Theologians have many explanations for why God sent His Son as a child. For our family, with young children, the practical reasons are clear. When our oldest child was a toddler, I quickly realized how essential the Baby Jesus was to him, as a child himself.
Children know about babies. They love to see themselves in a mirror. Remember the infant who coos and laughs at the baby in the reflection? Wrapping ones’ head around divinity and God is not easy as an adult, and such abstract concepts can be even more difficult to grasp for a child, But, a baby—yes, a baby—a child can easily understand that. Our oldest was particularly drawn to the image of the Infant Jesus. He’d look for him in every church. It just so happens that the church I grew up in didn’t have a readily visible Baby Jesus image. I thought we’d share a full-blown meltdown during Mass until we found a picture of the Madonna and Child in a side-chapel. To be a participating member of the church, our toddler needed to see himself and identify with something. The Baby was understandable at his young age.
One year later, our preschooler saw the Baby and rushed to kiss it. Even the doll that arrived with the Christmas pageant’s Mary was smothered in kisses of love. He carried his Jesus figure cradled in his hands as lovingly as if it were a real child. Baby Jesus is treated with more care than his other babies. This is his first connection to theology, faith, and the Church.
Our second child, as a toddler, saw a picture of the Baby Jesus hanging on the wall and kissed it at every opportunity. Even when he was under two years old, he understood that a baby needs love.
My boys continue to show me why the coming of Jesus as a small infant is so important. Theologians have valid explanations of the Holy Babe, all important in their own way. In our family, we are blessed to see the need for the Baby Jesus in a very concrete way. Our children and children all around the world are celebrating the birth of Jesus by sending hugs and the kisses to the Baby Jesus.
Someday our children will be able to grasp the enormity of God. For now, God has met them right where they are, as a tiny baby, a little child. As adults, we’ve prepared for the birth of Christ Jesus in our hearts. Let’s welcome him with open arms, as we would any newborn baby. Happy Birthday, Jesus!