O spread the tiding round
Wherever man is found
Wherever human hearts and human woes abound…
The Comforter has come…
–From the 1890 hymn by Frank Bottome, The Comforter Has Come
Have you ever wondered how to explain the Crucifixion to a child? It’s not that hard. But, don’t forget, the Comforter has come. Immanuel, God With Us.
Today, we sit in the backyard and drink root beer floats. Sullivan downs his fast and asks for another. I say no, it’ll make you sick, and then he asks what all kids ask while drinking rootbeer floats: Did God die?
I don’t pause. I don’t act surprised. I don’t change my tone. I say well, sort of. He asks how and I say on a cross. He asks what a cross is. I think to myself are you kidding me? My son doesn’t know what a cross is? I think for a moment about the electric chair, but I abandon that thought and tell him a cross is two big pieces of wood, and then I say hold on a minute.
I go inside and I take the cross off the shelf in his room. It is the cross I bought at the Rosary Bazaar. It’s adorned with bottle caps that serve as picture frames for images of Jesus and Mary. I bring it back outside along with Bridgy’s flip flops. I say this is a cross. Now, listen. Are you listening? I have a story I want to tell you.
I know his attention span is only 90 seconds long, so I have to make this quick. I tell him again that I have a story to tell him and is he sure he’s ready? He nods his heads yes.
I say Jesus was nailed to a giant one of these. They put nails in his feet. They put nails in his hands. And, he died.Then I hold up one of Bridgy’s flip flops and I say pretend this flip flop is God. Then I hold up the other and I say pretend this flip flop is all the people in the world. Now, Jesus died on a cross when he was a little younger than Daddy is now. Not really thinking of the doctrine of theosis vs. the doctrine of atonement, I tell Sully that this cross bridged the gap between God and the world. See, like this, and I put the cross between the flip flops.
I tell Sully that God has three parts. The God part, the Jesus part and the Comforter we call the Holy Spirit. I say the great thing is Jesus came back to life. After that, He went to heaven. He sits right next to God. I tell him before Jesus left He sent the Comforter because He knew we would miss Him.
Sully asks if Jesus cried when He was on the cross. I say yes.
Bridgy goes to the steps and draws this picture of Jesus in chalk. Can you see the cross?
Then she holds the cross to her chest. I say oh, let mommy take a picture, and I snap a picture of Bridgy clinging to the cross because honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it before.
She asks if Jesus was sad when He died.
I say, yes, I think he was sad. I think He felt alone.
She shrugs her shoulders and says,
Well, He’s with us now.
Four hours later it dawns on me: Immanuel, God With Us.