There was a flurry of excitement in the beginning. Dreams and angelic visitation; a strange new star; foreigners bearing gifts. Then slaughter, a desperate escape and exile. And finally, returning to settle into an average place in a poor village.
Except for a brief glimpse in scripture at age 12, He lived in obscurity. An ordinary laborer, eating simple meals and living the hard life of a first century peasant in a place of no account.
I forget, sometimes, those decades of anonymity before the brief burst of notoriety; before His cruel death. Before the resurrection. Before history divided into before His coming, and after.
Surely He bore the weight of expectation after His auspicious beginning. Perhaps also of the whispers and disapproval when He didn’t take a wife. When He finally revealed His identity, his townspeople – even His own siblings – scoffed.
He lived an entire lifetime in those days, before He finally stepped into His calling, we might say. But wasn’t each ordinary day that came before just as much a calling as the teaching and the miracles? If not, then why did He live them?
I forget that He lived for me as well as died for me. He entered into all of life; the waiting, the dreaming; the feeling different, the disappointments. The daily labor, the ordinary weariness. The monotony. The petty annoyances and misunderstandings.
He lived a life of ordinary days in order to fully enter in to our ordinary lives, to fully experience the things that we do. He didn’t come as a tourist, tasting the highlights and taking a few snapshots to remember us by. No, He became one of us in the fullest sense of the word.
He could have come in a blaze of glory, orchestrating a sanitized death before racing back home to His throne in heaven. But he came not just to visit us, but to become us. He came to see life through our eyes, to mourn and to laugh, to be shamed and to be loved. He came as our brother and our friend.
I have been guilty of scorning my ordinary days, the monotonous chores, the loneliness. But aren’t these days just as much my calling as any other? They are each one an opportunity – a gift, given by the One who entrusts them to our use.
“They shall call him Emmanuel”, the prophet Isaiah said, which means “God with us”. Not just for those three years of adoring crowds dogging his steps, not just for those agonizing hours surrounding his death. But for all the years that came before. The ones He lived in holy obscurity.