Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Lessons from a Toddler

by Rev. Laura Barclay
 We all have multiple titles and identities, but the one of which I’m the most proud is the role of “Aunt Laura.” My sister, Jeri, and brother-in-law, Hans, have been intentional about closing the 400-mile gap between us by sending photos and videos of my niece, Téa, on a weekly basis. In watching these videos, I’ve been fascinated by her sense of wonder at Christmas. The lights and sounds are affecting her as if she’s conscious of them for the first time. When I came home for Thanksgiving, I was eager to see what she said about each holiday.

As her mother and I were explaining Thanksgiving and Christmas, she understood that one of them was Jesus’ birthday. We kept working to distinguish the two and told her that we would start to celebrate Jesus’ arrival after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving Day came, and Téa sat at the table, eating her food and looking from face to face. She got down from her chair after eating, ran around playing, and gave out hugs. Soon Téa laid down on the floor, crossed and elevated her legs, clasped her hands and looked up at the ceiling—an exercise she’s done since before she could walk that we’ve affectionately dubbed “baby yoga.” She seems to do this when she’s thinking or wants to relax. Téa looked at Jeri and asked, “Where Jesus? I thought we see him today. He come see me?” After a moment of “awwws” from the family, my sister explained that Jesus was always with her and loved her very much. She looked up at the ceiling, resuming her “baby yoga,” and thought for a minute. “He love me?” she asked. “Yes, Jesus loves you very much,” my sister replied. After a few more minutes in thought, Téa resumed her play time and commands of Uncle Ryan to “be a giant” and chase her. Before the week was out, we had built Téa her first fort and invented games she played for the first time as if they were magic.

This childlike wonder at the world, with its close by-product of hope, was infectious. As much as I am annoyed by many of the commercial aspects of Christmas, I’ve struggled to come to terms with it and stake a claim on the meaningful aspects of the holiday. As Christians, we must do this in order to honor the reason we celebrate. It may be as simple as finding a child to remind you to look for that star in the East as a sign of hope, rather than to be consumed with the bargains of Black Friday. That child might inspire you to look for the newborn that shall be called Emmanuel, God With Us, who will show us a new Way and let us know that we are truly the beloved of God. How is the hope for a new Way exhibited in your life? How will you let others know that they, too, are loved? May you have a blessed and hope-filled Christmas.

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