I have two daughters, amazing gifts from God. Hannah is five, Ellie was two earlier this month! They are a constant delight (and occasionally, challenge)! The gift of children though, is not just for me and my wife to enjoy. Our children have doting grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts, godparents etc. Children are as much a gift to the community of faith as to individual parents.
As we are approaching the final day of advent, my children have been building an advent calendar with shepherds, angels, wise men etc – all gathering around the manger . . . ready for the 24th when Jesus will be placed in his crib (I know, a day early) . . . we nothing more after the nativity accounts in the gospels about the shepherds or the wise men (once they avoid Herod and head home) . . . but, what was a private journey to Bethlehem to a place where there was no room . . . those who came and worshipped found room for the Christ child in their hearts . . . the shepherds could not wait to share the news and the family celebration became a community event!
There is an old African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”. In the same way, it takes the community of faith to help children grow – to feel that they belong as part of that community, and the faith expressed and shared becomes their faith too. This activity, spiritual formation, preparation for life etc – is not the preserve of a couple of over burdened volunteers, nor an “expert” salaried children’s worker (though volunteers to be involved in ministry with children, and, where required, salaried children’s workers create an invaluable “dynamic” for life and faith in Church that compliment the role of parents).
I will return to this theme in the New Year, but leave you (my last post before the New Year) with a thought from Jurgen Moltmann,
“The messiah can be born in every child.” says a Jewish proverb, and Christians celebrate Christmas as the feast of the birth of the divine redeemer in the baby in the manger. We encounter the all-powerful God in a little, dependent, and helpless child. The creator of heaven and earth divests God-self and becomes lowly in the “Christ child” or the so-called “baby-Jesus.” The grand theology of the ancient church called this mystery the humanisation of god” or the “Incarnation of the logos.” but it begins very simply, in a manner intelligible to every child, by God becoming a child and in this childs redemptive reign of peace. What a mystery a child is. [The good news for children marks the entire story of Jesus] “Whoever welcomes such a child in my name welcomes me” . . . “Child and Childhood as Metaphors of Hope, Jurgen Moltmann
Will we orientate ourselves this Christmas time, as Moltmann puts it, “towards the child of promise and peace?”