When the angel told them to head back to Israel, I wonder whether Joseph had hoped to go back to Bethlehem where the shepherds knew the baby was amazing. Instead, they have to go back to a place where everyone knows their story.
Now they are back where she got pregnant in suspicious circumstances, back where Joseph defied customs and brought her to live with him.
And now they come to the small town with a 3-4 year old boy who looks a lot like his mother, and probably nothing like his alleged father.
For Joseph and Mary and Jesus, this is a four-year journey of chaos and fear and being shamed. And it was because they all were doing exactly what God had called them to do.
Life as a follower of God is really confusing. We do what we’re called to do and we still run into hard times.
But here’s the deal.
According to Hebrews, this whole biography means that Jesus understands way more than we may think he understands.
His earliest memories were of exile and travel and teasing, and stories of angels providing guidance and warning and glory. His growing up memories are of having to wait to do the amazing work that he was called to do and simply doing hard work.
Along with his divinity, he’s human. Like us, for us.
When we talk with him about our messy lives, he doesn’t sit in a chair like a therapist saying, “Tell me more.” He doesn’t sit like a gossip saying, “I can’t wait to talk about this one.” He doesn’t stand like prosecuting attorney listing every tiny thing we’ve done wrong as evidence of a pattern of worthlessness.
Every one of those roles holds us at a distance, like an object.
Instead, Jesus sits like a faithful and experienced friend, unsurprised by anything, understanding of everything. When he says, “What about trying this”, it’s not without compassion. It’s with an understanding of the costs and the obedience.
And then he says, “Let’s go to God about that.”
And when we feel too far, to broken, too much of a failure, he stands up.
We see that he’s wearing the robes of a high priest, the one who represents people to God and God to people. The one who offers sacrifices to pay for wrongdoing, to make restitution, to satisfy the requirements of a holy God.
And just when we think he’s going to pick up a sacrifice, that maybe he’s going to pick us up as the sacrifice, he opens his hands and we see the nail holes.
He is the sacrifice. He is the one who has paid for wrongdoing, who has satisfied the requirements of a holy God.
He is the one who died and rose.
From the sermon for the second Sunday after Christmas.