Saturday, December 12, 2009

Of All the Characters, We Choose to talk about Herod?

This year I wanted to try and teach Hadley the Christmas story. I made a little "Countdown to Christmas" calendar and put together a little basket of Christmas books that she and I could focus on during the times we read together.

Teaching the Christmas story - or any story in the Bible for that matter - is tough stuff. I find myself being disappointed at the basic plot of these children's books, and at the same time I'm relieved I don't have to delve into more of the specifics. Why do Mary and Joseph have to leave Nazareth? What is an angel and how/why did he suddenly appear? (We have enough problems with sleep as it is; I'm not sure I want Hadley thinking Gabriel could make an appearance at any time). Why did Jesus come in the first place? What is sin?
Right now, Hadley thinks Jesus is a really great baby, and I think she identifies with him as much as she identifies with Harper. And as with all the books Hadley and I read together, it takes a few days for the story to sink in, and then little snippets of it will sneak out as she and I talk throughout our days. (In the fall we read a book about airplanes and Hadley sat next to me listening, usually without comment, but intently looking at the pictures. One day when were walking outside she said, "Look, Mama! That plane made a sky scratch just like in the airplane books!")
The person she has the most questions about is King Herod. In every book we read, we must pause and discuss Herod. Why is Herod mad? Why is he jealous? Why isn't he smiling in the pictures? This disturbs me for two reasons. One, of all the characters in this story, Herod is the person she wants to talk about. Two, of all the characters in the story, Herod is the one I find I can answer the most questions about.
I can't say I identify with his plot to kill babies, but I know what it feels like to be angry, and I know what it feels like to be jealous. It's almost a relief to me that Hadley chose Herod to talk about because I have no problem bringing everyday examples of anger and jealousy to her level. "He doesn't want to share. We know how hard it is to share, don't we?" or, "He's angry because he doesn't want other people taking away something he has."
I remember being terrified of Mary's predicament when I was younger. Is it true she was only 12 or 13 when this happened? When I was that age, I was mostly concerned about my upcoming floor hockey game, or whether or not I would be able to watch Unsinkable Molly Brown for the ten thousandth time. And Mary, after hearing what was about to happen just said, "OK."?!?! How does a person that age have that kind of faith? I don't know if I have that kind of faith now.
Maybe I'm shooting low, but for me, and maybe for Hadley too, characters like Herod jolt us a little because we know the kinds of emotions he had all too well. And maybe it's not my job to tell Hadley that she has to aim for being like Mary so much as understand and accept that Jesus came to take away our sin no matter what it is we've done. And when we understand the severity of our actions, but the depth of Jesus' love for us, maybe our faith will get stronger and doing things like saying, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said." won't be so scary.