‘Tis the season…
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulders. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace… Isaiah 9:6
I was recently blessed by the sights and sounds of the season as singing shepherds and wise men, toddling sheep and donkeys, and handcrafted garments and props presented the Christmas story in living color right before my wondering eyes. Dozens of voices sang and fingers signed the good news, heralding the announcement of the birth of Jesus.
Low in budget but rich in warmth, heart, and expression, the Advent message was presented as concisely and clearly as I’ve ever seen or heard. It wasn’t the lighting, the music, the stable, or the shining star of Bethlehem. It wasn’t the hand-sewn costumes, the fuzzy sheep, or the dynamic solos. Those were all great: well-presented, appropriate, and effective in painting a clear picture and promise of the coming Messiah. It wasn’t even in the plastic baby Jesus that sweet Mary, stroking his head and holding him close to her heart, lifted from the humble wooden manger. Fast forward past the angelic announcement, the trek to Bethlehem, the King-sized manger bed, and the humble shepherds’ visits. Fast forward to toddler Jesus:
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end…
The lights in the center aisle shown on the faces and lit the paths of the wise old men of about 6-7 years old who had just received word of the long awaited Messiah. They journeyed the long aisle to the stage, front and center, where toddler Jesus stood waiting. His real name was Lincoln but for that few moments he was Jesus incarnate. Nestled between Mary and Joseph, he stood about three feet tall. His traditional robe hung loosely off his small frame and belted around his waist. From beneath his head covering, his eyes sparkled wide with wonder as he considered the gifts laid at his feet. His face, perfectly angelic, studied the young wise men. That was the moment that toddler Jesus became more tangibly real and larger than life. That was the moment his humanity shouted louder than his divinity. There, boldly noticeable from my third row seat, just below his left eye, toddler Jesus humbly wore a timeless mark of humanity and fragility: a cut just above his delicate cheek. A thin line, more than a simple scratch: tender, swollen, bruised. Toddler Jesus was hurt. My eyes fixed on Jesus but my mind fled to scripture.
The music, the celebration, and all the various sights and sounds faded into the background. Why now, in the midst of all the Advent promises that offered hope, joy, love, and peace, did one seemingly unrelated verse repeatedly echo in my ears?
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses..
Jesus had actually been a helpless baby and toddler. So obvious but so new to my mind. I had raised two toddlers. I had taught toddlers, examined toddlers, chased toddlers, wrestled with toddlers. I love toddlers. Toddlers are busy and active, exciting and inquisitive…often challenging. Jesus was a toddler who loved and laughed and ran and blessed and probably challenged. To deny it or to sanitize it is to lessen the truth of his humanity. Did He ever plant his foot in the dirt and sound off a resounding No! or Mine!? How did He feel about sharing his toys or his time in the workshop? Did He ever complain about chores? How did He act when He was hungry and tired? Did He cry easily or often? Did He run and play until He staggered or collapsed from exhaustion? Did He ever toddle too close to the fire? Cry from the unexpected pain of scraped knees or splinters in his tiny fingers? What was his favorite snack? What was his first word? Mama? Daddy? Abba?
…but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15
I didn’t ask Lincoln’s mom how he injured his face. I doubt she was concerned about how he would look as toddler Jesus in the children’s program at the moment he actually cut his face and blacked his eye. I imagine that she hugged him, calmed him, and was thankful that it wasn’t more serious. He is fine. He is active and healthy and perfect. But in that injury God gave me an image..a deeper realization. Maybe for the very first time, I saw his humanity as fragile. He hurt. He was bruised. He cried real tears and bled real blood. Yes, everyone knows that. It just looked very different on the face of a child.
A baby…a toddler…a carpenter…a shepherd…a king.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. Isaiah 9:7