Once in royal....Jersey?

Bedtime Theology with the 3 yo... 

(Conversation occurred December 2019)

3 yo: Sing me a new song! A Christmas song!

Me: (Sings 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing')

3 yo: That's not a Christmas song!

Me: Yes it is. There are angels in the Christmas story.

3 yo: There are?

Me: Yes, an angel visits Mary to tell her that she will have a baby that will be named Jesus. An angel also visited her cousin Elizabeth to tell her that she would have a baby that would grow up to be John the Baptist. And then the night Jesus was born, the angels came to the shepherds out in the field.

3 yo: Then what happened?

Me: Well, the shepherds went to see Jesus.

3 yo: Then what happened?

Me: They returned, rejoicing and praising God for all that they had seen and heard.

3 yo: Then what happened?

Me: Later three wise men, from the East, came to visit Jesus and brought him gifts of gold, and frankincense and myrrh -- those last two are special oils.

3 yo: Where are they now? The gifts.

Me: Oh, they got used up. But anyway, that's the Christmas story about how Jesus was born.

3 yo: Okay but what about Pastor Sandy? Where was she born?

Me: (starts laughing) Pastor Sandy? Oh, well, maybe New Jersey?

3 yo: Jersey!? You have to take an airplane to go there?

Me: (still laughing) Um, yeah.

3 yo: We can go there sometime? To Jersey?

Me: (now DYING laughing) Maybe someday...why?

3 yo: To see where Pastor Sandy was born.



Me: I'm sorry, but that was so sweet.

It's not great to laugh at your child when they're trying to be serious, but I could not help myself. I thought of the millions of Christians who have made pilgrimage to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity there, a place where I have also visited. It's a holy, sacred thing to walk in the places where Jesus walked, in Israel and Palestine....and New Jersey? It just doesn't have the same ring.

I know from giving children's sermons that when you sit down to tell children a story, they nearly always have something to share. Look kids, here is a story about Jesus healing a sick man. "Pastor?" One kid will raise his hand. "I got a new dog!" I thought this was hilarious/weird/annoying until a pastor friend told me that when children sense you are telling them something very important to you, they want to reciprocate by telling you something that is very important to them. Ergo: I tell the birth and birthplace of a very important person (Jesus) and my child wants to talk about the birthplace of a very important person to him (and one that he can physically see, even!) It all makes sense.

Birth places matter. They are important. We mark them. We put up shrines, monuments, placards. We visit famous birthplaces when we travel. We go to the birthplaces of our ancestors, to see a house or a plot of land or a gravestone. Whether or not there's a sign, we know it in our hearts: something important happened here, in this place or this town. Something began. Something that mattered.

Bethlehem is a holy, sacred place, of course. But so is New Jersey. Cleveland, Ohio. Lima, Peru. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Olympia, Washington. Cedar Rapids, Iowa. People were born in these places. People there show the love, grace, forgiveness and compassion of God. Jesus is there. These are all sacred grounds. Maybe even worthy of a visit, if you want to experience the love of God from someone there you know and love.

We're not going to Jersey anytime soon (sorry, Pastor Sandy). But I can teach my children that Jesus shows up in every place and every time. Something of God has been born in my town and in yours. God is here, dwelling among us. 

Merry Christmas. 


Post a Comment

Popular Posts