I had a “first” a few nights ago – I was served communion by my 5-year-old daughter.
What few members of our church remained in the D.C. area over Christmas gathered with two other residual groups to read some Bible passages, sing some songs and have a “hearty communion.” Which I’m now a big fan of! What a tasty bounty of bread, juices and all sorts of fabulous fruit.
Toward the end, we passed around a cup of grape juice and a loaf of bread, and were instructed to offer them to the person on our right so that person could tear off a hunk of bread and dip it in the juice. Lizzy was on my left.
I might diverge from some of my churchgoers here when I say that I’m not really in favor of kids taking part in communion if they're too young to grasp what it is. And I know that Lizzy is definitely too young to have any idea of what communion is. I'm not too wound up about the bread and drink themselves being sacred, or anything; it just doesn't make much sense to me, to perform a symbolic gesture if one is unable to understand the symbolism. But when she solemnly handed me the elements, I knelt down and tried to explain to her in a sentence or two that we eat and drink these things to remember Jesus, and how much he loves us. She nodded her head. I’m told later that she double-dipped her bread. Oops!
This would seem to be the first year that she’s starting to get her head around the Nativity story. I’ve tried to read it to her in past years – in “Little Golden Book” form, not in full-fledged Biblical passage form – and she’s really resisted, so I figured, well, I don’t want the story of Christ’s birth to be forced on her. I’ll wait until she’s a little older. This year, when she hears a mention of Mary, she says to me, “I know what happened to Mary! She rode on a donkey when she was pregnant with baby Jesus.” “Yes, she did, sweetie,” I respond.
The other night, she added more to the story. “And Joseph was there, too. Well, I don’t really know why he’s called Joseph, because he’s also called God,” she says. I pondered that for a moment, then realized that it was the “who’s your daddy?” element of the story that confused her. Hm. I tried to explain as best I could, and I tried not to chuckle while I did it. I love the earnestness with which kids process things.
She’s yet to ask me WHY God sent Jesus to live among us. I’ve explained that he was meant to teach us how to live good and loving lives, and to tell us about God and how much he loves us. I feel that obviously that’s not the entirety of the story, but I really don’t know at what age it’s appropriate to go the whole nine yards of the crucifixion with your kid. I’ll have to ask around for opinions on that one.