Fisher Price Jesus

My niece Emma was born after I escaped the snowy northeast for the palm tree and stripmall-studded warmth of South Florida. But, through the miracle of the internet, I’ve been able to see her little face and hear her sweet voice just about every week as she’s grown.

I especially love FaceTiming with Emma on Christmas morning. Every year, as the days grow closer, she seems about ready to keel over from anticipation. The snow, the lights, the parties, the tree, and all those presents! From the first moment she learned to spell E‑M-M-A, new presents appearing under the tree became a source of unalloyed joy.

By that wonderful live computer video, I get to “play” with Emma in my mother’s living room. She shows me all her toys, and tells me stories about them. For Christmas many years ago I gave her a Fisher Price nativity set. The cutest little roly poly Mary and Joseph you’ve ever seen, with a little baby Jesus. I love the fact that she and her little brother William still play with the nativity set almost every day. If you look closely at the photo below, there’s Jesus, tucked away in his cradle in the second row.

Emma and Aunt Hedy

Baby Jesus, in his little straw-filled cradle, has been on the little Fisher Price yellow school bus. He has slid down the Hot Wheels race car track. (He doesn’t do too well on the turns.) Baby Jesus has been dunked in a glass of milk (“He’s swimming!” she said excitedly before her Grammie rescued him from the drink).

Over the years, Emma has asked me lots of questions about Baby Jesus:

“Baby Jesus was in his Mommy Mary’s tummy?”
Yes, that’s right. (Well, sort of, I didn’t think it was the right time to correct the biology of that question. She was three.)

“When was Baby Jesus’ birthday?”
We’re not really sure, but we celebrate his birthday on Christmas, December 25th.

“Did Baby Jesus cry a lot?”
We don’t know, but I would guess that he did.
(Her then newborn brother was apparently going through a screaming phase.)

“Did Baby Jesus’ Daddy have to go to work every day?”
Yep! He was a carpenter, which meant he worked with wood to make it into chairs and tables and beds and maybe even built houses. (I didn’t get into the possibility that he might actually have worked with stone instead of wood. Again: she was three.)

Not too long ago, though, she had me stumped. She said, with the sweetness that only a small, adorable, long-eyelashed child can muster:

“Aunt Hedy, this is baby Jesus. 
He’s a little baby. 
But he’s a grown-up, too, right? 
He’s a baby and a grown-up?”

Uh. Okay. … You see, it all happened a long time ago. So, yes. He’s both. And he’s neither.

And, there, in a nutshell, is the weirdness of the Christian calendar.

Poor Jesus. As we approach the end of every year, we wait in anticipation for him to be born. Mary and Joseph yet again make the trek to Bethlehem, even though we know what awaits them there: serious dearth of hospitality, the grudging offer of a backyard animal shelter, the pain of birth so very far from home, a child’s first entry into the world amidst the smell and dirt of a stall.

Then — hurrah! — the angelic choir breaks open the skies to the abject terror of the shepherds minding their own business below. Just a few days later, we celebrate Epiphany with those mysterious travellers from the east, the Magi, showing up with gifts generally considered by mothers everywhere to be fairly useless: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Celebrations ensue, too much eggnog is drunk, family fights break out over politics, Christmas wrapping paper is recycled, and, eventually, all the guests go home.

The next major church-going holiday isn’t until months later: Easter. For the ramp-up to that celebration, we remember how Jesus was betrayed, beaten, mocked, tortured, hung until he died on a cross, and his body respectfully stowed away in a temporary tomb.

Then, in the darkness of Easter morning, to the surprise of his despairing and grieving followers, Jesus is joyfully restored to the world, resurrected. He continues to teach and guide, then is taken up to heaven while his friends watch with gapingly dropped jaws.

A few more months go by, the weather turns cooler, and that resurrected Jesus is back in Mary’s womb, again awaiting birth in that stable in Bethlehem.

Birth … Death … Darkness … Resurrection … Darkness … Birth … and on.

“Aunt Hedy, this is baby Jesus. He’s a little baby. But he’s a grown-up, too, right? He’s a baby and a grown-up?”

Baby Jesus on the Laptop

The lectionary’s calendar of scripture readings for today (December 11th) include these opening verses of Psalm 126:

When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem,

    it was like a dream!

We were filled with laughter,

    and we sang for joy.

And the other nations said,

   “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.”

Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us!

   What joy!
Restore our fortunes, Lord,

    as streams renew the desert.

Those who plant in tears

    will harvest with shouts of joy.

They weep as they go to plant their seed,
   but they sing as they return with the harvest.

Like our Christian calendar, the psalm begins with joy — worshippers returning to the holy city — then quickly turns to weeping and a need for restoration. But even within that darkness, there is a promise that the weeping will not last, and singing will return.

Joy … Tears … Joy … Weeping … Joy … Tears … and on.

That’s kind of the way it works in life, isn’t it? Not just in the Christian calendar, or in the Psalms, but in our real, walking around, everyday life. In our country, in our world, in our families, in our spirits, we cycle through. We go through times of darkness, times of uncertainty and fear and doubt. We go through times of light, times of clarity and certainty and hope. And back and forth. And forth and back. And back and forth again.

Our cycle of remembrance in the Christian year helps us to acknowledge both the darkness that still swirls around us, but also to recognize that we live in a post-Christmas, post-Easter reality, where God is constantly making things new.

Joy from the tears.
Singing from the weeping.
Light from the darkness.

We remember that on that first Christmas morning, God became one of us, coming right down into our darkness, into our confused, messed-up world. In spite of the consequences of that decision, in spite of all that would happen to Jesus as he lived his too-short decades as a human being. In spite of all that — the birth, the joys, the tears, the weeping, the death — in spite of all that, on Christmas morning, God came down to earth.

This is baby Jesus.
He’s a little baby.
But he’s a grown-up, too.
He’s a baby and a grown-up.

Yes, he is.
Thanks be to God.

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1 Response to Fisher Price Jesus

  1. Bill Perry says:

    Well written ,worth reading…so what’s new?😇

    Sent from my iPhone


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