Whit was asked to be our Baby Jesus a few weeks in advance. I was thrilled! What a great rite-of-passage for a little boy! My main concern was how Whit would react on stage with strangers. According to Away In A Manger , upon waking the Little Lord Jesus no crying he makes, after all. My child... not so much. A friend of ours from my book club was cast as Mary, so I pawned Whit on her every chance I got. I even started to wear the same shirt without washing it with plans to wrap him in it during the performance so he would be comforted by my scent! Less than a week beforehand, however, the Primary President called to ask if Ben and I would take over as Joseph and Mary so the original Mary could play the piano. Suddenly my concern over Whit's behavior morphed into possibly messing up the event so many had worked hard on, and scrounging up some Biblical costumes. But at least we are well trained on how to comfort Baby Jesus, and he is the star, after all!
The performance went as rehearsed (I think), and Whit was incredible in his debut! He was a little fussbucket in the wings while Mary was still with child, but immediately calmed down when he was given back to us and we emerged as a new family. As we introduced Baby Jesus to the crowd we heard multiple gasps and audible exclamations of his cuteness. I admit, I was a proud mamma. The second time we entered was after the primary children (sheep and shepherds) were on stage for a song. They stayed on stage while we coddled Baby Jesus, and heard many children say excitedly (and unscripted), "Look! Baby Jesus!" and after the curtain closed they rushed towards him eagerly asking to see and touch Baby Jesus.
The children were so excited! Whit was wearing a white cloth diaper, had beautiful rosy cheeks and big blue eyes, was semi-wrapped in an unfinished piece of white muslin, was completely calm and angelic, and had been referred to as "Baby Jesus" during the entire performance, so I'm not surprised that the children were so serious and excited about meeting him. A member of the presidency summed up the experience well when saying to the Angel, "They know he isn't really Jesus, right?" Well, I'm not sure that all of them did! We were told by one father that his son, 2, yelled, "Baby Jee! Baby Jee!" every time Whit came on stage, and "Where Baby Jee go?" when he left. Another parent said their child cried when the curtain closed and he couldn't see the baby anymore.
Children's spirits are so sensitive; so pure. It was incredibly humbling and heartwarming to be the mother of the baby who meant so much so these children. I welcomed them and held Whit for them so marvel at, and the power of their love for Jesus (not necessarily Whit- I do understand the difference) overwhelmed me.
Needless to say, this Christmas season is unlike any other for me. As I have prepared for Whit to represent Baby Jesus I have come to a new understanding of His birth and the love and responsibility His earthly parents must have had for him, and how much His heavenly parents must have missed and watched over him. I'm sort of ashamed to admit what a difference having a baby boy has made to my understanding of Christ's birth, but it has. Christ was born with an immense responsibility to teach the world the gospel and atone for our sins, but he was still born a helpless baby- like Whit. Whit is not perfect, but he is so dear to us. I now feel an incredible desire to honor my Savior as much as I want to raise my child righteously.