by Rev. Laura Barclay
Last year, you may have remembered me writing about my wonderful little niece Téa, whose innocent questions were a perfect lesson in the meaning of Christmas. Yet again, I was baffled at how her mind worked this Christmas. One day while babysitting, she asked to watch the “Jesus video,” which, after a bit of hunting through a stack of DVDs, turned out to be animated stories of Jesus’ life.
She is currently engaged with trying to figure out who’s bad and who’s good in every story. A pleasant little boy started off by explaining that the Jews were poor and hungry and tired of being treated badly and oppressed by the Romans and led into a story where Simon Peter was depicted being angry at Matthew, also called Levi, the tax collector, who was a Jew working for the Romans (though he will eventually become a disciple).
“Peter’s bad?” she asked.
“No, he’s just angry because he wishes Matthew wouldn’t work for the Romans. The Romans are hurting the Jews. But Matthew leaves his job, and both he and Peter end up helping Jesus.” I replied.
“Oh, ok,” she said
Next up was the story of John the Baptist, looking every bit the part of the rough wilderness type. His stern demeanor convinced Téa he was bad.
“He’s bad,” she said, pointing to John in the water.
“No, he’s helping people.” I replied.
“What’s he doing to Jesus?” she asked.
“He’s baptizing him. That means he’s putting him in the water and Jesus is saying he will follow God.” I replied. How do you explain such a complicated thought to a 3 year old?
“He’s appetizing him?” she asked.
John is then pictured in jail at the hands of Herod.
“But he’s in jail, so he's bad,” she pointed out.
“The people in power were bad, and they put him there,” I replied.
“Oh, ok,” she said, clearly trying to process what it all meant.
More exchanges followed, but she had fewer questions during the stories of the miracles of Jesus, which were told a little more simply. She asked to watch it again. After it was over, she looked up at me and said, “God helps us.”
How, after all my fallible attempts to explain what was going on in terms a tot could understand, did she get that? Touched, I hugged her and said, “That’s right, and God loves you very much, just like we do.”
Later, she repeated this to her mother and father while explaining to them what we did all day. Her parents beamed, proud that she had learned such a message of hope. Somewhere in the mystery of a child’s growth and a family’s love for them, they absorb things we could never dream. May the children of the next generation see the love of God reflected in our actions with them and our neighbors. As we leave the Christmas season, may we carry the hope of Christ in our hearts as we exhibit God’s love in the world.