Post-Easter Sunday excitement, wiggles and sugar-hangovers made the Good News Club a little more challenging last week. After a few songs and teaching about the resurrection via the account of the two disciples who met the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus, it was craft and review time. The room divided up by grade to work on a few peel-and-stick crafts and see who could remember a few things from the story that day. Conversation and laughter filled the room, but everything remained under control — except for a few boys in the second grade group. The adult working with that group could have used a few dogs from the herding group to help corral those nine children. I was done teaching for the day so I tapped the four boys on the shoulder and said, “You guys come with me.”
I never, ever get tired of reading or hearing the story of when people wanted to bring their kids to Jesus and the disciples tried to stop them (Mark 10:13-16). I can just hear the disciples saying, “Get those kids out of here.” And then Jesus says, “Don’t you dare send those kids away. Let them come to me. That’s what this is all about!”
This account resonates on a number of levels. First of all, I think that deep down, we just all want to be kids. We want to be free of all the responsibilities of being adults, to just play and imagine and color. And that’s OK. You get a much better handle on Jesus when you are a kid. You’re not trying to prove yourself or justify yourself. You just look at him with wonder and know that he’s not like any grown up you’ve ever met before. He wants you to hang around, not just go off and play (and be quiet).
I also believe we want to feel his embrace. After Jesus rebuked his disciples and told them to let the children come to him, he took them in his arms and blessed them. With all the uncertainty, violence, politics, prejudice, hatred, jealousy and evil in our world, we just want someone to hold us. We long for someone who can make us feel safe. Who better than Jesus, who loves without boundaries, who provides a refuge from everything that threatens, whose arms can reach and embrace anyone, no matter the distance?
Don’t ever grow up so much that you no longer yearn for the feel of his arms around you. Always embrace your inner child, for that is one of the places where you will best get to know your Savior!
I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but once again I found myself at the kids table.
After the wedding rehearsal, the family invited me to join them for dinner at the Portuguese American Cultural Center for supper. Even though I was the last to leave after locking up the church, I was one of the first to arrive there. Within fifteen minutes or so, more of the family trickled in, and it wasn’t long before I found myself watching a young men, Junior (age 4) and his cousin (age 6), play some games on an iPad. We were joined by two young ladies, Ina (age 4) an Layla (age 9), who were each absorbed in a book. When I asked what they were reading, they eagerly shared with me the highlights of their Captain Underpants books. As I sat to listen, we were invited to the buffet, and just like that, I found myself eating with the kids.
If you know me at all, you’ll know I was in my element, and soon we were comparing notes as to what is actually inside a clam, debating how much salt to sprinkle on a piece of bread (correct answer: none), and clinking out glasses so we could watch the soon-to-be married couple kiss. Dessert was even better as some delicious homemade chocolate mousse was quickly dubbed “moose poo.”
They couldn’t quite get the knack of rubbing a finger along the rim of a glass to fill the room with a high-pitched note. They did find and consume most of the chocolate covered strawberries. And the imitation rose petals decorating the tables were great for practicing for the big day tomorrow.
I got to meet a lot of nice family and friends of both the bride and groom, but I enjoyed the kids the best. Bonus moment: when ten-month old Clifford gave me a big, mostly toothless smile!
I knew I’d be watching my two-year-old grandson Elijah for a few hours today while my daughter and wife did a little shopping. Before he arrived, I set out our little Playmobile nativity out on the porch.
From the moment he saw it he was delighted! He exclaimed, “This is perfect!” And then he picked up the baby from the manger and announced, “He’s awake!” He pointed out the donkey, camel, and sheep. Then, spotting the magi’s treasure chests, his eyes got big and he burst out with “Presents!” We got a full ninety minutes of play from this season’s first encounter with the cast of characters from Luke 2 and Matthew 2!
I believe our all-knowing Father knew that his children would delight in this hands-on telling and re-enactment of Christ’s birth. I can’t prove it, but I would contend he purposely chose the first-century, Roman empire, Bethlehem, virgin and carpenter setting because he knew it would capture our imagination, our hearts, and our souls.
I also believe it is therapeutic to sit and play with a nativity, preferably with kids. The holidays aren’t always the easiest times to navigate. You may be dealing with distance, death or divorce. There may be family conflicts, financial worries, unrealistic demands and unmet expectations, But when you sit down to play with a nativity, much of that fades behind the reminders of God’s promises, faithfulness, and presence. He shows up in the lives of real, ordinary people just like us, to walk us through guilt, sorrow, doubt, fear, pain, or whatever we’re dealing with.
That’s what it’s all about. Even a child knows that. I guess Jesus was right. You really need to be a child.
My wife is in Haiti (part 3). At least once a month, someone forgets to turn off their cell phone and they get a call during a worship service. Today, it was my cell phone. Actually, I set this up ahead off time with my wife. We timed it just right so that her call came right in the middle of my sermon. You should have seen people’s faces, first, when it was my phone going off, second, when I answered it, and third, when they learned it was Lisa calling from Haiti! So many were glad to hear her voice and update on her work with the medical team in Haiti! BTW, Don’t try to call me during the sermon in the future, though. I never have my phone with me like I did today. The real work begins tomorrow. They expect to see 300 patients. Today after church some of the team went to an orphanage to do health checkups. Lots of children, some of whom lost their parents in the earthquake. The pictures she posted on Facebook were pretty moving. She really enjoyed sharing with the children some of the toys our Sunday School helped purchase from their offerings. Something as simple as a beach ball goes a long way when you have nothing else to play with.