This past Christmas season, our eyes feasted on the image of the Baby Jesus. It is so heartwarming to behold this tiny figure on our Nativity display, transporting our minds to the cold, dark cave of Bethlehem. The infant sleeps so peacefully, contentedly, trustingly and just so sweetly in the secure presence of Mary and Joseph. Today in the Philippines, before we lunge into ordinary time again, we gaze on the image of the Holy Child Jesus, no longer the infant but a bit bigger, an image so dear to Filipinos everywhere.

Our devotion overflows with sentimentality. No Filipino home altar is without its Child Jesus statue or picture. The Sto. Nino is part of the family, a resident in our home, a member of the brood. But many times, devotion to the Holy Child has a domesticating effect. We treat Jesus the whole year as a little child. We pray to him condescendingly, we imprison him in his cute clothes and ornaments and candy offerings. We refust to let him grow up and become the God he was meant to be.

But the Child Jesus is not the symbol of a harmless and safe God. Even as a child, Jesus was out to make trouble! Even Mary’s life as a mother was totally disturbed by the actions of her Son. Mary’s first recorded words to her Son (who was lost and found in the Temple) were words of pain and hurt: Son, why have you done this to us? (How many mothers and fathers ask the same agonizing question today to their children?) And Jesus’ first words addressed to his mother Mary seemed indifferent, if not brutal: Why are you looking for me? Don’t you know I have to be in my Father’s house? (Ouch! Was that rejection or not?)

This episode does not mean that Jesus was a problem child of Mary and that Jesus has no regard for his loving mother and legal father. Rather, this was a signal that Jesus was growing up, faster than we want to, and that he was making himself ready to turn the world on its head. He did not only enter Mary’s womb or his Nazareth home. He is now also entering into human history and transforming it by his love and his challenge.

Mary and Joseph did not rebuke Jesus. They welcomed his words and respected the actions that followed them. This Child was destined to expand his spiritual family, to cause a ruckus among the religious and political leaders, to cultivate friendships with the poor, the forgotten and the rejected, and to die on the cross for the salvation of the world. The small world of Mary and Joseph will be exploded.

Standing before the beloved image of the Santo Nino, our Christ-Child, let us ask him to destroy the bubble of our small world, demolish the walls of our boundaries, and lead us out to the spacious pasture to which the Father wants to bring us.