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.

Those Who Do Not See But Believe

A couple nights ago, I had a dream that I was at church, and after transubstantiation, the host fell to the ground and began to bleed. The amount of blood was great for the size of the host, and eventually the host could not be seen at all because the blood overtook it. Everyone at church saw this, but only some began to believe in the Real Presence thereafter.

Worst, it was mostly the children who did not believe. A group of our friends from church decided to band together and form a new church, leaving behind the rest of the parishioners who did not believe despite seeing the Eucharistic miracle of the bleeding host.

The reality is that I probably had that dream because I read the Pew article that revealed that most Catholics do not believe the core Church teaching that the bread and wine literally become the Body and Blood of Christ.

I don’t know why they don’t believe. I suppose it’s a combination of poor catechesis, priests not talking about the truth in their homilies, and the belief that science is the be-all and end-all and that if something cannot be proven using the scientific method and empirical evidence, it cannot be true.

The dream was something of a wake-up call. I learned that I need to stop trying so hard and rely on God’s grace. Because we are mere human beings, salvation is impossible for us to achieve by ourselves. It is only possible through God.

You Say

A Christian song? On the Top 40 channel? No way!

Those were the first few thoughts that went through my head when I heard Lauren Daigle’s “You Say” on the hit music station that normally plays only Halsey (but they play a lot of Post Malone, too, and that’s why I listen).

Actually, my first thought upon hearing the song was, “Oh, no, I hate Adele. I’m going back to the rock station.” (I don’t know why I initially thought “You Say” was an Adele song, but that’s beside the point.)

Normally, I can’t listen to singers with soulful voices because I get emotional and start crying, but I was so transfixed by the fact that the Top 40 station was actually playing decent music that I held back the tears and listened. Also, I thought I heard the word “God” in the song.

The singer is praising God, who always lifts her up and makes her feel worthy when no one else does. Her identity is in God rather than anything else. She gives her victories and defeats to God.

Finally, a decent song. Needless to say, it won’t be playing on the radio very long, so let’s enjoy it while we can.

The only downside to the lyrics is that they could be interpreted as supporting the erroneous mindset of many of today’s Christians: “God loves me as I am; therefore, I don’t have to change.” Well, yes. God does love you for who you are because he created your soul and knows you inside and out.

But God may not love some of the things you are doing, because some of those things may drive you away from him. In Catholicism, we do this thing called an “examination of conscience.” Every night, you’re supposed to go back over your day and reflect on what you did that was pleasing to God and what you failed at or could have done better. You’re supposed to thank God for helping you and ask him to help you again the next day.

The idea behind the examination of conscience is that we are always seeking to improve and please God more. We’re not just satisfied with sitting in our same old sins. We want to get to the point where we conquer them.

So I think Lauren Daigle is on the right track with her lyrics. Those who listen just need to remember to balance adoration and thanksgiving with supplication and confession.