My oldest daughters have found Baby Jesus... and I’m concerned for His safety.
It wasn’t really a spiritual discovery. At least not yet. The daughters I refer to are two and four years old. They are too young to fully contemplate religion, deities, and nontraditional forms of conception. Rather, they physically found the Baby Jesus -- as in our two nativity sets that we assemble each December near our front entryway. One is an artisan-crafted Filipino nativity made from recycled newsprint. The other is an equally artistic set handcrafted in Africa from recycled soda cans. Both are fair trade certified. Call it piety meets social responsibility.
Now, as for the tiny Savior’s safety; I often walk past the scene and see something amiss. It could be that they’re all knocked down or turned in odd directions. Sometimes, Joseph and Mary are looking down at an empty manger, the Prince of Peace missing. Their expressions remain unchanged (after all, they are only remnants of foreign newspapers and cola cans). But, as a parent, I can feel their angst - that moment when you realize your child is not where he or she is supposed to be, that they may be in harm’s path. Today that danger could be a Buick, in 5 B.C. a mule-drawn hey cart. Same emotions though.
Once I found the Baby Jesus on the ground, lying on his side under a table. On the wall, the trickster of Norse mythology, Loki, was flashing his mischievous grin. Above him, Thor was gripping his hammer with a forlorn countenance. Around the corner running, clearly knowing she had done something wrong, disappeared my clever and sly two-year old daughter. You see, this is our dining room where we have pre-Christian era Viking art on the wall. Which is apropos, because I’m coming to realize that Loki and my two year old have a lot in common. So, with Baby Jesus clearly out of place but visibly unharmed, I gently lifted the miniature icon and placed Him back in his yesterday’s newsprint manger.
In another scene of naivety induced nativity blasphemy, I walked in upon my daughters and their cousin playing with the sets in a rather roughshod manner. It seemed my nephew mistook Joseph for G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip. The girls were probably one step away from giving Mary a Barbie outfit and a wig. “No,” I said “these are artistic symbols of Jesus’ birth, not action figures and dolls. Go play somewhere else” I yelled to their still developing minds as I crossly shooed them away -- which, come to think of it, probably wasn’t very Christian of me.
They may not yet fully grasp Christian teachings, but they have been taught to listen to Mommy and Daddy. Of course, even that lesson has not fully sunk in (hence the need for the timeout chair along the wall underneath Loki). But, when I ask my daughters about the current whereabouts of the Baby Jesus, I receive a knowing look. They take me by the hand and lead me to the latest scene of the crime, and they point to Him. We have a little talk, we check for damage, and then we restore the peaceful setting under the Star of Bethlehem (which, for the other eleven months of the year is known as our entryway light fixture).
So, during this Christmas mass, I will say a little extra prayer on the behalf of my daughters. I will ask forgiveness for their innocent mishandling of the Baby Jesus. For they are not heathens, they are not little Judas’. I’m sure some day they will be appalled at the historical and spiritual actions of Pontius Pilate. It’s just that, right now, they’re only kids - my kids, my wife’s kids, God’s kids. They mean no harm or disrespect.
Still, next year, maybe I’ll get a higher shelf for the nativity sets.
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