Christmas Through the Eyes of a Child
December 19, 2010 | Brian Bill
One Christmas morning, the Reverend Jones announced to his congregation, “My good people, I have here in my hand three sermons…A $50 sermon that lasts five minutes, a $20 sermon that lasts thirty minutes, and a $5 sermon that lasts a full hour. Now, we’ll take the offering and see which one I’ll deliver.’”
Since we’ve already taken the offering, the ushers are signaling me that it looks like you’re in for a 60-minute sermon. As the children in my house say, “JK.” This is usually followed with “LOL.”
Children and Christmas just seem to go together, don’t they? One of our daughters has made sure that we’ve had Christmas music playing on Pandora since October. It was Erma Bombeck who said, “There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.”
Did you know that Jesus took the time to minister to children? On the two occasions when he fed large groups of people, he also fed children. And, it was a young boy who gave Him the fish and bread which launched the lunch miracle in the first place.
In Matthew 18, Jesus called a little child to Him and had him stand among the disciples. It strikes me that Jesus didn’t have to go looking for a child — there was obviously one right nearby. I think there were children with Jesus all the time.
When Jesus made his last entry into Jerusalem, it was the children who shouted out, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” (Matthew 21:15). And it’s quite possible that some of the shepherds that first Christmas were young children.
I love what Andy Rooney once said: “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day…Don’t clean it up too quickly.” I want to propose this morning that Christ came at Christmas to clean up our mess. And most of us have messes that don’t clean up very quickly.
As we meet here in this beautiful auditorium I’m reminded of what happened four years ago on this campus when the school went on “lockdown” and then just this past week there was a bomb threat and the building was evacuated. That means that the present senior class has experienced both of these frightening events during their high school career. Our world is a mess, isn’t it?
Let’s face it. Sometimes as adults, we’re more irritated with kids than we are locked into their needs. I want us to focus on a passage from Mark 10 for a few minutes that shows how children and Christmas go together.
1. Let Children Come.
The first thing we need to do in relation to children and Christmas is to let them come to Jesus. In verse13 we see that people were bringing little children to Jesus. The tense of the words indicate that this was something that was customary — it happened all the time. They “kept on bringing” because these parents knew that kids matter to Jesus. They knew that their kids would be welcome.
They didn’t even think twice about it. They weren’t worried about Jesus turning his back on them or their kids. I’m sure they had noticed how Jesus had treated children on many different occasions. They no doubt wanted their kids to be ministered to as well. With peanut butter on their hands or runny noses or loud voices, Christ came at Christmas to clean up our mess.
But the disciples didn’t like the interruption. Acting as bodyguards and protectors, they scolded and stiff-armed the parents. Why couldn’t these children just go and play? How dare they bother Jesus? He has more important things to do. After all, they were more important than a bunch of kids.
The disciples then turn to these adults and rebuke them. The word “rebuke” is strong. It’s the same word that is used by Jesus when he rebuked the wind and the sea in Mark 4. It means to “be muzzled.” It has the idea of strictly forbidding something with the threat of punishment if the command is not obeyed. They thought children were too bothersome and that Jesus was too busy. They were wrong on both counts.
Friends, before we get too hard on the disciples, we need to take a look at our own hearts.
We have to be careful with our own attitudes toward children. Some of us may be more like the disciples than we care to admit.
Verse 14 says that Jesus was “indignant” with the disciples. The word indignant comes from a compound word meaning, “to grieve much.” This is the only time it was used in the entire New Testament. This made Jesus both mad and extremely sad. He would not tolerate this attitude among his disciples and He doesn’t tolerate it among Christ-followers today.
Jesus tells us in verse 14 to “not hinder children.” Kids by nature want to come to Jesus – it’s us adults who often stand in the way. Let’s let them do what they want to do anyway; to come to Christ when they are young. Let’s not insist that they always get cleaned up first. He accepts them and us in our mess. That’s what Christmas is all about. Christ came at Christmas to clean up our mess.
Don’t miss the fact that these parents were desperate for Jesus to touch their children because they wanted their lives to change. They wanted their hearts to become holy. They knew that whenever Jesus touches someone that someone is changed in some big way.
A preacher once returned from a meeting and reported that there were two and a half conversions. Someone asked, “Two adults and one child?” “No,” said the preacher, “Two children and one adult. The children gave their whole lives. The adult had only half of his left to give.”
2. Learn From Children.
First, we’re to let children come. Second, Jesus challenges us to learn from children. Notice the last part of verse 14 and verse 15: “for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”
I’d like to speak directly to children and teenagers right now. Sometimes we as adults get so caught up in what adults do that we neglect you. Or worse, some adults have done some very damaging things to you. And some of us actually get in your way when you’re trying to let Jesus touch you. We’re wrong when we do this. Would you please forgive us?
Let’s stop and think about something. Why did God decide that there should be children? Why did He design the world so that the human race multiplies by having babies who take years to become adults? Why didn’t He design us to multiply like earthworms where one adult splits to become another adult? That would be kind of cool. He could have done it that way or any number of ways. Why did God decide that there should be children and not just adults?
children are precious in their own right and they stand for something bigger than themselves
At the heart of the answer is this: children are precious in their own right and they stand for something bigger than themselves. They model the kind of dependence and helplessness and insufficiency and faith that is required of adults to enter the kingdom of God.
In order to grow up, we need to become younger. If we want to become a spiritual adult, we must first become a spiritual child. If we want to become all that God wants for us, we must learn from children. That means we must watch them, listen to them, and even become like them.
By the way, I think that’s why children are so attracted to Christmas. They get the fact that Jesus was born as a baby. Charles Dickens wrote these words in A Christmas Carol: “It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.”
3. Love Children Intentionally.
Christ came at Christmas to clean up our mess. Since kids matter to Jesus and matter to us, we need to let them come, we need to learn from them, and finally, we need to love them intentionally.
Verse 16 says: “And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.” Verse 13 says that children were brought to Jesus so that He could touch them. As He so often does, Jesus went beyond what was asked of Him – he bent down, picked them up, put them in his arms, put his hands on them and gave them a verbal blessing. Talk about hands-on ministry! To “take in his arms” literally means that he “folded them in his arms.” It’s like He gave each of them a bear hug.
And the tense of this word indicates that Jesus “fervently blessed.” When we’re a mess, Jesus loves to bless! He puts His heart into helping us.
- Let’s let children come
- Let’s learn from them
- Let’s love them intentionally
Christmas and Children Conclusions
In closing, I want to make a few comments.
1. It takes a family to give grace to a child.
We need to recapture the high value of the family, of monogamous marriage, of abstinence before marriage, and a fulfilling life together after marriage. Interestingly, in this same chapter from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus first talks about marriage and then he blesses children. He elevates the sanctity of marriage and then sets forth the security of children.
We must teach our children that true love waits, that marriage is desirable, that motherhood is a noble calling, that being a godly father is more important than making a lot of money, that sexual promiscuity leads only to sorrow and heartache, and that our children are worth all the love, all the effort, and all the investment of our time and resources. We must also support our single parents, step parents, foster parents, adopted children, and those in blended families. We must also be gracious and supportive of those who are single and of those who for various reasons cannot have children.
2. It takes a church to give grace to a child.
Our job as a church is to supplement what happens in the home, and in some cases, to step in when spiritual training is absent in the home. That’s a high calling, isn’t it? I applaud those of you who are working with kids – thank you!
I talked to a mom on Thursday night who told me that she and her son are going to start coming back to church. When I asked her why, she told me that he keeps asking to come. She’s going to come because he wants to come. Her young son was with her and so I knelt down so I could get on his level and told him that I was really happy about his decision. He said he couldn’t wait to attend Sunday School.
As we move into a new year, can I encourage you to bring the children in your life to church? And to also make sure you are bringing church to the children in your home? The Bible talks about the responsibility that we all have to live out our faith at home, in our family.
When you think about it, faith is not taught as much as it is caught. Faith must be inspired within a faith community so that it is intentionally lived out in the family.
3. Ask Jesus to clean up your mess.
How many of you have watched the Discovery Channel show called, “Dirty Jobs” with Mike Rowe? This series profiles the unsung American workers who make their living in the most unthinkable, yet vital, ways. In over 100 episodes, here are some of the jobs Rowe has assumed: a rattlesnake catcher, bee remover, septic-tank technician, and road kill collector. I love the job description for this last one: “Must be able to work long hours braving oncoming traffic while picking up creatures of various size and breed in various states of decay. Benefits include working outdoors. Strong stomach a plus.” When asked what his hardest job has been, he said it was cleaning out a sludge pit because it was 120 degrees and he got dehydrated.
Friend, no matter how messed up you are, no matter how stressed, distressed or depressed you feel or insignificant or helpless, Jesus came to your mess on Christmas
Jesus took on a revolting job as well, in fact it was the worst job ever, that of taking the stench of our sins and paying the agonizing price for them on an old wooden cross. Mike Rowe does stuff for ratings; Jesus Christ sacrificed his life in order to reconcile us to God the Father. Friend, no matter how messed up you are, no matter how stressed, distressed or depressed you feel or insignificant or helpless, Jesus came to your mess on Christmas. We could say it like this: If he hadn’t come at Christmas to clean up our mess, we’d all be in a deep mess.
4. Let the love of Jesus break through.
During this Christmas season, let the truth of John 3:16 break through as you contemplate the coming of Jesus Christ: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” We’d be in a mess without Christmas! Listen to this story from Christian communicator Ken Davis called, “I Wanna Sing!”
By the time we got to Florida, my nerves were raw. This was no love-offering speaking engagement-this was a $1,500-honorarium, airfare-for-two, three-days-in-a-beach-condo speaking engagement. I felt compelled to come through with a better show than I’d ever produced. I had always done my best, love offerings or not. Where was I going to find the extra oomph for this one?
On the evening of the speech, I faced one of the unruliest groups of my career. My speech followed Happy Hour and several people in the room were very “happy.” To make matters worse, the man who had originally invited me didn’t show up. Standing in for him was an inebriated stranger who introduced me. “I don’t know who our speaker is tonight,” he said, “but I want everyone to sit down, shut up, and listen to him.” Then he turned and continued a loud conversation with the woman standing next to him.
Terrified, I stood to speak. Before I’d finished the first sentence, my nightmare began to unfold. My two-year-old daughter, Traci, sitting with Diane in the back, broke loose and came lurching up the aisle with that Frankenstein walk only children and monsters can do. “Daddy, Daddy!” she drooled as she staggered forward, a huge toothless grin on her face. To be honest, she looked a lot like some of the men sitting in that room.
I tried to stop her with one of those lethal parent-frowns. She ignored the look and kept on coming. Flushed with embarrassment, I spoke. “Traci, go back to your mother,” I said, trying to be stern enough so that Traci would get my message and gentle enough not to turn my audience against me.
Immediately someone in the audience shouted, “Let the kid up there! We want to see the kid!” By this time Traci had reached the platform. I picked her up, and smiling ear to ear, did my best ventriloquist act. Whispering through clenched teeth, I ordered her to say hello, then return to her mother. But kids instinctively sense the power they can wield in a crowd. She grabbed the mike and shouted, “I wanna sing!”
Few things in life are more difficult than trying to discipline a child in front of a “happy” audience. Before I could say a word, another voice from the audience shouted: “Let the kid sing! We want to hear the kid sing!” I hadn’t delivered the first sentence of my fifteen-hundred-dollar speech, and already I’d lost control. I longed for a love offering.
Leaning out from my arms, both hands strangling the microphone, Traci began to sing the only song she knew. “Jesus loves me this I know,” she sang, “for the Bible tells me so!” Her eyes were dancing with delight. By the time she reached the second verse, she was in full form. “Yeeeeeesssss, Jesus loves MEEEEE! The Bible tells me sooooooo!”
The room exploded in thunderous applause as Traci took her bow and headed contentedly back to her mother. She was satisfied. She’d turned a corporate motivational event into a Sunday school class. She could go home now.
As I began my speech, there was a noticeable difference in the room. I saw several people wiping tears from their eyes. The whole atmosphere had been changed by a child’s simple musical declaration of faith. Those men and women listened with interest and respect as I delivered my address.
After the program many of them came to me one at a time. There were no questions about business. They came to talk about Traci’s song. We exchanged memories of youth and family and church and faith until the early hours of the morning. They’d been moved by the shameless enthusiasm of a child singing words of faith. They spoke of happier times than the “Happy” Hours that now punctuated their lives. I wondered if they secretly longed for a childlike courage to replace the bland spirituality now guiding their politically correct lives.
I resolved that day never again to allow my fee or the status of my audience to influence the value that I placed on a speech. I also resolved to try to be more like Traci- to exhibit a more spontaneous and natural enthusiasm for a simple yet profound truth: Jesus loves me!
Friends, Jesus loves you, too! And He wants to not only touch your life but to change your life by fully embracing you. We’d be in a mess without Christmas. The good news is that He came to a messy world to save messed-up people…like me and like you. I read a quote this week that really makes sense: “Christmas began in the heart of God. It is complete only when it reaches the heart of man.” Christ came at Christmas to clean up our mess.
But this is not automatic. We must believe that Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins and then receive Him into our lives. John 1:12-13 says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” If you believe and now you want to receive, please pray this prayer with me. I encourage children and adults to join in if you’re ready:
“Lord Jesus, I’m not only in a mess, I’m making a mess of my life because I’m a sinner. I want to turn from the way I’ve been living and so I ask your forgiveness for all my sins. Thanks for paying the price for my sins and I believe that you died in my place and rose again. I now receive you into my life. Help me to live for you and if there’s anything in my life that you don’t like, please get rid of it. Thanks for being born so that I can be born again.”