Things got a little weird when we unpacked our nativity scene.
Two and a half years old, our oldest showed little response as we unwrapped Mary and Joseph. But when baby Jesus emerged, his entire face brightened: “Baby Jesus. Baby Jesus!” He snatched the figurine and cradled it in both palms, scrutinizing. So this was the Jesus person he’d heard so much about. I wondered what he was thinking, how this image of an infant Christ was reshaping earlier impressions.
Within minutes he stood by the couch, raising and lowering the figurine in quick jerks. “Baby Jesus jumping. Baby Jesus jumping on the couch!” Our nativity had transformed into an action figure playset.
I was a bit concerned. When Passion of the Christ came out, many Christians ignored it, hoping not to become stuck with Mel Gibson’s version of Jesus in their minds. Here was my son, stuck with a puny piece of resin for a Savior. He pointed at the bit of swaddling cloth that covered Jesus’ loins and said, “Jesus has a poopy diaper.” Was this healthy?
A few days later, reading a nativity book after dinner, we came across the baby Jesus depicted in a manger. My son grew frantic in his chair, demanding to be let down. He ran off, then returned from the living room with the figurine in hand. “Jesus the same?” he asked, holding his open palm next to the page.
Of course they weren’t the same. Beyond the inherent variations between three dimensions and two, complexion, eye color, hair color, facial features, even the swaddling appeared different. Still, it took awhile for my wife and I to comment on these differences – we were too busy staring at our son in awe.
Two and a half years old, and he already got it. Art is interpretation, and no two interpretations are the same.
His understanding of Jesus would be just fine.