CHRISTMAS 2 REFLECTION
January 3, 2021
It’s been a long time since I was in a Christmas pageant. But growing up, at Trinity Episcopal, I was in many Christmas pageants. First as a sheep, as an angel, as the Angel Gabriel, as a reader of Luke’s Gospel, and, once, in high school, as the Virgin Mary. In the story we told on Christmas Eve, everything was great-
the holy family found a place at the Inn,
the baby Jesus was born in the manager,
there was this big star,
the shepherds came,
the wise men came,
the baby was quiet,
it was all other-worldly and shiny bright.
I never thought much about the flight to Egypt. The flight to Egypt was always that weird post script, that lurking darkness.
But a few years have passed since then. I’ve gone from playing a mother in the Christmas pageant to being a parent, first of an infant of course, and now of a nine year old. When my son was a baby, I used to have to keep track of everything he ate and wore. Now, he can make his own lunch and put on his own clothes. If I prod him enough, that is.
The flight to Egypt looks different to me now. It strikes me that Jesus is a baby, or a toddler, in this story, and is totally helpless. He can’t feed himself, let alone save himself from a governor intent on killing him. Of course, God gives his parents enough information to keep Him safe, but they have to act.
When I look at this story now, I think, “what is the function of God revealing Jesus to us as the Messiah when Jesus is still an infant?” What are we supposed to learn from the holy infant?
One of the names we use to describe Jesus is king of kings. Why didn’t God wait until Jesus was a young boy to reveal him as a future king, like David, or wait until he was a man, like Saul? I imagine that books have been written on this, but to me it seems like one reason is that Jesus isn’t a normal sort of king. As an adult Jesus tells us that his kingdom is ‘not of this world.’
And yet as an infant, Jesus is very much of this world. As we all know, little children live in the eternal present. Their first language is touch. They don’t understand logic or abstract thought. It seems that there must be something about the divine that we are supposed to see in this infant stage of Jesus.
So, what do I know about young children? Young children don’t respond to logic, but they do respond to gentleness and cuddles and consistency and attention. They will return our affection snuggles, but only if we have been gentle and consistent with them.
But that is the thing — we have to be gentle and consistent and present with little children to build that relationship. As anyone who has tried to visit with a little niece or nephew knows, you can’t just show up in the house of a little child and expect her to come over and be all huggy and affectionate at first. Little children are slow to warm up.
Little children don’t really care that you visited last year. They only remember last week.
So, for me, what I take from the flight to Egypt is that I should tend to my faith like I would tend to a young child. To be more consistent about my prayers, to try to “visit” more often, to listen more closely for that small voice. And overall, to be more gentle with myself and others.