|
|
|
The Telegram
  • Suzette Martinez Standring: A child’s heart – the big-ticket item

  •  


    The Nativity has many meanings. To many, Christmas signals gift time and family traditions. To others, celebrating Jesus’ birth is a refreshment of faith. So much is wrapped up in the Greatest Gift of All, and I attempt to explain it to a 4-year-old.



     
    • email print
  •  
    The Nativity has many meanings. To many, Christmas signals gift time and family traditions. To others, celebrating Jesus’ birth is a refreshment of faith. So much is wrapped up in the Greatest Gift of All, and I attempt to explain it to a 4-year-old.
    My granddaughter and I pull Nativity statues from small boxes, a set of clay figures from Mexico painted in pale blue and gold. I expect Lulu to go gaga over the gold-winged angel, but no. She’s busy popping the bubble wrap.
    Setting up the Nativity is a ritual I’ve shared with Bella, her older sister, and last year Lulu had eyes only for the sheep and cows. Today Bella is at school, and Lulu has a chance to understand a little more about Christmas. She picks up Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and a shepherd, and I ask her to name them. 
    Lulu points to each one and says,  “That’s me, that’s Bella, that’s mommy and daddy.” 
    I tell her, “You’re right. It is a family, but it’s Jesus’ family. Do you know why Jesus was born?”
     “No.”
    For a moment, I am stumped. How do I cram a message of eternal life into a sound bite suitable for a 4-year-old? I can’t work the concepts of prophecy, or redemption or resurrection into the conversation. She’s too young to grasp that God took human form so that we could feel understood. I want to tell her that Jesus’ birth in a stable was the first stop in a lifetime of humility, but I don’t.
    Instead I say, “He was born to show us how to love.”
     “Like how I love my mommy?”
    It’s a yes and no answer, but how to reply? Here’s the deal. It’s easy to love those who make us feel safe and feel loved in return. Jesus came to show us how to love the unwanted, the unlikable and those who hurt and reject us. I sum it up for Lulu, “Yes, that kind of love, but for everyone.”
    Lulu plays with the Three Wise Men, and I broach the subject of presents since Balthazar, Casper and Melchior brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Infant King. Nowadays those holy offerings have translated into xBoxes, iPads and cash. Time to go back to the basics.
    I wonder aloud what kind of gift Jesus could want. What do you give God who not only has it all, but who made it all?
    The preschooler says, “A Barbie doll?”
     “No, he wants something that you can’t hold in your hand.  Do you know what that might be?”
    Page 2 of 2 - Lulu is quick on her feet, “A stingray’s tail?” (Whoa, that was a worthwhile visit to the aquarium!)
    “No, he wants us to love like he does.”
    I ask, for example, if there’s anybody she doesn’t like, and Lulu talks about her classmate at preschool, “She’s a bossy boots.”
     “Well, then, you have to be kind to her. That’s what Jesus wants for his birthday.”
    Lulu looks doubtful. To engage kindly with those who are rude or mean is a tall order even for people way older than Lulu, myself included. My granddaughter goes quiet, and I imagine she is wrestling with being nice to the naughty.
    Much later, Lulu and I watch TV, and I ask her, “So what are you giving Jesus for his birthday?” And the little girl said, “My heart.”
    Email Suzette Standring at suzmar@comcast.net or follow her blog, Suzette’s Spiritual Café.
     

      calendar