Lately, I have been thinking about the baby Jesus. When I was younger (and by that, I mean only about a year ago), I imagined a tiny baby, looking as perfect as one of those Ashton-Drake dolls, wrapped up in a flawless swaddle, in a manger. Mary and Joseph are perfectly calm and nonchalant, as if in a nativity scene.
Like many things about the life of Christ, that was a completely idealized vision. We never think about the one-second-old baby Jesus looking gray and wrinkled, with an umbilical cord, covered in blood, wailing into the cold Bethlehem night. He is always perfect, like when a gorgeous blonde on a soap opera miraculously gives birth to a six-month-old.
We never think about Mary being exhausted from the birth or the constant feedings. She always appears angelic and serene. Yes, she was sinless, but she was still human. I can imagine that she felt much like any other new mother after one of those endless days in the first month or so: hungry and thirsty, totally exhausted, and wishing Joseph would hurry back from his trip to the market so she could have one minute to close her eyes.
Babies are hilarious little creatures. They make weird noises. They pop up in their crib to greet you at 3 in the morning, when any reasonable person would be asleep. They grab their feet and stick them in their mouth. They suddenly shriek with joy at the top of their lungs for no apparent reason. They fling food all over the place when eating. I’m sure the baby Jesus did all these things. He probably kept his Mother awake all night long when he was teething or had colic, but he must have kept her laughing, too.
Babies are also, quite frankly, disgusting. I’m not going to describe the bodily fluids or the incredible degree of literal crap one has to put up with as a parent. I’m sure you can imagine it (and you might have been there). Again, I’m sure the baby Jesus had his disgusting moments. True, he was God himself. But he was fully human and subject to all the nastiness of the human condition. It did not make him less holy, just like all those gross-out times don’t make regular babies any less lovable.
Maybe this Christmas, we should look closer at babies and be reminded that Jesus was once a baby, too. We might even be able to take that a step further and look at grown adult people, especially those who get on our nerves, and be reminded that Jesus was once a grown adult, walking among us, capable of feeling everything that we feel.