Come as a Child

I make time each Christmas to write a bit of a holiday reflection. Usually it is the week after Christmas because that is the first chance I have to sit. However, today the rain is pouring down outside, a fire is burning inside, my shopping is finished, and my baking complete. The house is temporarily empty and quiet…the calm before the storm. I have a brief moment.
I have several nativities around my house, but the one I am drawn to at this moment is the small plastic one. It is designed to look like a hand painted wooden set. It is lovely, and goes well tucked among my other décor. However, it has always had a specific purpose…to be played with. I wanted Jesus to be accessible to my children, so this manger was set out low and well within reach. It is something of a Christmas miracle that none of the pieces has been lost…there were a few misplaced baby Jesus moments over the years, but as I pull out each member of the scene they are remarkably unchanged. Memories spill out of the box as well, and when the built in music box plays Silent Night I am transported through time to when my children were little. I can still hear the adorable made up conversations between Mary and Joseph, as well as an army man or two that got mixed in with the sheep. It is still one of the favorite decorations, and always has a prominent place in my home.
I think my kids were drawn to it not only because I encouraged it, but also because the idea of a baby was something they were familiar with. (Seeing as we always had a new one around. ) Children relate to children. I realize the story of Jesus is about a lot more than his birth, but for children, it is the perfect place to begin. Jesus, as a child…vulnerable, dependent, completely relatable and highly approachable. That is the key. It is one of the things that make him such an amazing Savior. The childlike simplicity of the faith distinguishes it from all others. So simple, in fact, that Jesus says unless you become like a child, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He led by example…beginning as a baby. Children get that better than most. Their trust in the good is what sets them apart.
A week like this one, this close to Christmas, stopped me in my tracks. Because children are synonymous with Christmas cheer, the absence of children is like a gaping hole in the holiday. Children giggle. They play. They jump up and down with excitement. Their exuberance is contagious, their enthusiasm explosive. The wonder in their eyes takes us back to those days when Christmas morning was the day we waited for the other 364 days of the year. For the Sandy Hook families, all of that is radically changed or gone completely. I see the smiling faces of the photos and my mother’s heart feels the loss deeply. My teacher’s heart cringes at the trauma of innocence violated. I cannot help but think of Christmas baking, shopping and dinners that will be minus one this season. Family traditions have been irrevocably altered in a few horrifying minutes. Toys will have to be taken back. Presents will never be opened. Hopes and dreams stolen. I cannot comprehend it. The only option is to turn to the baby in the manger and cry with him, because in tears the pain is released. Even God weeps today for his children.
Yet, in the heartache of the atrocity I SEE. I SEE those faces with sparkling eyes, and LIFE shines out of them. I HEAR their stories and songs flowing with the innocence and purity of children. The joy of LIFE was personified in these children…even in death; they are remembered for their delightful carefree existence which cannot be overshadowed by darkness. In fact, the light they shine is in stark contrast to the evil deeds perpetrated upon them. Hope looks back at me from the images. My heart, while feeling torn apart, is at the same time encouraged by their memories and the stories their families tell of them. Those kids trusted the good. It was built into them to do so. I find myself wishing to be able to do the same in a world where evil seems to have taken up residence. Trying to trust the good, SEE the good, find the good, is sometimes difficult. So my adult heart goes back to the manger, back to the approachable baby, who changed his world, and in so doing, ours as well. This year I bring pictures of the Sandy Hook kiddos to the baby who grew up to overcome death. In their memory, I weave them into our nativity scene to remind myself to come to him as a child. I pray for their families, even as I picture them circling Jesus singing happy birthday, and falling giggling into his arms at the biggest party of all.

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