The Grow-Down Gospel

With a weathered spoon, I am chasing bubbles in the boiling oatmeal when my three-year-old stampedes down the wooden stairs, shouting out with the tree in his sights.

“Shh!” I shake my head, “Your sister’s still sleeping.”

It’s a ruckus when he’s in the room. The ancient quote is running through my brain now, Plato’s words telling me to lighten up:  “A boy is, of all wild beasts, the most difficult to manage.”

A little click and seven-hundred sparkles come on and make the place a little brighter, the bulbs on the tree teaming up with the morning sunlight that stretches down through the gray clouds into our windows.

On the shelf, painted porcelain people and barnyard animals gather around. My loud little boy fits right in with the rowdy crowd of the Bethlehem stable. He scuttles over to the unfinished nativity and reaches out to the wooden box next to it, the one with all the tiny doors hiding little Christmas secrets. Our Baby Jesus figurine waits in a cubby.

I stand with a kitchen towel in hand and wait for him to open the adjacent door where the figurine will sit for the day, another 24 hours closer to Christmas. But instead he looks at me and opens his mouth to speak.

“Jesus growed down into a baby,” he tells me as he lays eyes on the tiny form.

I marvel to hear it spoken so freshly in the words of a child and I marvel again that the Word who’s big enough to create the world and the sun that it revolves around and the planets that move with it and all that is beyond, that the grand, king-sized Word became so small that He had to use baby talk. He “growed down”. The incorrect grammar says it right. I stop a minute to savor the unedited words, keeping all these things in my heart, my son experiencing Mary’s son, the only begotten of God the Father.

Elliot slides his thumb over the swaddling clothes and adds to the sentence, “And then he growed up into a man.” It’s something to tuck away and so I grab the nearest pen to jot down his words under that December date in my journal. But he isn’t finished. He’s getting to the sad part.

“Then His heart wasn’t beating anymore,” he says.

For a while, I had wondered if Elliot were too young to know the full story yet. I had timidly read to him of the lashes, the spit, the hatred, the cross, and watched him furrow his own eyebrows at the painting of the thorny crown on Jesus’ head, the Baby King all grown up into a dying man.

Is this all that life comes down to…death? I blot my eyes with that kitchen towel. I am afraid for him to figure out that he too will die one day. And maybe I’m afraid to face it myself, forgetting to meditate on the hope that softens the sting.

Next thing I know, he speaks aloud that hope to me, so simple I can’t argue with it. “Then it was beating again,” he says. Not for pretend. Not a metaphor. His actual heart beating again. And so will ours because of Him.

“What next?” I prod him on, wondering at the words he’ll choose, this whole new person relating to his Creator.

“Then God pulled Him up to heaven with his REALLY long arms!” This boy is jumping for joy, reaching high.

I can almost feel those long arms now, God reaching down to here, calling forth His praise from the lips of a child right under my roof. The Savior, meek and mild, has lassoed my little boy with His story…and I am shushed.

Kneeling down, I put my arms around Elliot to give him a squeeze. Then, he opens the door to the new day and stows Jesus away.

We fetch little sister and all bow our heads to thank God for our pot of oatmeal and for the food trough bed where Jesus laid His head. I pray first and then Elliot interrupts. It’s his spiritual gift. “God, I know you have Jesus right now and He is coming to pick us up in a minute.”

We move the Christ child from cubby to cubby, from day to day, and wait not so patiently for Christmas when we celebrate Jesus’ first advent. And even greater, when we log another day in the history books, we’re that much closer to His second advent. We are hungering for more than this season can hold. I can tell it. We haven’t even had our breakfast and already this little one has preached me the whole Gospel.

(Luke 2:19, John 1:1-5,14, Matthew 21:16)

A memory from Christmas past shared as part of The High Calling’s Advent Writing Project at Wide Open Spaces.

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