Jesus and me

People from Slaithwaite and Marsden continue to share their faith with readers of this website, and today Carol Holdsworth answers the questions from last Sunday’s Sermon: Who are you, and who is Jesus? During the sermon we were invited to think about these questions and write, list, draw, paint or doodle the answers – to basically do what we find most helpful. Carol’s approach was to have a conversation and record her thoughts afterwards. What follows is an audio recording of Carol with a transcription below.

…from Carol Holdsworth

Hi, for those of you who haven’t met me yet my name is Carol Holdsworth and among other things I am the wife of Graeme, the Vicar. I am also a Reader in the Church of England, a role I was licensed to about 5 years ago and have served in the Durham Diocese and in York Diocese. I wanted to share some reflections with you this week that came out of Graeme’s Sermon on Sunday. If you didn’t get a chance to listen to it, Graeme gave us an interactive sermon this week with three questions to think about:

  • The first question was who are you?
  • The second was who is Jesus?
  • The third was how do these first two questions link together and what might be missing?

In the sermon Graeme encouraged us to think about these questions in interactive ways; through writing or through drawing or some other kind of art. We decided that we would look at the questions together as a couple and see which direction they took us in. As we reflected together on who we were as children and then the journey that we’ve been on as a couple and as a family, we began to think about how much we’ve moved around. All the different places that we’ve lived and about our feelings of being here in the Colne Valley and how we really felt a sense of being at home here even though we’ve only been here for a short while.

Both Graeme and I have written out family trees that were put together by different members of our families. Graeme’s Mum had explored the Holdsworth line, and on my side of the family my Great Aunt had looked at the female line of my family. We’ve had these family trees for a while and we have looked at them but not really paid very much attention, but on Sunday we got them out again and had another look. We were both surprised to discover that going back into the 1800s both of us had family in West Yorkshire. My family were involved in tobacco in Wakefield and Graeme’s family were involved in weaving in Bradford.

It was interesting to think about the kinds of lives that our ancestors must have lived and then to think about the way that work and the need to find work dictated the directions that our families moved in. Then thinking about the way that we have moved around and coming here to West Yorkshire and the way that we feel about being here and we looked at some old photos and thought about our lives apart and together.

Then we moved on to the second question – who is Jesus? and we began to think about the life of him within his family. We know that Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem for his birth and then they had to flee first to Egypt before taking him to Nazareth where he grew up. Just like the stories of my ancestors there so many gaps in the story of Jesus, we don’t have photos, just a few snippets from his childhood. Like the time when he was about 12 and he got left behind by his family at the temple in Jerusalem, but there are so many gaps. We began to wonder what his upbringing was like, what his relationships were like. We began to imagine him walking the familiar territory around where he lived.

We came to the third question, thinking about the ways our lives and the life of Jesus interconnect – the things we share and the things that are very different. It brought home to me the very real fact that Jesus was a man. Once upon a time he was a boy, and before that he was a baby… and he grew up in a family and learned how to live and how to walk, and he would have interacted with his environment. There would have been places that he loved, places he likes to spend time in. People who he liked to spend time with… and that sense of connection to place and people felt really significant.

I particularly enjoy spending time meditating on scripture but this brought home to me the way that there are big gaps in the story that’s been handed down to us in the Bible, and I find it really helpful to use my imagination to try and fill in some of those gaps. So I want to finish by reading an excerpt from ‘The Book of God’ by Walter Wangerin; this is the Bible written as a novel, and was published back in the 1990s. It’s a resource I’ve used before to try and get a picture of the timeline and the stories of the old testament and it’s really helpful from that perspective, but it also has a bit of an imaginative exercise into what Jesus’ life might have looked like day by day as he grew up.

Walter Wangerin’s “The Book of God”, the Bible as a Novel

So, I’m just going to read you a little bit from the story of Jesus’s childhood as imagined by Walter Wangerin, and then I’ll finish with a short prayer:

All through these years Mary maintained her delight in life, and Jesus was the apple of her eye. Daily he gave her reasons for laughing. “Yeshi” she would cry, lifting her hands helplessly to heaven “Yeshi, a little salt makes a very big hunger. A lot makes a very bad face!” So, Mary would laugh and Jesus would wrinkle his small face in quizzical smiles.

He climbed the hill behind Nazareth exploring the highland. Exploring even to the brow of the hill that overlooked the Esdraelon valley. His mother found him there, and she did not laugh. Neither did she cry out, though he could have fallen to his death. Quietly, she came and sat beside him and surrounded him with her strong arm, and pressed him to her side, where her heart still hammered in fear. She pointed to the puzzle-patches of farmland that covered the valley floor.

She whispered “right there Yeshi. Hundreds and hundreds of years ago. There was a prophetess named Deborah who destroyed Jabin the king of Canaan – right there – because Jabin’s army was riding in chariots and God sent a rainstorm and the rain turned the whole valley to mud, and the chariot wheels got stuck.”

Mary began to rock, she hummed three notes and then she sang a song of the old battle and the king… while Jesus gazing at farmland watched an ancient war… No Mary did not laugh that day. But she taught Jesus other songs. And she taught him the lilies, the flowers, the grasses and all growing things, seed and soils, and how to pray.

She taught him prayer by praying herself. And he watched with a swift understanding. She taught him thrift – not grimly, nor bitterly, but with ingenuity and glad self-sufficiency. She taught him to sew, and to cook. Joseph, stolid and laborious taught Jesus to read and to write. Both in Aramaic and in Hebrew. Joseph took Jesus to the synagogue. Joseph never laughed. When Jesus asked about that, he told his boy he was too old to laugh. He had lost the knack a while ago, but Mary’s laughter he said, was like his own.

“It is enough” he said.

The Book of God, The Bible as a Novel, by Walter Wangerin

Father God,
We thank you for where we live,
For the people we connect with,
For the stories of our lives we already know
And the stories yet to come.
We thank you for the story of Jesus,
For his humanity and how he taught us to see you
In the world, in others, in him
We pray that we will know ourselves within your greater story
And for opportunity to share that story with those who have ears to hear


  1. Thanks for sharing Carol.
    Interesting about your ancestors.
    Not heard of The Book of God – interesting to think about Jesus’s childhood and journeys

  2. It is interesting to reflect that we have stories told to us as children that remain part of us and create our attitude to future life events

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