Saturday, January 2, 2016


Children are full of surprises.  It's particularly noticeable during the holiday season, when we see more of our friends and relatives than usual.   One of the surprises is that some people look pretty much the same their whole lives, and some you wouldn't recognize without a name tag.  There are several sets of twins in my extended family, and most are not identical--in fact, in one pair people don't believe that they're related.

Resemblances are interesting; often at family events where people are gathered that I haven't seen for awhile, it's easier to identify people by who else they look like, more than what they used to look like when they were younger. Sometimes in looking at old family pictures,  you can figure out who someone in a very old picture probably is by whose kids look like that picture.  And sometimes it works the other way as well. Recently one of my sons made an unexpected connection with a nephew of mine who lives halfway across the country.  The cousin sent me a picture--and he's looking more like his dad and grandfather than ever. A few years ago I went to a reunion of the Swedish side of my family, and took a grandson who does not look like his Lebanese cousins.  He looked around that all these people, most of whom he'd never seen before, and asked , "These are all my cousins?"  So I told him yes, they are--and now he knows who he looks like.

Some of the similarities we see in families are genetic, and some of them are learned; and some of them are a combination of both.  My younger son has always been interested in airplanes and flying; he hung around small airports and general aviation folks with his dad growing up.  I've always been interested in history, especially growing up with family stories of how my grandparents got to America, stories of missionary relatives,  and then more stories from John and his family about growing up in the Middle East.  My dad grew up in the lumber business, and was always building or remodeling something--and my brothers and I (the last one at home)  were the apprentices, and we are all reasonably handy with tools and fixing stuff.

Listening to Joseph's story the last couple of weeks was a good reminder that Jesus was fully a "real boy" as well as being the Son of God. We have witnesses of that not only in the Scriptural note that he was obedient to his earthly parents, but the witness of the folks in Nazareth, who had a problem understanding that Jesus was anything special because they had watched him grow up as an ordinary guy.  They saw him as someone who had learned a trade and worked with his hands just as many of them did--and many of us as well. The other thing we know about Jesus' youth was that he was a good student (of course, he had had the best Teacher); and we can wonder if any of the scholars who were part of that amazing Bar-Mitzvah realized who He was 20 years later.

The family resemblance that is crucial to our understanding of Jesus is His resemblance to His Heavenly Father. On that last night,  Jesus told the disciples "To have seen Me is to have seen the Father...I am in the Father and the Father is in Me ... you will understand that I am in My Father, and you in Me and I in you." (John 14).  This is the core of the Gospel: "To all who did accept Him,  He gave power to become children of God."  (John 1:12) When the world looks at us, do they see the family resemblance?

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