"Was he a boy like me?Did he bounce on daddy’s knee?Did he play games to make his mother smile?As I place the final piece inside the manger sceneI wonder if he was a boy like me."
Ryan's kindergarten Christmas program was last night. We loaded the van with all the kids after dinner, which in itself was confusing for the star. I promised him a treat after the program, tried to talk through as much of it as I knew about (the process, not the program), again social story-ing my head off. Once we reached the school we had to walk a while from where we parked, and the whole way to the door Ryan was jumpy-stimmy-tickled. I mean WIRED for sound! So excited to be there.
And I was so relieved.
The crowd was huge inside. I took Ryan to the music room, where one of his many adult friends at school met him at the door. S, we'll call her, smiled and greeted Ryan, and I went back to find Eric and the littles. We had a bit of a wait, which was interesting with little miss wiggles in the umbrella stroller.
Now, I was proud of Ryan! He got dressed in a package costume, and although he wouldn't go on stage until the end, he was there. And dressed! It took a long time to find him, since he wasn't on stage, but when I did, he took my breath. My baby... my little boy. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how huge that was for him. There were other children who had speaking and standing parts who were a bit nervous, too. I wish I could say this was the first time I teared up. You know, welled up, choked up, got teary-eyed... but it wasn't. There's something about Christmas... especially where kids are involved... that makes me lose it.
So as I desperately tried to snap pictures (which were all terrible), I had to dig in my purse for kleenex. As I pawed awkwardly through my purse with one hand, I finally understood. Every time I performed in any way, whether is was choir, concert band, marching band, whatever, Nanny, Mom, and usually Grandad were red-eyed, sans makeup, and picking kleenex off their faces every time we got through.
Finally, for me, it makes sense. Of all the things we go through with special needs, all the extra time as a band family, all the challenges my family has had in the past few years as we cared for our sick and mourned our losses, you know what makes me choke up the fastest? It's a combination. The wonderful things of my past holidays that I get to pass to my children, and the difference in their childhoods and mine. I watch their sweet faces brighten when they see the lights, teach them the love of Jesus and why we give, and every time I hear my little princess bubble over with a whispery, breathy "oh WOW!", my heart overflows with gratitude for everything. But ultimately, it's amazement and wonder at the workings of God's perfect plan.
He used and uses things all the time that look imperfect... even useless... to us. Have you recently dug through Jesus' family tree? Do you realize how God chose to send his only Son to the world? All of my children were born in a hospital. I know people who won't even consider having their kids in any hospital that doesn't have an NICU. All that's fine, but consider that environment, then consider a barn. Oh, you're in advanced labor? Here's some clean hay. We won't even go into how socially forbidden it was for his mother to be pregnant and just betrothed. She could have... and probably would have... usually been stoned to death upon the world finding out. And it fascinates me to no end to think of how Jesus may have been as a kid. He had to potty train, eat, learn manners, and grow up in this world... but all without sin. If you can wrap your mind completely around that, I'd like to borrow your brain.
This Christmas season, I choke up when I hear so much as "Jingle Bells." But it's not the song, and it's not even the fact that my kids' childhood experiences are so much more stable than mine. It's not that it's my baby on the stage. It's the wonder of it all. It's the fact that Jesus was a boy like Richie. Like Ryan. He played and giggled, made his mother laugh. I'm so grateful that I have children to watch and help grow. And it's just too amazing, wonderful, mind-bending... that He was a boy.
Why in the world a boy? Little boys are great but they're hardly the warrior-like king Israel expected. He came to Bethlehem on a donkey, in the womb of a woman being looked at as an adulterer in the community. With a father who was likely being looked at through the same lens. Jesus could have been born to a Queen. He could have been born in their present-day version of one of the state of the art birthing rooms of our day. But no... God isn't interested in our perfect, wrapped up with a bow versions of how we think life should be. He's interested in nothing less than His best for us. He's interested in us trusting Him and learning to understand that we shouldn't panic if something doesn't go according to plan. We can't see what He can see. We don't know what He knows. I can speculate, study, and search and ask questions, but I will never fully understand His choices. Every year I see a new facet of this situation... the Prince of Heaven in an unmarried mortal womb. Brought into the world not just how all other people are, but among the animals in the floor of a barn. The perfect picture of humility and grace. Of love and caring, sacrifice and giving. Jesus came to save us, absolutely and without question. But I also believe He came to feel our pain. Our frustration. Our excitement. Our happy, contented laughs with friends. Our love for our family. I'm willing to bet He also saw the temptation to keep up with the Joneses, and I know He saw, through growing up and living among us, broken relationship. I know He saw how hard it is to be different. To be the one or two moms in the audience drying tears simply because their boy was dressed as the gift that he is.
Ryan made it through the performance, and as I made my way to he and S through the crowd, I saw him jumping and stimming when he saw me, hands flapping with all his might. I think he was proud of himself, and just like every other kid, he wanted me to be proud. As he jumped into my arms, S told me that he kept asking to go to Mommy or Daddy. I hugged him tight, told him how very proud I was, and we went to find Daddy. And I've never been more happy to sit in line for ice cream, or more tickled to hand him his prize. And as he finished his ice cream, he stimmed a bit, looked at me, and said "Christmas!" Then, as I was wondering what he was going to mention about getting a gift, he said "It's about Jesus." And I'm so very grateful that it is. That He was a boy like Ryan, Richie... and me.
"He saw a boy like meHe bounced him on his kneeThey played some games that made his mother smileAs you place the final piece inside your manger sceneThey wondered at this boy They gazed upon this giftIn a boy like me"
Now grab some kleenex for the whole song, "Was He A Boy Like Me", sung by Junior Asparagus