Becoming Children – Water Daily 12-28-23

You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday’s gospel reading is here

Some say that Christmas is for children; as we age the anticipation dims, the mystery dissipates. We affirm with our minds what all the fuss is about, but we also know it will come around again. I was already a little jaded by college, writing in my journal, “I can’t get more excited about Christ being born just because the calendar says December 25th than I am the other 364 days of the year.”

But for children, Christmas is often a heightened time – the growing pile of presents under the tree, the dazzling ornaments, special treats baked only once a year, dressing up and staying up, the pageant and the carols. I remember Christmas; what would it be like to feel that wonder again?

Jesus said we had to become like children to receive the kingdom of God. In the prologue to John’s Gospel, which we’re exploring this week, we learn how that happens: But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 

Power to become children of God – what an interesting phrase. We don’t always associate power with childhood. And who can get themselves born, especially by the will of God? That is something over which we have no power whatsoever. And yet that is the paradox of faith – when we exercise our will to believe in Christ, by faith, not sight, we receive power to give our power away. When we give our power away in vulnerability and trust (I’m not talking about when it’s taken by force…), we are more free to receive.

As I write about the wonder of childhood, I am reminded that today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, recalling the slaying of two-year-old boys in Judea at the order of a paranoid King Herod (Matthew 2). It’s hard not to think of the children being killed, maimed or orphaned in Gaza or the Ukraine at present, or Israeli children who witnessed the massacres and kidnappings by Hamas on October 7. Childhood gives cause for wonderment of all sorts, not just beauty. But as children do, we can process death and tragedy within relationships of trust, such as God invites us into.

I pray for the grace to receive the gift of wonder and joy and openness available to children; adulthood isn’t always much fun. And maybe that’s the point – adulthood is where we live; childhood – in its best sense – is like that realm of God that coexists with this world. As we let our faith grow, we get to spend more time in that land of wonder, where things are always new again and mysteries present themselves for the unwrapping. God has so many gifts for us; we need to receive them with hands outstretched like a child catching snowflakes.

(c) Kate Heichler, 2023. To receive Water Daily by email each morning, subscribe here.  Here are the bible readings for next Sunday. Water Daily is also a podcast – subscribe to it here on Apple, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform.

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