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Contemplating Baby Jesus

This may be odd timing from the point of view of the Liturgical calendar, this being Holy Week and all, but it makes sense every time I interact with my little son.

Baby A is nearly one year old and on the verge of walking. He began rolling over onto his tummy at four and a half months and has been efficiently moving through the baby stages—staring at, then using his hands, creeping, army crawling, crawling, and pulling up to his feet using the furniture or my legs, letting go of his hands for a second or two to stand on his own. None of this is anything unusual. It’s what babies do. And yet it’s cute and worth recording and celebrating. OK, I’m terrible at scrapbooking or even recording events, so I couldn’t tell you the specific dates that A reached certain milestones, just that he did reach them. Still, I’m eager to be there with him as he reaches the next big milestone—walking on his own.

When A was just a few months old and still spending lots of time in a sling on me, my good friend’s preschool aged daughter asked her mom if she could “pet Baby Jesus.” I was right there and she could see the top of my baby’s head, the rest of him being covered by the sling fabric. Her mom explained that it was A, not Baby Jesus, while I stooped down so the little girl could pet him.

Ever since then I’ve been thinking about how Jesus really was a baby once and how He too went through all the important baby milestones and did all those cute and adorable things that babies do—the things that my baby A is doing right now.

When Jesus first came into the world He was pretty helpless and completely dependent on His mother for everything. He couldn’t even pick up His own head. If He got hungry or needed comfort, or needed His diaper attended to, He couldn’t speak a word, but instead had to communicate through the intense mother-baby bond.

He must have spent long minutes simply staring at His mother’s face as all newborns want to do. Then He probably nursed and fell asleep.

The One who brought the entire universe into being by speaking the words, the One who Himself is the Word of God, as a baby could not speak one single word. If His mother missed His earlier cues He might have had to resort to crying.

The One who fed His people manna in the desert and brought water out of the rock to satisfy their thirst was fed by His mother’s milk.

The One who holds the world and everyone in it in the palm of His hand had to be carried everywhere He went.

Of course, as He grew, Baby Jesus learned to do a few simple things for Himself, like reach out and grasp an object within His reach and pass it from hand to hand. My own baby went through a long phase where he would stare at his hands as if they were the most fascinating things he’d ever seen. I wonder if Jesus ever stared at His hands like that? Did He know that one day those hands would touch hurting people and heal them? Did He know that one day those hands would impart His entire self into a piece of unleavened bread on Passover and would ordain His own disciples to do likewise? Then shortly after those hands would be pierced and nailed to a cross. Did He have some kind of special knowledge about His future? Or did He have to learn His path one step at a time as all other humans do?

One day, baby Jesus rolled over. A few months later He figured out how to use His arms to pull Himself forward and get from one side of a room to the other. Then He crawled and became truly mobile. Then His mother had to put the dangerous and fragile items out of His reach and watch Him a bit more closely. Did Baby Jesus ever get into stuff He shouldn’t? If so, was He perfectly obedient to Mary’s redirection or was that something He had to learn too? The Bible says He learned obedience. Did it start with submitting to simple redirection?

My baby A loves to make talking sounds. He’ll say simple words like “yeah” and “uh oh.” Other sounds he makes sound like “mama” or “Okay.” He seems to know that when I say “hugsies,” he should wrap his little arms around me and rest his little head on my shoulder. He often does that when he’s tired or just feeling extra affectionate. He smiles and laughs a lot, and the simplest things can entertain him (or me) for a long time. He loves to interact with me, my husband and my daughters. They each have their unique ways of loving on him and playing with him.

I think of Baby Jesus laughing and cooing at His mother and father, getting tickled by them, playing little games with them.

I think of His mother trying to get some household tasks done, perhaps cramming them in during Baby Jesus’ naptime, but being slowed down because the little guy needs to be held and does not want to be put down. Maybe she slings Him up on her back and keeps going. Maybe she holds Him on her hip and keeps at it one handed. Maybe Joseph is able to lend a hand but since they’re poor, he probably has to spend a lot of time in his shop earning a living through his carpentry work. On other occasions I think of Baby Jesus as perfectly content to play with a few toys while His mother works nearby.

And then I wonder if Mary ever fell behind on the housework because she’d nursed her precious baby to sleep and just couldn’t take her eyes off His sweet peaceful face or stand the thought of laying Him down. Let me hold Him in my arms for just a few more moments; then I’ll wash those dishes, or fold that pile of laundry.

I have to wonder at how much Mary knew about this child she had birthed into the world. Sacred Scripture would indicate that she at least knew the basics. He was conceived in a most unusual way—the Holy Spirit overshadowing a virgin. He was announced by an angel. The angel told her His name and that He would be given the throne of David and be called the Son of God, that His kingdom would have no end. Mary’s cousin Elizabeth called her “the mother of my Lord.” Mary knew that because of her Son all generations would call her blessed. When the shepherds visited them shortly after Jesus’ birth, they told Mary and Joseph what the angels had told them about Jesus—that He was the Savior, the Messiah.

The most haunting revelation about Jesus, though, came through Simeon, the old man in the temple who had been previously told by God he would live to see the Messiah. He recognized Him in the eight day old infant and declared he was now ready to die in peace for he had seen God’s salvation. He went on to tell Mary that her child would be opposed by many and that her very soul would be pierced by a sword.

So, if she didn’t already understand it by that time, Simeon’s words to her made it abundantly clear that being the mother of the Messiah as well as the way He would obtain salvation was not going to be all roses for her. By the time her Son was eight days old, she was informed that His work would be established in suffering—hers as well as his. It strikes me as appropriate that she heard this prophecy on the occasion of Jesus’ circumcision, perhaps His very first human experience with suffering at the hands of men. Despite what people say, circumcision is a painful procedure when performed without anesthesia, and they didn’t keep any around in the temple.

Although Mary might not have known the details—nowhere in the infancy narratives are the words “Crucifixion,” “scourging,” or “crown of thorns” mentioned—by the time her baby was eight days old she knew that He was God, and that He would suffer greatly, and that meant she too would suffer greatly. I ponder this and wonder what it would be like to nurse, hold, and play with my own baby while knowing those kinds of things about him that Mary knew about Jesus. Would it take away from the joy of raising this child, or would it add depth to it? We also know from Sacred Scripture that Mary surrendered herself completely to the will of God which included offering up her Son to die as He did. Her fiat to the angel Gabriel beautifully foreshadows Jesus’ own words to His Father indicating His human acceptance of Good Friday’s cup of suffering.

I ponder what it means to surrender myself completely to the will of God for my life, the way Jesus did and the way His mother did. Holding my precious little son, I think about how Jesus was once the exact same age and adorable in the sense of being cute (in addition to being worthy of our adoration). And like Mary I find I have a lot to ponder in my heart while contemplating Baby Jesus.

Catholicism | Devtome Writers


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