The Name of Jesus

My son is starting to say words (actually, to be realistic, babblings that sound a lot like words). There is the usual “mama” and “dada,” but I’m not totally sure he associates those words with the concepts yet. He will reliably say “cup” when he plays with his cups and “car” when he sees a car or looks at a book with cars in it (or trucks; at this point, they are the same to him).

My husband got him to say “Jesus” by putting pictures of Jesus all over the apartment and handing him holy cards (laminated, so they are indestructible!). One of the pictures of Jesus is in the bathroom, so when I’m done changing my son, I make sure he sees Jesus before he leaves the room. Now it’s a habit, so he will swing around and say hi to Jesus.

This is not to brag about my son (who am I kidding, of course it is!) but to say that all this repetition of the name of Jesus got me thinking about the name itself and what it should mean. Often, we use it as a swear word when we should be giving honor to the name. I pay more attention to the name now. This past Sunday, I was trying to be super focused on the times when the name would be said in the readings or the homily. It isn’t said a lot. Instead, we use Christ or Emmanuel or the Son of God or any number of other titles. I might have heard “Jesus” once or twice. Would we benefit more from hearing the name spoken in a positive way? I think so. It is a nice reminder.

…at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth…

Philippians 2:10, NABRE

The Baby Jesus

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.

Reading with an 8-Month-Old

Before my son was born and in those hellish 3 months after he was born, I read to him. But it was like reading to a brick wall because all he cared about was eating, sleeping, and crying if he wasn’t having enough time doing the former two. Experts (I have no idea who these “experts” are) say that children should be read to as early and as often as possible, and I like reading, so I followed that advice. I literally read everything out loud to him, including parts of adult books I was reading. He didn’t even blink at some of the bloody scenes. Did I scar him for life? I’m not sure, but I guess it’s better to be scarred from a book than a movie.

Now that he’s 8 months old, the reading might be paying off. He’s actually somewhat interested in books. However, they have to be board books. If it’s any other kind of book, the first thing he tries to do is tear the pages out and eat them. Even lift-the-flap books are a bad choice because the second I look away, his gooey hands return to the flaps and try to rip them off. The next thing I know, the flap would be in his mouth and reduced to a pasty mush.

Most of the board books my son has are about farm animals and the noises they make. I don’t really understand why it’s so popular for kids to read about farm animals when they most likely will never live on a farm or visit one for any extended period of time. The most exposure they will get to farm animals is probably petting zoos at the state fair.

His favorite book of all time is My First Touch, Feel, and Play! which describes a bunch of anthropomorphic animals and their playtime, and parts of the book have different textures, so he can feel something besides paper as he attempts to destroy the book by pulling the flaps off (yes, this book has flaps). He seems to enjoy the textures, because he will run his hands over the book and stare at it, simultaneously coating the pages in drool.

I never thought reading could get more fun. I still don’t exactly understand how they learn by ripping books apart and chewing on the pages, but… whatever it takes, right? 🙂