Wednesday, November 28, 2012

When Kid Meets Nativity

 Christmas 2008

Tis the season for nativity sets.  I lovingly unwrap Mary and baby Jesus every year.  The sheep.  The shepherds.   There they sit.  Holy.  Beautiful.  Lovely.

cue: record scratch

Unless you have kids in the house.  Especially if you have boy kids in the house.

The things poor baby Jesus has been through in this family in years past are truly embarrassing.

I have found him in couch cushions.

In the back of dump trucks.

In the driveway.

I've had to bust up tiffs between siblings when baby Jesus was brought into their super hero battles.  It's just not fair that baby Jesus wins every single time.  Baby Jesus as an action figure is unstoppable.

I have found all the hallowed nativity people with yarn tied around their necks hanging from our Christmas tree. Talk about disturbing.

I have also picked Lego men out of the nativity scene.

"This is the last time I am going to tell you to stop throwing the baby Jesus.  Last time, Mister!"

"Get that sheep out of your mouth."

"Do not hit your brother with Mary."

"Get that shepherd's foot out of your nose."

"What's in your underwear?"  Oh.  All the wise men.  Good.  Good.

This famous cast of characters have been loaded in a big rig.

This was the nativity set where all the men looked like they worked at a carnival, and I'm almost positive baby Jesus was a four year old wrapped in a swim towel.  Creepy.  Look at him.  He's in the top far right.  He has molars and as much hair as Justin Bieber.

Then there was the year that one of our kids kept breastfeeding the baby Jesus.  These are the things you don't bring up in Sunday School.

It's tempting to turn this story of a baby born to a teenage mother in a manger into something untouchable, off-limits-kind-of-holy, something we fancy up, get dressed up to tell, reading the Christmas scriptures in a strange, hushed, church voice.  How many times have we been to a candle-light service and heard this story of a first-time, young mother giving birth without a midwife or her mother (in filthy conditions) and imagined something more pristine, more perfect, more glamorous than what really went down that night in Bethlehem?  Rarely do I equate Christmas with fear, sweat, screaming, blood, feces, an umbilical chord that needs cutting, a placenta, and exhausting pain.  Yet that is exactly what the first Christmas must have been like.

When I'm tempted to make this story something other than it is, I try to remember that at any moment this holiday season my child is probably dipping Mary in the toilet or nursing the baby Jesus.

Children know how to approach the manger.  They have a way of taking all the frill, the fake, and the phony reverence out of the Christmas story. Maybe we should thank them for that.  They see Jesus as approachable, someone who would want to jump on the trampoline with them, someone who would welcome the Darth Vader Lego guy to the get-together.

The truth is, the story of a King born a baby in a barn is not something we need our best clothes on to hear, or something we need to place on the highest, unreachable shelf.  Yes this story is precious and requires reverence and awe when we really sit and contemplate all that God has done to bring peace and unconditional love to our hurting world.  But, I never want to forget that He came to our filth.  Our dysfunction.  He came to the simple.  The poor.  The poor in spirit.  He was born right into our complex, broken lives.  Emmanuel.  God with us.  God with the distracted.  The greedy.  The back-talking children.  The moms who fall asleep at night wondering if they could possibly fail more.  God with the ones with secrets.  The ones who feel left out.  The ones who think they will never measure up.  The ones with failing marriages.  The insecure.  The mean.  The ones who never seem to learn.  He came here.  He came to be God with us.  God in the middle of our homes.  The middle of our living rooms.  Right in the middle of the madness and mess...He came.  Emmanuel.  God with humans who are so utterly...hopelessly...human.  He was born to a teenage mother who probably would have chosen junk food over veggies and forgotten to take her prenatal vitamins.

If I can get over my obsessive need for all the nativity crew to stay in the same room together, I will probably learn some great lessons this Christmas season from our children and the nativity set.  I'm going to pay extra close attention because I think these little people are onto something.  Maybe kids and their unique ability to consistently "keep-it-real" relate best to what actually took place that night with Mary and Joseph.  Perhaps we're the ones perpetually jacking up this story.

Please tell me these same sort of nativity shenanigans take place at your house during the holiday season.

Related:  When Baby Jesus is a Pepperoni 

Reader Recommended Kid-Friendly Nativity Sets

Little People Nativity Set

Veggie Tale Nativity Set

Playmobil Nativity (by far the top choice of our older boys)

Sleeping Peace Nativity from Ten Thousand Villages (good compromise - fancy, but wooden)

Haba Wooden Nativity Set

Olive Wood Children's Nativity Set


Kelli said...

Love, love, love!! Of course the things that happen to the nativity in our house are vastly different considering we have 4 girls (well, maybe not the breast feeding part...). Thanks for keeping it real and the reminder of the real meaning1

Katie said...

Love this. It made me laugh and at the end made me tear up. We have the Little People Nativity and we find people everywhere. A king under the couch, Mary in the bookshelf. My favorite though was when the donkeys and the sheep were riding in a toy airplane all together with the sheep as the pilot. Laughing just thinking about it!

Molly Summer said...

It never fails that a Hendricks blog post will leave me laughing so hard I cannot breathe...I LOVE THIS!

JESUS knows, Jesus is a boy.

How is it possible for a wise man to sleep face down with perfect posture. must be one of the requirements.

Nicky B said...

I posted to my FB and its been shared again......when are you writing a book?? Right after you get done going to school right??

Shannon :: The Scribble Pad said...

oh goodness. my son is almost two and we are embarking on advent/a nativity set with him for the first time. This was a wonderful primer for having realistic expectations and an open heart! Thank you.

Katy {and Kahler} said...

this is so great. i was laughing and then crying.

(we don't even have kids and this year i found myself shouting into the next room at my husband, "umm, i can't find jesus!"... "oh, wait. i found him, but he's naked!". then we both laughed at what actually came out of my mouth.)

anyways. thanks. i love where you took this. our Jesus is every day. He is not the Christmas Jesus we make Him to be. and you put that into words perfectly!

Sarah Kuhner said...

I love how you are so real. Real life, with real boys, doing the things that kids do. This made me laugh and see that Jesus would probably be joining your boys. Last year my girls hid Mary, a wise man and the donkey and we didn't find them until May. It was very upsetting for my mommy heart to not have all the people there around Jesus. But thats what happens with kids, right?