Imagining the infant Christ

I couldn’t sleep. It was a cold and cozy December night. Maybe I ate too many cookies. Or had a list that wouldn’t stop unrolling itself in my head. All I know is I was awake. I left my husband snoring deeply in our bed, curled up on the living room couch with the remote and searched for something to watch on television.

On one of those obscure channels, I found a Christmas special from the 1980s with a very old Jimmy Stewart, called Mr. Krueger’s Christmas. Stewart played the title character, a lonely widowed apartment building custodian. As he decorates his basement apartment for Christmas, he sets out his Nativity set and imagines standing before the Christ Child.

Mr. Krueger is vulnerable and loving before the infant. His voice shakes with emotion. He looks down at his clothes as if he wishes he were dressed nicer for the occasion. He introduces himself, then blushes saying, “but you already know that.” He thanks Jesus for being there when he lost his wife, for teaching him patience with a particularly cranky neighbor, and says that he always knew Jesus loved him.

I found myself in tears. Of course, I have heard in homilies and devotionals throughout the years to imagine yourself in front of the infant Christ, but seeing this beloved actor gave me a new perspective. Mr. Krueger falls down before the tiny baby, saying with tears in his eyes, “I love you.”

This year, I sense the urgency even more. How do I prepare my home, my heart, myself for the infant Christ? I want so desperately Jesus’ comfort, to be enveloped in his mystery.

Since the pandemic hit, I have not held a baby. My oldest nephew recently married and had his first son in April (yes, making me a 40-something-year-old great-aunt). This baby looks like my son. They have the same bright eyes and squishy cheeks. I save all the pictures his dad texts me. Sometimes I imagine how wonderful it would be to hold him, to smell his baby breath and kiss his cheeks. By the time I will meet him, he will have lost that new-baby scent and will be toddling about.

Imagining my great-nephew is sometimes easier than imagining an infant Christ. Would I, like Mr. Krueger, fall before him? Would he wrap his tiny hand around my finger? Would I whisper to him how long I have waited? I am putting so much hope in this little bundle.

Poet Malcolm Guite writes, “Christ is the heart of every human story.” I have always felt Christ’s significance in my personal story, my pain, my fears, my redemption, but this year I acutely feel the magnitude of our need for him in our collective story, as a nation, as a church, as a world.

So I imagine Mary placing him in my arms to hold this Christmas. I close my eyes, inhale at his hairline, and whisper in his ear, “I’m so glad you’re here. We’ve been waiting. We need you.”

Northwest Catholic - December 2020

Shemaiah Gonzalez

Shemaiah Gonzalez, a member of St. James Cathedral Parish, is a freelance writer with degrees in English literature and intercultural ministry. Find more of her writing at shemaiahgonzalez.com.
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Shemaiah Gonzalez, miembro de la parroquia de la Catedral de Saint James, es escritora independiente con diplomas en Literatura inglesa y Ministerio Intercultural. Puedes encontrar más de sus redacciones en: shemaiahgonzalez.com.