Jesus wants to become fully immersed in our lives. By waiting in line, he honors the norm of the community – the community in which he wants to be fully enmeshed. He wants to be an abiding presence and a change agent within us. He wants to be a companion, waiting in line with the rest of us.
From the beginning of Jesus’s story, it’s clear that, in spite of Israel’s hope for a messiah who would deliver them definitively from the circumstances of their lives, we see their savior and ours caught in the same world that they and we are caught in. Redemption, the story tells us from its onset, will not come by way of a conquering hero or by one who transcends the limits the rest of us live confined by. Redemption, whatever it is in this story, will come from within those confines.
Precisely because it’s hard to imagine God being God in the world we need lots of stories: baby-sized and all the way up to whale-sized and to keep going, no doubt, to the reaches of our language and of our imaginations.
What’s more, this Jesus will grow up and teach us a different way to live in a world like ours. And his method will not be to reassure pretty good folks like us that we pretty much see things for what they are. He will tell stories, violate norms, ask questions meant to provoke or expose our deep confusion about how God sees things. He will tell us that the ones we see as last, and least, and lost are the first ones God seeks out and finds. He’ll insist that we find our lives by laying them down for one another. That we save them by losing them. And he will live out what he taught us all the way to the incomprehensible love we see on the cross and in the resurrection of that love, even on the far side of death.
Your skin and your bones are so wonderful, and they are good even on the days when you and I wonder about that, and they are carrying us around this big, tumultuous world. And yet, you and I are also so much more than skin and bones. I wonder about those moments when the realization grabs us, as surely as Elizabeth grabbed Mary. When we are touched and touched; when we feel someone squeezing our hand or something opening our heart that and know there’s more – more to us, more to our lives, more to this world than we had previously dared to imagine.