My sister says that her toddler, my nephew, has been carrying around a piece from their nativity set everywhere he goes. “Baby Jesus,” he says, clutching the small, carved child to his chest. And it struck me this morning, how beautiful that is, that through the incarnation, a baby can feel kinship with Christ. That real children looked Jesus in the face when he was also a child. Babies sitting together on the ground. God among us.
As adults we think about how Jesus understands our physical pain, loneliness, and social exhaustion. But my nephew knows that Jesus was at one time a baby. That he was small and needed help to reach things. That he cried and played and probably had a favorite animal. My nephew might not understand the full gospel yet, but what a beautiful place to start, with the kindness of God through the humility of Christ. For that is the foundation of all our hope, God’s kindness, which Romans 2:4 says is meant to lead us to repentance.
I talked to my husband about this in the car, and he brought up the elderly. Is there a miniature for our senior saints to cling to as they grow older than Jesus lived? He died in his thirties, wretched and humiliated, but he never experienced the grief of cancer or suffering of chemotherapy. One friend wondered if Jesus could understand what they felt like when they were sexually assaulted, having no record that he experienced that particular evil. Is there a Jesus for rape victims to hold, close to their chests? Or for those with dementia, living out their remaining years in a nursing home?
Of course we don’t need carvings or pictures or candles to feel close to Christ. But sometimes we find a small, smooth, cross to hold in our hands when we feel like life is too much to bear. Or our toddler grabs Jesus from our nativity set, because he knows it represents someone important. He wants to hold Jesus, like Simeon did. Like I do when I squeeze the cross, and feel the shape of suffering and love in my hands, knowing that God joined us here for a time, and knows what it means to be human because He formed us. Because we were His idea. Because he took on human flesh, was born of a woman, lost his baby teeth, learned to walk, and had best friends. God with us. Immanuel.
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