My daughter is a smart three-and-a-half year old. I have never said anything to her about Jesus.
This may be shocking to some people, but for me I knew there would be a “right” or best time, and that time had not come before last night.
Truth be told, I don’t speak much to her about God either. It’s not that I don’t want her to have a rich spiritual life, in fact it’s exactly the opposite. I know this child, and she is a scientist. She wants to know how, and why, and what the measurements and evidence are. I love that about her, and I try to do everything in my power to encourage this way of thinking.
For her right now, trying to explain Jesus is too much like making it a fairy tale. Which, let’s be fair, in many ways it is like a fairy tale. But I believe(d) one can only begin to hold the concept of the limitations of human expression in the midst of divine truth after much personal experience over many years. Even then, the holding is delicate, and easily slips through your fingers. I can’t even fathom going down the road of, “See that sweet baby? He’s the son of God, He loves all people, he was tortured to death as a criminal. Oh, and he rose from the dead. ‘Night, sweetie…..”
Not. Gonna. Happen. I just kept telling myself, when the time is right, the door will open, and we will walk through it.
Enter my man, Ezra Jack Keats.
We have the classic book illustrated by Keats The Little Drummer Boy checked out from the library this week. I’ve been reading/singing it to my child every night for three nights. As soon as it is over she asks to hear it one more time, so we often have at least two consecutive readings before bed.
Last night, as did so many desperate parents, my husband reached for whatever he thought would work. He said to our bed-bouncing top-of-lungs yelping young’un, “Be quiet, sweetie. The baby Jesus is trying to sleep.”
Without missing a bounce she laughed and said, “Daddy, that’s silly. The baby Jesus lived a long time ago. He’s not alive any more. He’s like the dinosaurs.”
I can take a hint.
I took a deep breath, because this is one thing I really didn’t want to screw up. Sex, death, and God need to be as close to right as you can get them.
“Well,” I said, “That’s not exactly true.”
She looked at me seriously. I could tell I was supposed to go on.
I opened The Little Drummer Boy. “Do you see those kings in the story, the grown ups with crowns and money and fancy presents? Doesn’t it seem a little strange that they are going all that way to give a baby those things?” She acknowledged it was a little strange.
“Some people believe that baby Jesus was God’s way of coming to live with us on Earth. The kings believed that God sent Jesus. They weren’t just going to see a baby, they believed they were going to honor and welcome a part of God to our world.”
Total attention now.
“See how the baby appreciates the little boy the most? That’s how momma and daddy see God. We believe God loves all people, and that bringing your truest self as a gift is the best thing you can do.”
She’s still listening to me. I decide to go for it. I may never get another chance.
“Momma believes Jesus is still alive. Sometimes I talk to him. (She didn’t laugh at me.) What would you give baby Jesus as a gift do you think?”
With only a slight pause she says with great confidence, “I would give him a dragon kiss!”
I think I must have gotten something right. Merry Christmas, everyone.