Wednesday, December 23, 2009

David Matthews tells the story of a mother who was welcoming children at her child’s birthday party and explaining what they would be doing. “And,” she concluded, “there will be a special prize for the one who goes home first.”  Other people’s children….ah yes, it is good to see them come…and it is good to see them go. Sometimes, however, we don’t see them at all and that’s not so good.

My heart was melted again by our children (and some who are not our children) at The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (!!!!). What a wonderful performance. Even more, what a rich and enduring experience of blessing for them. The play was exceptionally well done (thank you Amy Hudson-Downing and Ann Pittman for directing and patience and creating opportunity!) and it will leave an indelible mark of blessing on our children. They know, beyond the level of words, that they are important, that they belong, that at this church their uniqueness is celebrated.

One of the memorable things Carlyle Marney ever said was that he made a vow long, long ago to never pass a child without smiling or speaking. Quite a vow. But what richness in such an understanding.  Deep within each of, and maybe especially in children, lives that fundamental question: Am I important? If people do not notice or speak to me, perhaps I am not very important.

Hardly a month goes by that I don’t listen to someone’s life story that often includes a life-long wound inflicted in childhood by a stern authority figure, be they parent, teacher, preacher. As you surely know, one of the highlights of ministry for me is our time of parent-child dedication. The physical act of carrying these infants into the congregation is such a joy for me; the purpose however, is not JUST to engender the tender feelings such a moment creates, but to let you see (and sometimes hear) these tiny gifts from God, in-the-flesh reminders of our calling to love all of God’s children. As I often say, they won’t remember this day, but their parents will and we will as well. And in the remembering (and re-telling) the possibility exists for a enduring sense of place within a community of care.

But let’s not just use words of blessing for our children. Let’s not tell them of the infinite value they have in the eyes of God and then not act upon such declaration. Let’s teach them, learn their names, speak to them, ask open-ended questions, listen to their view of the world, smile when we see them, and always, always, notice them. Jesus apparently had an extraordinary sensitivity to children: “Permit the little children to come to me”. They wanted to come. What does that tell you about children? What does that tell you about Jesus? What is Jesus telling us about children?

Blessings at Advent,
Roger A. Paynter
(My thanks to David Matthews of Royal Lane Baptist for first
bringing this to my attention)


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