One of my favorite Christmas songs is Elvis Presley’s rendition of “I’ll be home for Christmas.” The lyrics are simple and sweet: I’ll be home for Christmas. You can plan on me. I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams.”
For many of us, Christmas makes us want to go home. Home might be a house or a group of people or a place in our hearts, but at Christmastime, we long to be in that place of warmth, comfort and security. When I think of being home for Christmas, I recall my house in Ohio from my childhood. I fondly remember sitting by the fireplace listening to music as my family watched the little twinkle lights reflect off of the bulbs on our tree. My memories are picture perfect.
But the truth is, if I’m honest, below the surface of the joyous tree-trimming and delicious dinners and festive parties with family and friends, everything was not perfect. I remembered this when I was eating duck on Christmas Day off of my grandmother’s china.
My parents inherited my father’s mother’s china after her death in 1998. I loved my grandmother; my father loved my grandmother; my grandfather loved my grandmother, but she wasn’t the easiest person to love. (Maybe you also have someone in your family like that?) Grandma Eda was often critical of us, especially my mom, her daughter in law. She had no kind words for my mother who worked so hard on behalf of all of us except she would say, “Well at least you keep the children clean.” Grandma was tough on everyone really. She would scoff at the waiter in the restaurant if he didn’t refill her coffee every 10 minutes. She hated the next door neighbor and his dog. She was the type who, when scolding you, would say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
It’s an interested saying really. Do as I say, not as I do. It means that you act in a way that you don’t want other people to act. You do things you don’t want others to do. If you ask me, Jesus would not approve of a “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality.
Just a few days ago we celebrated the birth of the baby Jesus, but the Bible doesn’t linger there long. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus birth story is followed almost immediately by a time when Jesus was 12 years old and learning in the temple. And right after that he’s in the wilderness at about 30 years of age. What happened to Jesus during all those years that aren’t recorded? How did he mature during the “missing years” as I like to call them?
The one thing the Bible does tell us is that Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor. Jesus grew up and people and God liked him. Growing up is a time to learn to think for ourselves and a time to become our selves in the truest sense of becoming.
It was during the missing years that Jesus developed his ideas of who God was. He chose to call God “Papa/Abba” and to pray to God in a personal, intimate way instead of seeing God as a far off reality that he had to offer sacrifices to. It was during the missing years that Jesus decided we should treat each other with non-judgment, acceptance, forgiveness and compassion. And when he got older this is exactly how he treated the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery.
It was during the missing years that Jesus became himself, that Jesus became Jesus. I like this quote by Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” That’s a message straight from Jesus himself who came so that we might have life and have it abundantly.