Several years ago when Elizabeth was five and Hannah was a toddling bundle of two-year-old energy, I pulled out the play nativity set on an unusually wintry day in November. It was a bit early for Christmas decorations, but the move was as much an effort to salvage my own sanity as it was an attempt to spark a little holiday joy. When Lizzy recognized the shiny brown stable, she squealed with delight and immediately engaged the colorful cast into her own original Christmas production. Soon, Lizzy noticed her little sister lingering near. “See our Jesus story?” our eldest daughter asked as Hannah approached the stable.
Wide-eyed, Hannah edged closer. “Cow!” she declared as she grabbed the plastic bovine and moo-ed for dramatic effect. “Donkey!” she exclaimed while she tenderly caressed the inflexible silver mane. With unabashed delight, Hannah inspected each barnyard creature until her eyes landed on the tiny figure propped atop the synthetic manger. “Baby!” she murmured, then reached for the miniature version of our infant Savior. Cupping the two-inch Jesus in her hands, Hannah began to rock and sway. “Rock-a-bye-baby,” she sang. “Rock-a-bye-baby.”
Horrified by her sister’s lack of reverence for the Christ child, Lizzy stooped to face Hannah eye to eye and set the record straight. “That’s not ANY baby,” Lizzy harrumphed as she shook her head of curls in disgust. “That’s Baby JESUS!”
On cue, Hannah stopped rocking and carefully inspected the baby in question. Suddenly, a subtle smile danced across her small pink lips, and Hannah’s blue eyes began to sparkle. “Oh… yeah….” she said with a contented sigh, “MY Jesus!” Then, before her indignant sister could stop her, Hannah raced from the room and promptly tucked Jesus into her crib for an overdue nap. “Shh…” she whispered when she returned with a finger covering her pursed lips, “Baby Jesus is peeping.”
Realizing that the star of her story had been snatched, Lizzy objected. “You can’t have Jesus! I was playing with him.” In a flurry, my toddler snatched the Christ child from his mid-day snooze and protectively hugged him to her heart.
“He’s not YOURS!” Lizzy responded with unusual fury. “He’s MINE!” And with that, my normally kind-hearted girls fell to the floor in a heap of flailing arms and legs. Once baby Jesus had been rescued from my toddler’s clinched fists, he was put into a “time-out” on top of the refrigerator until a truce could be reached. Tears were shed and wiped away. Apologies and kisses were exchanged, and a second baby Jesus was created out of a tiny doll swaddled in a Kleenex.
Baby Jesus wasn’t placed in time-out this year. In fact, he was often the center of activity as he cruised around the house on Joshua’s John Deere tractors or welcomed the slobbery kisses (or more accurately- licks) placed on his plastic swaddled head by Magdalene Hope. Just as the “real Jesus” was known for slipping away in the wee hours of morning to spend some time alone, our pudgy Fisher Price version now and then hid out in basketball shoes left on the floor or took early morning swims in the dog’s water bowl (perhaps a practice-round for baptism?) compliments of a swift grab-and-drop toddler. He also enjoyed a visit to kindergarten as our once-territorial Hannah proudly took the miniature Savior to school for show and tell. We were all thrilled that Hannah shared the baby Jesus with her classmates more graciously than she did with her big sister years ago.
Thankfully, when it comes to the REAL Christ child, there need be no dispute. Jesus belongs to all of us. Our young daughters may have been unable to share their plastic Jesus without leaving someone at a loss, but we can share the real Jesus without coming up empty-handed. Because of God’s amazing grace, we can each grab hold of Jesus, hug him to our heart and declare “He’s mine!” Then, with no concern for losing our treasure to another, we can offer hope as we boldly proclaim to a hurting world, “He’s yours, too!”
Because I have access to the REAL JESUS all year round, I can box up our sweet little nativity set with confidence that the STAR OF CHRISTMAS will continue to shine on our home even though the season of His birth has come to a close. With my children's reluctant permission, I did finally add our precious plastic Bethlehem to the stack bound for the attic. But not before my three-year-old gave the baby Jesus one last ride around the house in the back of a bright blueTonka truck!
Today's Treasure: "I bring you good news that will be great joy to ALL people. The Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!" Luke 2: 10b-11