“Something’s wrong with your Baby Jesus,” Eva announced in the Gathering Room, picking him up and waving him at me, as if to show me proof. I glanced at my watch. It was almost time to send the kids to their Sunday school classes.

“Pardon?” I tried to say it sweetly, but nothing was wrong with my Baby Jesus. I had purchased him years before, back when my kids were little and my husband’s job moved us to France. 

The parents at the Catholic school my children attended were all abuzz about a pop-up shop stocked full of items created by the monks in French monasteries. I went and it was love at first sight—the slight smile in his sleep, his swaddling clothes, his olive hands resting peacefully on his tummy. The set was too expensive, but Jesus came home with me.

“What’s wrong with him?” I asked Eva. 

“It’s his hands,” she said. “I have a baby sister so I know all about swaddling. You have to tuck their arms in, or they fly up like this.” She demonstrated a startle. 

“Ah,” I said. “You’re right. His hands are free. Why do you think they made him like that?”

Eva shrugged. Cynthia, a first grader, had an idea. “Maybe it’s so he can touch things—and people.” She told us about her cat, who sits on the coffee table and jabs anybody walking by.

This seemed delightfully weird and true to me, Jesus reaching out to people—not jabbing them, mind you, but loving them. Touching them. Including them. 

Baby Jesus slept on my desk for the next few weeks, working Cynthia’s words into my brain. Before I knew it, I turned my youngest son’s college trip to New York City into an experiment. 

What if I took Baby Jesus along, like Flat Stanley? Wouldn’t it be beautiful to see him held in the hands of strangers? To take photos of them holding this ultimate gift of love? 

My husband Todd is accustomed to me, but as you can imagine, the idea did not thrill my seventeen-year-old. I told Sam that before I approached anyone, I’d give him ample time to walk away and pretend he didn’t know us. He made me promise.

I tucked Baby Jesus into my purse. We got on the plane. 

I am a shy, introverted person. Could I actually do this? 

As a children’s minister, I always talked to kids about Jesus and how God loved them, no matter what. But could I actually ask a full-grown stranger to let me take their picture with Baby Jesus?

I didn’t want to disrespect those from other faiths—or no faith. And let’s be real. Carrying around a Jesus doll was a weird idea.

But that was kind of my point, to appeal to the child inside of the strangers I met, to offer them, with a child’s heart, to hold the One I treasure most—and to see what I could learn from it all. 

Would they freak out? Would I?

It turned out Baby Jesus and I did just fine. Take the lady on the subway, for example. I hadn’t planned on snapping her photo. 

Within our first few minutes in the city, I realized I couldn’t make myself march right up to people and flash Jesus at them. It’d be too scary for all of us. 

I would need some kind of connection. Riding the same subway car wasn’t enough.

But as she watched us navigate the map, she interrupted to assist us. (She connected with us—out of her own free will!) 

As the train slowed to our stop, I pulled my phone out of my pocket and fished Baby Jesus from my purse. “Could I ask a favor?” I said.

“Sure,” she said, “I’ll take your picture.”

“No,” I said. “I’d like to take yours.” 

“Huh?” she said. “You want my picture?”

I nodded, bracing myself as we screeched to a stop. “We’re documenting our trip with photos of kind people we meet. Would you mind holding Baby Jesus?” I said. 

“He’s sort of our picture mascot. You know, to remind us how love finds us everywhere.”

She gasped as I handed him to her. “Oh! He’s so nice.” 

The subway doors opened. “Quick!” she said. “Take our picture!” 

She cradled him as Sam and Todd yelled at me to hurry. “Thank you!” we called to each other as the doors closed. 

(Credit: Rebecca Ramsey)

Our trip was full of moments like that. TravelingBabyJesus even had his own Instagram account for a while, but it’s gone now. 

In a moment of self-consciousness, I took it down. I wish I hadn’t. 

It’s a battle I still wage within myself, being brave enough to approach Jesus as he asks us to do, to come as a child. To play in my faith. To be like Baby Jesus, swaddled in love, but hands out. Ready. 

_____

Editor’s Note: Rebecca Ramsey’s book “The Holy Eclair: Signs and Wonders from an Accidental Pilgrimage” can be purchased in Good Faith Media’s bookstore.

Share This