Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Children and the Baby--by Linden Malki

Somehow, children and Christmas go together. We all have memories of Christmases when we were children; most of them good, sometimes not so good. But whatever they are like, they are usually a big part of our mental landscape. If we have children, we usually try to give them good Christmas memories. After I moved to California, I was surprised at the Christmas lists some of my friends were working on for their children. I remember getting one nice but moderate gift from my parents, and then a few small stocking stuffers.  I don't forget the time an acquaintance--a sister of a friend--asked me if she could borrow $500 so that her "kids could have Christmas." I felt sorry that she had been raised to equate Christmas with going overboard into debt for "stuff", and that she couldn't imagine "having  Christmas" otherwise.

I hope that our children are touched by the Christmas story not because of "stuff". but because of a Baby.  God created the human race to grow by families bringing children into the world with love.  We are created with a "soft spot" for babies; but sometimes that goes bad. A baby is the start of a whole life, and our attitude is colored by our expectations for that life.  Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, the shepherds and the Wise Men saw in the baby whose birth became Christmas the Promise of God and the Hope of His People. What Herod saw was  a threat to his political position, and his reaction in fear was to order the killing of any child who might be this rival.

Most children are fascinated with babies. Most children gravitate towards other chldren if they can. When God "moved into the neighborhood" as "The Message" translation puts it, He came as a baby; grew up through a normal childhood, and became an amazing young man. We can tell from the story of Jesus'  return to Nazareth after He left the woodworking business for His Godly calling, that they  remembered Him as having been an ordinary kid.  (Mark 6:1-4) The writer of Hebrews tells us that He took on human nature, that He knows what we are like from the inside.

This is part of the miracle of Christmas: that even a child can recognize that this little Baby in a manger was a baby, just as they were, and a kid, as they are.  This year we added the song "Little Drummer Boy" to the NCF Choir caroling outreach. We'd had a number of requests for it, and I think one of the reason people resonate with this story is that the little drummer boy was told this was a newborn King, but what he said when he saw the Baby was "I am a poor boy, too".  And he offered the only thing he had: he shared what he  could play on his drum. His thanks was the only thing a baby has to offer: His sweet smile. And this is what we want our children to appreciate most about Christmas: that this Baby with the sweet smile grew up to be a Savior Who loves them.

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