Catholic Spirituality,  Catholics Do What?,  Evangelization,  motherhood

What about Jesus the kid? {A Christmas gift for YOU}

If there’s one area of Christ’s life that holds particular intrigue for me, at least in this season of my life, it’s His childhood. Hidden, mysterious, and somehow – wonder of wonders – Divinely human.

There are frequently times when I’m exhausting my vocal range with the kids and other times, sweeter times, as I watch their fat cheeks rise and fall in the gentle rhythm of sleep, when I wonder what it was like to parent God.

Did He wet His bed for entirely too long? Was He ever displeased with Mary’s cooking? Did He know, the way an adult mind knows, Who He actually was? Or was it a gradual unveiling, both to Him and to His holy parents?

And if He didn’t know, then what on earth did that look like? Did Mary and Joseph have to, for lack of a better word, teach Jesus to be God?

It’s pretty mind boggling stuff. And all we really know for sure is that he lived his early childhood in Egypt, had an adolescent episode of assertion of independence in Jerusalem, and then “went back with them, returning to Nazareth and remaining in submission to them. His mother continued to treasure all these things in her heart.” And grew in wisdom and grace.

That last line lends credence to the theory that perhaps His divinity was revealed gradually to Him, the way an ordinary human child becomes self aware and eventually, independent. Because how, otherwise, could God, the omnipotent and eternal, have any growing to do?

I’m notoriously wary of religious movies, because 1. they’re usually subpar in the production value department (Facing the Giants, anyone?) and 2. who knows what kind of theological, ah, liberties were mixed into the script alongside actual Scripture (cough, cough, Nativity Story).

When I was offered the chance to view an advance screening of The Young Messiah, frankly, I wasn’t that interested. I didn’t want to be bored, disappointed, or scandalized, which are the usual trifecta for me when viewing pretty much any religious flick I can recall, save for the Passion of the Christ and The Ten Commandments.

But this film was different.

It was beautiful, haunting, thought provoking, and deeply, deeply reverent. And it was well cast and supremely well acted.

So I have an offer for you now, dear local readers. Particularly those of the maternal persuasion.

The production company responsible for this beautiful film has offered to host an advance screening here in Denver, for us. They’re reserved a theater for our exclusive use at the Regal Southglenn Stadium 14 at the Shops at Southglenn for Wednesday, January 13th at 7 pm.

You can register for the screening here, and I’d love to see you and a guest there. Registration is first come, first serve, and seats are limited.

(And while I wanted to have this up before Christmas, day 6 out of 12 ain’t half bad, croup and teething notwithstanding.)

Merry Christmas!



  • AthenaC

    I always get a laugh out of my second-graders when I tell them that Mary had to change baby Jesus’s poopy diapers.

    I’m with you – I have to think that Jesus did developmentally-appropriate things as he grew. He had to nurse, have his diaper changed, had cholic (probably), needed Joseph to hold him just-a-certain-way to burp him. He probably had some epic 2-year-old tantrums, too.

    • Caroline

      No! I don’t think Jesus ever had tantrums! He is a perfect in every way, so. I don’t believe he ever gave Mary any trouble, nor was he likely unaware of who he was. How could he, if he was God?

      Pope Pius XII taught, in his Encyclical Mystici Corporis (“The Mystical Body” – 1943): “By means of the Beatific Vision (the sight of God in Heaven), which He enjoyed from the time when he was received into the womb of the Mother of God, He has for ever and continuously had present to Him all the members of His mystical Body, and embraced them with His saving love.” (N.D. 661).

      We don’t have to see Jesus as “a regular kid”, who grew in knowledge like the rest of us, to appreciate him as a child, or relate to Mary as a mother simply because she didn’t have to correct any tantrums!

      I used to think no movie on the life of Christ was worth watching either, save for Mel Gibson’s the Passion of The Christ, but check out the 1977 Jesus of Nazareth mini series. It used to be on Netflix. The part with Mary and Elizabeth and the Magnificat is very good, though the whole movie is good.

      • Jenny Uebbing

        I don’t know, if we see tantrums as developmentally appropriate (which I probably could benefit from acknowledging) instead of evidence of original sin, which we don’t, as Catholics, assign responsibility for to the individual prior to the age of reason, I think it’s feasible that Jesus could have been fussy or colicky or even thrown a tantrum or two. He was fully human, after all.

        I’m not sure about the awareness vs. gradual unveiling of who He was. Before we started chatting about it (thanks in large part to having watched this movie) I was more in the “of course he knew!) camp. But as my husband and I discussed what it means to have a nature both fully human and fully divine, I think it’s at least feasible that He was gradually self aware, as are normal human children. Not dogma, obviously, but a possibility.

        I’ll have to check that series out!

        • Caroline

          In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. And the Word was made flesh. There is no way He couldn’t know.

          When a child throws a tantrum, it’s because they are angry at not getting what they want at that moment. They are being unreasonable. Jesus humbled himself completely by coming into this world as a child, knowing that he could as easily have come down as a grown man, strong of his own accord, able to take care of himself. Yet he chose to be born an infant, part of a family; and humbled himself, to be fed and shown how to do simple ordinary things, by Joseph and Mary. If you as you say, since he was fully human (and fully divine at the same time, of course, no disagreement there), how could he not know? The entire time? If, he, as part of the Trinity, was always in the beatific vision, he would have known. Now, regarding the baby-fussiness subject, yes, he may have been too hot, or too cold, or been uncomfortable…but a tantrum- that is selfish anger manifesting itself out loud in a child that hasn’t learned to control him or herself. So, no, I don’t believe Little Jesus ever had a tantrum.

          • AthenaC

            A tantrum in a 2-year-old doesn’t come from being selfish or from being angry. It comes from learning about the world and learning that there are limits. It’s the developmentally-advanced version of a baby crying.

          • Cami

            Tantrums are due to 3 possible causes… Overtiredness, overstimulation, and hunger. I think power struggles fall into a different category. So Jesus probably at times was overtired, overstimulated, and/or hungry and probably fell apart in those moments much like our children do. But perhaps there were no power struggles since He likely was quite virtuous and found honoring his mother and father to be easy for Him. Although I imagine most of us having a better time obeying Mary in all her grace! What an interesting topic to ponder.

  • Evelyn

    My husband sent me the link “Young Jesus at Bath Time” (google it in images) for a laugh on this subject last year. Toddlers be toddlers? 😉

  • jeanette

    If you recall the words in scripture which refer to the finding of Jesus by Mary and Joseph after searching for him, there is a clue. He responded to his parents by stating:
    (from Luke 2:49-50) And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
    But they did not understand what he said to them.

    This tells us 2 things about his childhood: he understood something of his mission, but his parents did not yet perceive it. Therefore, he did not learn it from them, but acquired this knowledge through God (though we do not know how or when). On a human level, even saints have been given “divine lights” to understand some things through contemplation, and Jesus was most certainly in intimate contact with the Father.

    When dealing with MYSTERY, we can certainly ponder it, but shouldn’t dwell on the “how” of it as though we in fact could ever come to understand the fullness of the meaning of the mystery. It is often far better to marvel that it is a mystery, or otherwise we can lead ourselves towards pet ideas that are actually inaccurate and could take us more into the realm of imaginary, even though the mystery itself is a reality.

    It is much like people trying to comprehend heaven, which is incomprehensible, as it is much greater than we can ever imagine. Jesus’ childhood is much the same: probably too complex for the human mind in this life. It is in the realm of divine knowledge.

  • jeanette

    I was curious about this film production because it sounded different from other films on Jesus, so I looked it up. I found that it was based on a book written by Anne Rice. I looked up book reviews on Amazon. It sounds like the author was able to put in very historically accurate information about the time period of the book, but here is a review by someone who felt the book was “sacrilegious”, and his comment supports that opinion.

    The reviewer states:
    “I was asked to read this book for a book review on a course. Within the first chapter, I read of Jesus killing a peer of His who was bullying him (during Jesus’ childhood). At this point, I put the book down. How could someone write a book on Jesus, as a child, killing someone? This would be sin, and this would cause Jesus to ‘not’ have been the perfect and sinless Son of God. Therefore, I put this book down after reading the first chapter or two. It’s terrible.”

    I clicked on the “Look Inside” button and read the first chapter of the book myself. There it is, right in the beginning. But it gets worse as one reads on. Too speculative all the way around. He calls “James” his “older brother” from Joseph’s first marriage. There is no factual basis for this. Second, he says he calls Joseph by name, he does not call him father. Again, no factual basis for this. If this is an example of how the movie plays out, and I wouldn’t know as I have not seen it, I would be leery of it. Movies are not innocuous. When dealing with a life that is sacred, as the Son of God’s is, one should be careful not to insert what is not factual. One should be careful about admitting those things into one’s mind that are not factual. Film happens very quickly, unlike a book, and it is much harder to filter these things out of our memory. We want very much to know our Lord, but this is not likely a good way to go about it. Hope you all can see the reason for recommending caution. “Faith seeks understanding” but it must be rooted in the truth.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      Jeanette, I haven’t read the book, though I would be similarly leery of Anne Rice because her personal faith story is somewhat problematic, but the movie, as I mentioned I’ve already seen, was exceptionally well done and treated the Holy Family with due reverence. Thanks for the heads up about the source material, though!

      • jeanette

        Thanks for your reply and reassurances, but more detail would help. I’m still left wondering if these things which were in the first chapter, the killing of the boy (and later it states that Jesus brings him back to life…which would discount the fact that Jesus did not perform any miracles prior to his time of public ministry), the characterization of Joseph as previously married with children who are Jesus’ step-siblings, not calling Joseph “father”…were these omitted from the screenplay? In general, how closely does the script follow the book on these points?

        While I didn’t see the film, I looked at the trailer, and there is a scene of Mary talking to Jesus telling him he has powers he ought not use before God tells him to do so…this seems like perhaps he must have used them in the film. There is also a scene of Joseph and Mary wondering “how one tells Jesus he is God’s son” and I reiterate what I mentioned before, the scriptures do not support this interpretation of Jesus life. The film may have been appealing and appeared to be reverent upon your viewing it. It is possible to have a positive reaction to things that touch us deeply in some way, especially if our openness to God enables us to be touched, but my sense of concern arises from fictionalizing what has not been given to us in Scripture or Tradition.

        Jesus’ childhood is really seen as the hidden years of his life, and only those things of importance to our knowledge of his early years make their way into scripture. One thing I’ve always noticed reading the 4 Gospel accounts, there are no unnecessary details of Jesus life. While we are not told every minute detail of his life, I do not think anything of importance was omitted, either. Hence, one can safely draw from the known facts.

        The film and the book are both works of fiction, not works of theology or biblical scholarship, which to me seems rather a dangerous way to treat our Lord’s life. I cannot know what someone else’s first hand experience of the film was, hence I cannot say with what critical analysis you may or may not have examined the film upon viewing it. Film does not always give us time to mentally examine what is presented. That is likely not the intent with which you watched the film. It was an “untold” story, so you weren’t busy fact-checking. That is understandable. I’d like to believe it was “harmless” entertainment, but given the subject matter, it just seems something to stay away from.

        Given that your goal was genuinely to share a gift with others to enjoy something you enjoyed, I’m reluctant to overshadow the beauty of what is coming from your heart with my cautions. Your gift is a very kind gesture towards others. But, the faith is the faith, and we are expected to both share it and defend it. But, I can only comment upon what I read in the book excerpt and saw on the trailer. Since you did see the film, you can say more about the content to the degree of your own knowledge of what is or is not factual in the film vs. what was speculative and beyond our knowledge. In your own words on the blog you stated you are usually wary of these kinds of films, “who knows what kind of theological, ah, liberties were mixed into the script alongside actual Scripture ” — and it doesn’t seem possible that this film would not have taken such liberties. Quality acting and production cannot compensate for that kind of defect. So, do you hold the opinion that liberties were not taken on content? That is a good reason to be wary of the danger of inventive fictional accounts of Jesus’ life, even if the film proves to be “good” in the sense of a moving story that is well presented in a plausible way.

      • Caroline

        The trailer shows Mary telling the child Jesus who he is, and how the angel told her. The premise of this film seems to be that Jesus didn’t know who he was, that he sort of grew into knowing, correct?

        If John the Baptist, while still a baby in his mother Elizabeth’s womb, leapt for joy and recognized Jesus, how could Jesus himself not know from the beginning? Elizabeth herself knew. It doesn’t stand to reason.

  • Jean

    While curiosity is normal satisfying it with false pop doctrine can be harmful on many levels.
    I have in mind another work of fiction made into a film a number of years ago that started off as entertainment material and then morphed into an all out attack on our faith. While this type of thing may appear innocent enough we have to be aware that there is an element of evil at work in our world that seeks to distort the truths of our faith and harm our relationship with Christ. Much like using a Ouija board for fun we aren’t always aware of how close we may be to being drawn into spiritual harm.

  • Kim C

    Have you read “Anima Christi” by Mother Mary Francis? She has reflects a lot on the human life of Jesus (and a lot more!). I heard you on illness; one month straight of everything under the sun it seems. Hopefully your kids are better soon!

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