And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:39-40)
How interesting that, other than one instance when he is twelve years old, this is all we hear about Jesus until he comes into his public ministry at age thirty. That's thirty years of virtual anonymity. Thirty years of hidden, quiet, ordinary, everyday life. Thirty years of learning and growing and working. Thirty years of life in the same small community. Thirty years of life in the carpenter's shop. It is hard to look at that and not ask, "Why?" Why on earth would God enter into his own creation and take thirty years before he really let anyone know about it (other than at his birth)? Why would God With Us spend thirty years hidden from sight and only 2-3 years in the public eye? What was God really up to here? What is it that He was trying to communicate? What do we need to learn from this? Maybe that there is more going on in the unfolding of everyday, ordinary life than meets the eye. God is mysteriously, and imperceptibly, at work.
And now we turn from the central mystery to the clustered events, through which its character is disclosed. We see the new life growing in secret. Nothing very startling happens. We see the child in the carpenter's workshop. He does not go outside the frame of the homely life in which He appeared. It did quite well for Him, and will do quite well for us.... It is like the hidden life at Nazareth. We must be content with the wholesome routine of the nursery, doing ordinary things, learning ordinary lessons and eating ordinary food, if we are to grow truly and organically in wisdom and stature and favour with God and man. Growth in God is a far more gradual, less conscious process than we realize at first. We are so raw and superficial in our notions, that we cannot conceive the nature of those tremendous changes by which the child of grace becomes the man of God. We all want to be up and doing long before we are ready to do.
To contemplate the proportions of Christ's life is a terrible rebuke to spiritual impatience and uppish hurry. There we see how slow, according to our time-span, is the maturing of the thought of God. Ephemeral insects become adult in a few minutes, the new-born lamb gets up and starts grazing straight away, but the child depends for months on its mother's love. Sanctity, which is childhood in God, partakes of the long divine duration. We often feel that we ought to get on quickly, reach a new stage of knowledge or prayer, like spiritual may-flies. But Christ's short earthly life is divided into thirty years for growth and two and a half for action. The pause, the hush, the hiddenness, which intervenes between the Birth and the Ministry, is part of the divine method, and an earnest of greatness of that which is to come. Only when that quiet growth has reached the right stage is there a revelation of God's purpose, and the stress and discipline of a crucial choice. Baptism, Fasting and Temptation come together as signs of maturity. It is much the same with us in the life of prayer. The Spirit fills us as we grow and make room. It keeps pace with us; does not suddenly stretch us like a pneumatic tyre, with dangerous results. To contemplate the life of Christ, said St. Augustine, "curses inflation, and nourishes humility." We see in Him the gradual action of God, subdued to the material on which it works, and fostering and sanctifying growth--that holy secret process--especially growth in the hidden, interior life, which is the unique source of His power in us. (Advent with Evelyn Underhill)