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A Little Child Shall Lead Them

Rev. Dr. Fritz Ritsch, Pastor

Once again, we enter the season of hope, innocence, awe, and wonder that is Christmas. We are invited to look at the world through a child’s eyes. In fact, Jesus himself in his ministry tells us that the Kingdom of God belongs to children (Luke 18: 16) and that “unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt.18: 3-4). The Hebrew Scrip- tures also raise up children, as in Isaiah 11:

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lay down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them….
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Is. 11: 6-9).

Parents understandably have a hard time with this kind of imagery. Allowing your children near wild animals not suitably caged, chained, declawed, de-fanged and absolutely unable to hurt anybody strikes any parent as the very definition of irresponsible. At the same time, here’s something we know about children: they just don’t see it the way we do. If it was left up to them, they’d rub the tummy of every lion and put their hand down every hole in the ground to see what they can catch. They just don’t see the world the way adults do. Hard experience has taught us the world is fraught with danger, and the innocence of our children to this fact scares us to death. But children see the world as full of wonder and adventure, and they just want to experience it and enjoy it.

Isaiah’s vision of the age to come, when God’s peace is restored to the earth as it was in the Garden of Eden, is that it’s an age of innocence when children no longer need to be afraid. And what Jesus means when he calls us to be like children is to live with some level of the same innocence in our dealings with the world around us. This requires faith–faith that God is watching out for us.

It’s not easy to imagine us adults living with such innocent faith. We have good reason to be fearful. But the message of the Christmas season is the message of the angels: “Be not afraid.” In the Christmas season, we have a brief return to that sort of innocence. It’s more challenging right now in the age of COVID-19, of course. We don’t have the opportunities to be generous we normally do. I have a feeling many of feel the loss. Here we are in the season of giving and we don’t have as many ways to give, to family, to friends, to those in need because the normal outlets for that are too risky! We miss the chance to be generous to others that normally we’d have and maybe that takes some of the wonder out of our Christmas season. It’s not as easy to see the world with eyes of a child when we’re masked and afraid to get too close to one another.

But especially in this difficult time, it’s more important than ever to give the stranger the benefit of the doubt—to be generous to someone we normally don’t trust—to be kind to someone with no expectation of return. It is especially important now to lay claim to the innocence of Christmas, to uninhibited wonder and generosity. These times can easily create a bunker mentality. And so it is even more important in as safe a way as possibility to see the world and the people in it as beautifully wrapped presents filled with wonders. Especially this Christmas let our overall attitude be less fearful and cynical, more cheerful, more playful, more giving–more childlike.

In the Age to Come, when Christ’s kingdom is fully established, that’s how we’ll all live, constantly. And in the present world, Jesus wants us to live far more innocently than most of us think makes sense. But his point is that we should live with less fear and more faith–faith that the good God calls us to can make a difference in the world. We can start by living with the spirit of Christmas day, every day.



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