What I like to see in the Christmas story is a divine lord who has donned our own messy and precarious humanity in the trauma of childbirth and family. Here at the beginning he embarks upon the trial of a full humanity – what I am here calling the test of the ten-thousand days* – a test which he meets in full before his baptism at Jordan.
I think at Christmas Jesus invites us to celebrate with him and in him the obscure but vital humanity he enjoyed with mother and family and friends before he felt called to go out to meet the son of Zechariah. Does it really matter that our scriptures are almost blank in its regard? Do we really have no clue as to what an obscure childhood, youth and adulthood might look like?
If at Christmas we contemplate the fullness of Christ’s humanity, maybe we will find that this young lord accomplished, in the daily course of life while he was yet this side of Jordan, a work in which he did not leave our lives wholly unredeemed.
It is on this human side of the incarnation history that we may allow Jesus more fully to meet us as one who knows the potentiality of an obscure setting in life. I think anyone who will let him live with them for any single part of a year or week or hour may see that he knows well the ins and outs from childhood to adulthood. And it is neither smart nor even permissible to believe he was without sin if we do not accept his nearness to the temptations and inspirations of our quotidian struggles. I say this Christmas give him a chance to show his power in the inevitable crises of an uncelebrated human life.
* 10,000 days equals 27 years, 19 weeks, and a day. If we figure Jesus to be not facing any of the large or small frustrations of life without Mary’s constant assistance until at least age 3, the Ten-thousand day trial puts him on the banks of Jordan with John at “about his 30th year.”