Next Sunday the infant Jesus will be all grown-up, and he will be all grown-up for another 50 weeks until next Christmas. Today, then, is the last opportunity the lectionary offers for us to imagine Jesus as an infant. And I encourage us to take advantage of this opportunity.
As I imagine Jesus as an infant, I can imagine holding him as I would any other infant. I can imagine putting my nose into his hair and smelling his “new baby” smell. I can imagine listening to his breath as he sleeps; hefting his tender, yet solid weight; marveling at his fat little legs and wrists; seeing his perfectly-formed little fingers and toes. I can imagine watching the little patch of skin on his skull– that little patch between the four segments of our skull before they harden into solid bone – go in and out with his pulse. And I can imagine loving him. I mean, how could you not? I know infants are a lot of work – OMG, they’re a lot of work! – but still, how could you not love him, that small, tender life so fragile in your arms?
I’m sure that Mary, Jesus’ mother, did love him. How could she not? She loved him with a mother’s love, as only a mother could love. She loved him as she had loved no one else. I imagine that she would have done anything for him.
And I’m sure that Mary continued to love Jesus when he was an adult. I imagine that she yet hugged him and beamed at him and spoke tenderly to him, and maybe scolded him. I imagine that she was proud of him beyond measure when he changed water into wine and taught with authority in the synagogue. She was so proud of him when he preached the Sermon on the Mount and fed a crowd of 5,000 with a few loaves of bread. I imagine, too, that it pained Mary to hear people speak ill of Jesus or threaten him or to see the danger that lay in wait for him in Jerusalem. Imagine how it must have hurt when he was arrested, tried and crucified. Mary loved Jesus as only a mother could love, loving him even to the end.
I invite us this week – the last week in the lectionary in which Jesus is an infant – to consider love – a mother’s love. Maybe imagine Mary holding the infant Jesus and relishing his new-born smell and chubby thighs and gentle breathing. Or maybe imagine Mary beaming at Jesus as he went about his ministry. She loved him so much! And as you imagine Mary loving Jesus, maybe then move to consider your own mother and how much she loved or loves you. Maybe look back into your life and recall experiences with her in which you felt completely and wholly loved. Or if your relationship with your mother is too complicated, then maybe remember some other person and some other time when you felt completely loved.
You know, these memories of being loved, this is how God feels about you. As much as Mary loved Jesus, as much as you may love or have loved a child, as much as your own mother may have loved you, this is how God loves you. And these are all agents of God’s love for you. God loves us completely, wholly, unconditionally, as though He had nobody else to love.
And if it feels good to remember times when we felt loved, why not do it again the next day? And the next? And the day after that? God loves us with an infinite, everlasting love, God works through those around us to make His love known to us, and God wants us to feel this love, to have a felt, interior knowledge of His love for us.
I encourage us this week to take advantage of the last days in which the lectionary offers the opportunity to imagine Jesus as an infant. I invite us to imagine how much Mary loved Jesus, to remember times in which you felt loved. And I invite us to know – to have a felt, interior knowledge – of God’s love for us, each and every one of us. God loves us with an infinite, everlasting love. And God is always knocking on our door, hoping that we’ll open up and let Him in, so that He might love us even more.