Day 342: An Uneducated History of Christmas

We never hear anything about the toddler Jesus. I’ve never read The Bible, so maybe I’m totally wrong. We hear stuff about the baby Jesus and his manger and animals and frankincense,  but from 1 week old to 20 something, the apostles didn’t have much to say about the savior. The supposed son of God wasn’t born looking like the lead singer of Creed; he learned to walk (first on land and then on water), he probably peed on stuff, sat on the cat, covered his face in hummus and sucked at hide and seek. Like all young kids, he was an adorable pain in the ass to his mom, Mary. By the way, there’s no way “Mary” was her real name. Again, if this stuff is all in The Bible, I apologize.

I think it helps, especially as we’re poised to celebrate the day of his birth, to remember that even Jesus – who was frequently called Jessie by those close to him – wasn’t always awesome. There was a period before his sweet, giving and peaceful nature took hold when he was a selfish little kid who whined for candy and puppets, or whatever toddlers did for kicks in Bethlehem circa the year 0002. I bet 2 year old Jesus terrorized the local goats and refused to get in his highchair at restaurants.

Jesus went through an awkward phase too. You think he always had six-pack abs and gorgeous hair? For a whole year, that hair was long enough to be falling in his face all the time, but too short to put in a pony tail. Can we all take a moment to think about Jesus in a pony tail. I guarantee it happened – like after he got out of the shower, or while he was working hard on his carpentry projects. He was a wood worker (and a darn good one, I hear). You can’t have your hair falling into your work, or risk getting it caught in a lathe. He must have tied it back, perhaps with a scrunchy or beret.

In his teen years, I bet he had a really awkward relationship with Joseph. I mean, once they told him that Joseph wasn’t his real Dad, he must have wanted to meet his father. Man, I feel like all this stuff might be in The Bible, but I’m sort of on a roll, and don’t have time to read that 5000 page beast right now. When Jesus found out his real Dad was God, he must have had a big time Superman moment. Remember when Superman first discovered that he had crazy powers and those farm people weren’t his real parents? He did some hard core soul searching. At some point, I promise you, Jesus said, “But Mom, I don’t want to be the son of God.” I guarantee that happened. I don’t have a good feel on how Mary might have reacted, but I sense she was pretty hard on him. “Shut up and finish your supper.” Something like that. I assume all parents were mean before the invention of cereal and television.

I’ve ended up confusing myself here a bit. If Jesus was the son of God, but the Christian God wasn’t really a concept until after Jesus was older, how did everyone know his dad was God. God didn’t exist yet as an idea, right? I mean according to the story, he’s always existed, but no one knew about him yet. Was it a different God, like from Egypt or Rome or something?

Wow, I’m kind of a moron. Again, I don’t know anything about religion. Please don’t let my lack of proper schooling offend you. These are all honest questions (though not ones I particularly want answered).

I think this Christmas, if you’re the type of person who thinks about Jesus (I wasn’t until about 25 minutes ago), you should celebrate the young Jesus. Might I suggest you (we) dedicate this holiday season to the teen Jesus? The one who had trouble talking to chicks because his voice was changing? That version of Jesus doesn’t seem to get much love these days.

If you’re 16 or 17 and starting a band, might I suggest the name “Teen Jesus?”

I'm a contributing writer to Parents Magazine, GQ, Psychology Today and some others. My book, "This is Ridiculous. This is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists" is available here Look for two more books in 2015: "Must. Push. Buttons (Bloomsbury Kids), and an as-of-yet untitled memoir I’ve appeared on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and “Nick Mom’s Night Out." I live in New Jersey with my wife and two sons and enjoy making them laugh more than anyone else.

30 comments On Day 342: An Uneducated History of Christmas

  • Yep, there's one story when he's twelve. In case anyone's interested, here it is:

    "Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends.

    When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

    His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”

    “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he meant.

    Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart." (Luke 2:41-51 NLT)

  • Afraid the band name suggestion is a little late. Teenage Jesus and the Jerks were a late-70s post-punk band.

  • Heather Sutherland

    I know there's a story about him running away at 12 and Mary and Joseph finding him teaching what I assume where a bunch of older men, in the temple. Maybe he knew who he was without being told. If I was his mom I would have been so mad!

  • Loved it! It really doesnt make sense if we think about it, and i grew hope going to the church..

  • FYI, Jesus (not his real name) was Jewish, and the Jewish people knew all about God, since they believed that they were the Chosen People. Jews agree that "Jesus" was a real historical figure, but not that he was the son of G-d (any more than anyone else is) and they did not believe that he was the Messiah (which literally meant anointed King) because he did not meet the criteria set out in the Jewish Bible (The Torah) for being the Messiah. That said, I really enjoyed your musings on Jesus the toddler and Jesus the Teenager.

    • Jennifer, this is great info. Do you happen to know if, when Jesus was a kid, say maybe 11 or 12, anyone told him he was the son of God?

      • Heather Sutherland

        I meant my post about teaching in the temple to be a response to this post. I'm not blog comment adept.

      • The Bible does not mention anything about such revelation – but we (Christians) believe that He somehow knew who he really was. Yes, when He was 12 – and according to the Jewish costume, his parents took him to Jerusalem and on the way home, his parents noticed his absence. when they went back to look for him, he was found talking to the elders and them being amazed of all the things he was saying. Also, even though the Bible does not say much about His childhood or adolescence, I like to think like you – a pretty normal one. There is mention of His childhood on Luke 2:40 : "The child grew up and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him" it also says on verse 51 on the same chapter: Jesus went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. His mother cherished every word in her heart. 52 "Jesus went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. His mother cherished every word in her heart. 52 Jesus matured in wisdom and years, and in favor with God and with people. "

        so, I guess He was a pretty good kid :)

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