I sang "Jesus Loves Me" to you before bedtime a couple of weeks ago, and every time I sang "Jesus" you popped your head up and said, "baby?"
At first I thought you were saying "bye bye" and I dismissed it as you just practicing your words. Soon I realized you were saying "baby" and I confirmed what you were hoping was true . . . the Jesus in the song is the same baby Jesus that we talked about so often when playing with your nativity set. This Christmas was far from the first time that we'd talked about Jesus, but I think it was the first time you recognized his name.
You've been slightly more aware of the holiday season this year than you were last year. You liked the Christmas music we listened to in the car. You yanked ornaments off the tree any chance you got and landed in a time out each and every time I saw you do it.
For your birthday, you got a Little People nativity set and as I mentioned, it's contributed to your understanding of Christmas. You know that the angel goes on the top and that when you press it into it's proper spot, it plays "Away In A Manger." And you dance to it as if it's some sort of club re-mix. At some point this month, we lost Joseph. Our best guess is that he ended up in the trash. You like to put all kinds of things in the trash.
Every now and then as we played with your nativity set we talked about "Emmanuel." We told you how God, the creator of the Universe, came as a little baby. I told you that we celebrate because we're not alone anymore. God's with us. Your response was usually to throw the donkey across the room, or tried to shove one of the shepherds completely into your mouth.
But when you said, "baby" when you heard the name of Jesus, it reminded me that these conversations, no matter how over your head they are, are important. Crucial, really. Right now, you understand that Jesus is that little plastic baby we play with under the Christmas tree. But as you grow, your understanding of who he is will grow, too. You might not fully understand the things we teach you know, but my hope is that they'll get lodged in your brain so that when you are old enough to "get it" what you need to know will already be there.
I'll remember many of your milestones, but that moment right before bedtime will probably be one of the highlights in my mind. I don't know how to put into words how much I desire for you to love and serve Jesus and to pursue a relationship with him. At that moment, seeing you recognize his name was just the first step to what I hope will be a lifelong journey for you.
Merry (belated) Christmas!