We put up a cheap plastic nativity this year for Christmas. I have no idea where it came from or how it made its way into the massive Christmas box up in the attic that survived the trip from Pittsburgh to our new house, but by some Christmas miracle it did. Shortly after the nativity scene made its appearance my nearly two year old son, Samuel, decided that baby Jesus would become his traveling companion. Samuel is an only child, and in hindsight this should have been a sign to my wife and I that we need to have another baby quickly or get him some regular playdates with toddlers his own age.
The shepherds and sheep and mother Mary herself from the nativity set spent most of their existence strewn across the living room floor or hiding underneath the ottoman, but not baby Jesus. Samuel would carry Jesus around and talk to him. He couldn’t pronounce Jesus correctly so it sounded more like Jissus. Jissus joined us for meals, and we covered him with blankets so he could take naps. Baby Jissus got hugs and kisses when he was sad and got rocked to sleep when he was tired. Jissus pretty much became a miniature member of the family.
As I started packing the nativity scene the other day I was struck by a thought as I held baby Jissus in the palm of my hand. This plastic Jesus was so much more alive to Samuel than the real Jesus often feels to me. Samuel’s tenderness and love for shabby plastic Jissus so often outstrip my own love and care for Jesus. Samuel wanted to Jissus to be with him all the time. He wanted to share his life with Jissus. He wanted to give him the best of what he had and share the things that brought him joy.
I look at my life and I see how often I content myself with doing my own thing rather than inviting Jesus into my regular rhythms of eating and sleeping and playing. It is not unusual for Jesus to get the worst of me. He gets the half-asleep version of me that just rolled out of bed, or the exhausted me that has spent all of my mental and emotional energy at work or chasing Samuel around and around the house. By the time Jesus gets my attention, he seems to have shrunk to be little more than a shabby plastic Jesus who doesn’t hear me.
Before the nativity could be put away Samuel spied it on the kitchen counter, and threw a fit. He was not about to see baby Jissus go back into that box without a full fledged tempter tantrum. Once again Joseph and the wiremen and the oxen are laying prostrate on the rug and it seems that Jissus will be with us all year, which as I see it is probably not such a bad thing. I realize that what I need in my life is a little more of Samuel’s Jissus and a little less of Simeon’s Jesus.