Dear Baby Jesus,
It is so easy for me to focus on the idea that you came as a baby with the express purpose of dying on the cross 33 years later. And theologically, I stand by that. But I like to remember that you lived on this earth for those 33 years with purpose, as well, and that you came to the planet via the womb of a young girl, rather than just appearing as a 33-year-old revolutionary to lead the disciples or something. You could have come out of a cloud or apparated in the middle of the temple, or anything. But you allowed prophecies to be written about you hundreds of years before, and then came to the earth and fulfilled them perfectly, adding more and more validity to the story that was so eloquently written about you and before your time on earth.
And you appeared in Bethlehem, born to Mary, a sweet baby boy, wrapped in swaddling cloths and surrounded not by the warmth of a home or a fireplace, but by the chill of a night in Bethlehem (in early spring?). Your frightened teenage mother had no one there to comfort her during your birth except Joseph, who was puzzled in his own way about your arrival. They knew they were part of something big, and I love the completeness of that story – how someone so little brought about such a big gift.
Last night, I sat at a Christmas Eve service at my parents’ church with several of my family members. It’s a beautiful candlelit service in a big old Presbyterian church with the old-fashioned pews and stained glass windows and everything. The band led familiar Christmas carols and the pastor delivered a bright message on the love that God has for us and how we celebrate that at Christmastime. However, what I was paying attention to was the sweet little two-year-old sitting between me and her mother. (If you’d like to know how I feel about people with their young children in church, read this article). This adorable little girl had a grand ol’ time in the service, waving to her friend the worship leader, laughing at things none of the rest of us saw, scribbling on the back of the program, and tossing her mom’s iPhone into the pew in front of us. She thought it was hilarious, and so did I, though I think I was a bad influence with my giggling.
There seemed a clear distinction in that moment for me in that short hour of time between my usual focus – the content of the message (and a bit of my own criticism of it, I’m sure) and the adorable little girl next to me. Both her and her mother may have anticipated lots of shushing from church people in that time, maybe some dirty looks if she kept shouting gibberish toddler-language remarks during the prayers and Advent reading. But I loved it. It was so fun to be present to her during that time, to smile and laugh with her mother, to offer a pen when she wanted to draw some more, to dutifully hold her princess sippy cup when she got tired of carrying it, and to finally get her to warm up enough to let me bounce her while we sang. Anyone who knows me knows what a lovely treat that was for me, and I hope that the giggles exchanged in that moment, between two young women and a little girl, were reminiscent of Jesus’ little personhood at Christmas, and the big gift He gave – grace.
I’m so thankful for the gift of Christ’s salvation on earth this Christmas season, and I will try to remember God’s presence in all our moments – no matter how small.