“And that ends round 2 between Jesus of Nazareth and Voldemort of Great Britain!” – Johnathan Durbin
OK, let’s take a break from 1Corinthians to talk about the expectations you have about your kids’ faith in the Jesus area – with a Christmas emphasis.
You do a pretty good job sharing your faith with the kids. You give them the invaluable gift of a church family, are available to answer every spiritual question, and admit when you don’t know the answer (like that time back in ’96 when your philosophical four year old asked, “Mom, what did Jesus mean when he said, ‘go and sin no more?’” Nothing throws you back into the Bible like your preschooler needing answers).
You do, however, allow the kids certain…liberties. Likely this stems from the ill effects that dogmatic, legalistic theology has wrecked in the God relationship of several friends and family members. The church Daddy grew up in, the one where the kids were terrorized by images of an angry vengeful god who would strike them dead for stepping on ants and whose pastor would up the offering by declaring, “There’s a devil in the corner! Throw money at it!” Yeah. This did his faith no favors. So while you are a stickler on biblical theology you do allow the kids to, well, express a reasonable level of humor in the God area.
Take the family Nativity set. Once, at a mom support meeting, your pastor shared how he wanted God to be accessible to his four boys so made sure they had a Nativity set that they could play with. Every Christmas season his sons would start in the kitchen with Mary, Joseph, and the donkey, taking them on the long trip across the house to “Bethlehem” which was somewhere under the Christmas tree. Then the Wise Men and shepherds would make an appearance along with the angels to worship the little newborn King with peace and joy.
This story charmed you to pieces, so you went out and bought a sturdy wooden Nativity set and told the boys to have at it.
That first year they were so precious with it that you hung garland with tears in your eyes. Reenacting the Christmas story, they crawled through the house, figures in chubby little hands, and reciting snippets of Bible verses they learned in Sunday school. Too sweet for words. And a bonus: something was actually turning out as you planned it!
As more Christmases came and went, however, the Nativity set began to…well, morph. The Donkey would occasionally break away from Joseph and take Mary on a joy ride. The Wise Men began crowding out the shepherds which led to staff abuse and attack sheep.
After several Christmases of jealous termoil, the shepherds and Wise Men gave Johnathan’s plastic football figures a break and took the field to settle two millennia of mutual resentment in a sportsmanlike manner. Mary and the Wise Men had angels rounding out their defense while Joseph and the shepherds only had sheep, so the boys made Baby Jesus the referee to keep the personal fouls at a minimum. Maybe I should have put a stop to this, but decided there was a subtle beauty and theological accuracy in making Baby Jesus the ref, so let it slide. Thus, the annual Nativity Bowl was born.
I would like to tell you that this is where the irreverence stopped. Unfortunately, our sons hit high school, thus bringing the shepherd/Wise Men rivalry to a less civilized level. Last year as they were violently unleashing their animosities upon each other with invisible uzis and grenades, Baby Jesus got fed up and unleashed his Eyes of Justice that shot red laser beams of death, thus transporting the whole lot of them to the outer darkness where there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth (although He did spare His parents, which was a small consolation both because it showed a certain reverence for Mary and Joseph as well as parents in general). So we have gone from the Christmas story to Nativity of the Apocalypse. Wonderful.
It is at this point that I thought maybe I have been a bit too lenient. Surely God is not pleased and I will have some serious ‘splaining to do when I reach the pearly gates because while, yes, God is love and this is patient, kind, keeps no record of wrongs, and such, and I’m betting that He has a sense of humor (Giving me three boys when I came from a family of three girls is just one proof of this), at the same time, God is holy and not to be mocked. Maybe all this Nativity play is not such a good idea.
I come downstairs after pondering this and what do I find? The boys, done with their play, have put the Nativity back on the grand piano where it belongs. They never set it up the way they found it – the traditional picturesque scene – but the same way they do every year, with Mary, Joseph, Wise Men, shepherds, and stable animals circling Baby Jesus who sleeps on in the center of their worship. OK, yes, they goof around, but in the end they really do get it. And in their day to day life they are walking in such a way that keeps that tiny baby in the manger at their center as well.
So, while I am not particularly pleased that the boys favorite characters to pit against each in Wii boxing are “Jesus of Nazareth” and “Lord Voldemort of Great Britain,” it did make Troy and I smile to hear one of them recently commentate, “…and Jesus rises again – there is just no keeping Him down – and delivers a powerful left hook to Lord Voldemort! Evil Lord Voldemort has been defeated! Way to go, Jesus!”
It may not be the King James Version, but they know how the story goes.
Older Wiser You