Baby Jesus, Elmo, and Bad Guys in Water at the Promised Land

We tried a new church a couple of Sundays ago. It wasn’t a great fit, but I did appreciate that the Sunday School and Children’s Church (yes, both — it was a long service) actually did some teaching about the Bible. Other times when we’ve dropped Niko in the Sunday School room at whatever church we’re trying out, he’s seemed not to register any lesson. This could be simply because he wasn’t participating. He’s gotten better at this, so maybe his time in preschool, rather than a superior presentation at this church, was what made a difference. Whatever the case, it was obvious that there was some Bible teaching happening this particular time.

What wasn’t so obvious was what Bible story was that week’s focus.

“What did you learn in Sunday School?” we inquired as we drove away.

“Weellll,” Niko replied thoughtfully, “there was an Elmo story. And Jesus was in the water with bad guys. And his Mommy and Daddy stayed safe from the bad guys.”

“Elmo?” we asked, confused. “The story was about Jesus and…Elmo?”

“Well, not Elmo. Not really Elmo. They were Elmo guys. Like on Elmo’s World.”

It took some intense detective work, but about halfway through the drive home we’d established that Niko had seen a puppet show, with characters that bore a resemblance to some of the characters on Sesame Street, with “pinkish brownish skin like ours, not red skin like Elmo’s. And the puppet Jesus had teeny tiny little hands!” However, we still couldn’t figure out what the story had been.

“So Jesus was in the water?” I asked. “Was it the story about when he was baptized?” This opened an entire new conversation in which I found myself trying to explain to my four-year-old the concepts of baptism, sin, and spiritual cleansing. Aaron smirked from the driver’s seat: not having been the one to broach the subject, he was perfectly content to let me do the clumsy explaining. It quickly became clear that it wasn’t the baptism story, anyway, so I cravenly abandoned theology and returned to the original question: “Why was Jesus in the water?”

“Was he in a boat?” Aaron suggested. “There are a few stories about Jesus in a boat.” No, no boat.

It wasn’t until after Niko’s nap that the story became clear. He stumbled out of his room, not really awake, and curled up next to me in the floor. “Why did Jesus’s sister put him into the water?” he mumbled, resting his head sleepily on my lap.

Sister.  Bingo.  “Was the story about a baby?” I asked. He nodded. A Bible story about a sister putting a baby into the water to keep him safe. “Are you sure the baby’s name was Jesus?” I probed. “Could it have been, maybe, Moses?”

And there it was. It had taken approximately five hours for us to figure out that the story that day had actually been the story of Moses’s sister Miriam keeping him safe from the Egyptians by hiding him in the river in a little cradle woven from reeds. It’s always been one of my favorite stories, but filtered through the mind of a four-year-old, it was almost unrecognizable.

I wonder what the next Sunday School lesson will be?