This year Lent does not begin until Wednesday 5th March so we are left with four seemingly ‘empty’ weeks in February from the end of Christmastide (Candlemas on the 2nd) until Ash Wednesday. These weeks are, however, not really empty despite ‘filling the gap’ between the end of one major period of the Church’s year and the beginning of another. There is also a parallel to be drawn, I think, with the life of Christ.
In the Gospels we are told much about the birth of Jesus and his infancy, you know the Christmas story, but apart from his visiting the temple when he was 12 (probably to celebrate his ‘bar mitzvah’ his coming of age when he remained behind asking the learned deep theological questions and drove his parents mad with worry) we know nothing until he reaches 30 and begins his public ministry. This is not to say that nothing happened in his life because something must have occurred as he grew up. We can surmise that he learnt the carpentry trade from Joseph and experienced the joys and pains of family life and there are legends that he travelled with his Great-Uncle Joseph of Arimathea to England, while he traded in tin. These legends are somewhat fanciful but they have arisen as earlier Christians have tried to imagine quite what happened to Jesus in his so called ‘hidden years’.
This month is a good breathing space between phases of church life and offers an opportunity for us to reflect upon the formative years of Jesus’ life. What was it that gave him the skills and confidence to begin his ministry? Did he grow up with other siblings? Who were his friends? Did he know those he called as his first disciples as he grew up? These are just a few questions worth considering, what will your ponderings throw up for you?
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