and every one of us. Lay your gentle hands on all our brows. You’re so close and you’re so full of love. Raise us up and teach us all your ways.