I’m thinking today of a comic one of my seminary professors shared with our class years ago. It was illustrating the trajectory of Jesus’s life through the biblical narrative in just four or five frames. I don’t remember the exact words, but I do remember the gist of the punchline: asking what Mary and Joseph were hiding about Jesus in the oh-too-simple verse from Luke 2:40: “The child grew up and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him.”
For sure, that’s a lot of heavy lifting for that passage. It’s summarizing a period of 30 years. There’s a lot that happens in 30 years that doesn’t make for good storytelling. But to have only small glimpses behind the curtain during 30 years – the family finding refuge in Egypt and migrating to Galilee, of Jesus ditching Mary & Joseph at the temple at Passover, and Jesus’s baptism by his cousin –leaves a lot of questions open to speculation.
Especially after the mountaintop experience of Jesus’s birth, it’s easy to feel a little discouraged. Imagine being one of those shepherds at the announcement of the angels, rushing to the bright star over Bethlehem to see what’s taken place, and expecting… something. Just something. To come next.
In 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved, and the United States emerged arguably as the sole dominant global superpower. The United States used this might in military action against Iraq. The average home sales price in California was $194,010, among the highest in the United States, and a gallon of gas averaged $1.12.
I don’t think many people in 1991 would be surprised that 30 years later, California would still lead the country in the cost of housing. I do think many would be surprised just how horrible this state’s housing crisis has become. Likewise, the optimism that surrounded the formal end of the Cold War seems like multiple lifetimes ago.
In 1991, a phone was still a device with physical buttons that served one single function: to connect you on a voice connection with another party. Even expanding that innovation to car phones physically attached to and drawing power from an automobile, or portable cordless phones with bulky handsets and limited range from a corded base station next to the phone jack, the notion that in less than 30 years’ time “phone” would come to mean none of those things in the vernacular was the stuff of science fiction or mind-altering substances.
And this is just this particular 30 years. Does anyone want to venture predictions for 2051?
What’s next? As we journey these final days to Bethlehem this year, as we do every year, what do we do to maintain our hope-full stamina as we love a new world into being?
Because the only thing we know for sure is that Jesus’s birth announces the total transformation of the world. Everything changes. And we’re invited into the story. And it’s up to us to claim what change we want to see.