Sunday, December 24, 2017

Partnering with children to witness the birth of Christ this Christmas

St. Luke 2:12- This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.

The Santa Claus is coming to town lyrics is known in bits and pieces to many. It goes like this

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you're sleepin'
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake

He's making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town

The lyrics of this popular song and the baby Jesus wrapped in bands of cloth in St. Luke 2:12 offer a different picture altogether during Christmas. Many a time we sing Christmas songs without thinking much about it and in this particular song poor St. Nicholas (Christmas Father) is made to look as some disciplinarian who checks whether children are good or bad before dropping off gifts for them. It is also a reminder of our own childhood when parents would force feed us with stories of some villain, thief or even crow coming and abducting us if we wouldn’t eat properly! 

It is interesting that adults use Christmas as an opportunity to discipline children when it should be a time when we look at what the young ones offer us for our spiritual revival. Jesus constantly reminds his disciples that they should become like children to enter the kingdom of God and today we are faced with the story of the baby Jesus to make that clear. Whereas in the Santa Claus song the children are told to be prepared and well behaved, in the bible story the shepherds are told about the birth of the Messiah as a child. After the announcement the shepherds are given a clue and a sign and told “You will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth…” After the big declaration of the birth of the Messiah the sign given to the shepherds is of the child wrapped in clothes. For a first time reader this is a big shift in the story. A shift from hope to hopelessness. But the shepherds were experts at their job and God tells the angel to inform them about the Messiah born as a child because God expects something more from them.

The shepherds also perhaps had something special about them. Apart from the fact that they did not mingle with the main stream it could also be that the shepherds knew the value of a baby wrapped in bands of cloth. The reason here could be that the sacrificial lamb meant for sacrifice was also what the shepherds tended and they were given much care and even wrapped in clothes at birth. Jesus as a sacrificial lamb is also steeped in symbolism. So the shepherds know the value of a babe wrapped in clothes. It is something that makes no sense for a new reader though.

When we look more deeply this has a lot of meaning. On the one hand it means that we should value children so much and give them a stake in what we do because the Messiah or savior comes to the world as a child. Honoring children is honoring the Messiah and his birth on earth. This is where we are found wanting. Violence, abuse, wars and deceit is practiced in the world because we have grown up to the level of adults who don’t listen to God anymore. The birth of the Messiah has brought in an era of peace but we are not willing to listen to the Messiah because the Messiah is a child now. This Christmas we should start listening to and respecting children because it will lead to a safer and peaceful world. Instead children are most affected in wars and violence around the world. They suffer most in all forms as they are not valued by adults.

This has to change for us to have a better world. Christmas is a sign of the time that we have to become like children and we have to take care of children. Christmas thus has to become a child oriented festival rather than an adult oriented one. A child oriented festival won’t have power, money and authority as the main foundations of the festival celebration but will have innocence, trust and belief as the main foundations. Christmas is a great time to become small like a child so that we gain entry into the presence of the Messiah and also into the kingdom of God.

Our Christmas services are far from child friendly and instead are complex rituals which have no space for children. They are expected to keep quiet and behave so that St. Nicholas will be good to them and so that they will get gifts from their family. More space can only be possible if we transform ourselves into children and witness the birth of Christ as a child. Maturity and experience will lead to us missing the event of the birth of Christ because it cannot be understood by us. This Christmas we can start first by treating our children at home properly. They need to be respected and valued so that we will see the birth of Christ through them. The partnership of the baby wrapped in clothes and the shepherds gave the world the news of the birth of Christ. This should now become the partnership between us and our children whereby we can again experience the birth of Christ in our midst. Amen.

Picture credit-

No comments: