First Advent Service
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Matthew 19:13-15 Sermon
November 30, 2011
(NOTE: This first Advent service meditation is an "encore" presentation from 14 December 2004)
“OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES”
TEXT: “Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.”
This past week, the following story came across my desk. It’s a little piece written by a Christian wife and mother, and I would like to share it with you this evening.
My husband and I had been happily married (most of the time) for five years, but we hadn't been blessed with a baby. I decided to do some serious praying and promised God that if He would give us a child, I would be a perfect mother, love it with all my heart and raise it with His word as my guide.
God answered my prayers and blessed us with a son. The next year God blessed us with another son. The following year, he blessed us with yet another son. The year after that we were blessed with a daughter.
My husband thought we'd been blessed right into poverty. We now had four children, and the oldest was only four years old. I learned never to ask God for anything unless I meant it. As a minister once told me, "If you pray for rain,make sure you carry an umbrella."
I began reading a few verses of the Bible to the children each day as they lay in their cribs. I was off to a good start. God had entrusted me with four children and I didn't want to disappoint Him.
I tried to be patient the day the children smashed two dozen eggs on the kitchen floor searching for baby chicks. I tried to be understanding when they started a hotel for homeless frogs in the spare bedroom, although it took me nearly two hours to catch all twenty-three frogs.
When my daughter poured ketchup all over herself and rolled up in a blanket to see how it felt to be a hot dog, I tried to see the humor rather than the mess.
In spite of changing over twenty-five thousand diapers, never eating a hot meal and never sleeping for more than thirty minutes at a time, I still thank God daily for my children.
While I couldn't keep my promise to be a perfect mother (I didn't even come close), I did keep my promise to raise them in the Word of God.
I knew I was missing the mark just a little when I told my daughter we were going to church to worship God, and she wanted to bring a bar of soap along to "wash up" Jesus, too.
Something was lost in the translation when I explained that God gave us everlasting life, and my son thought it was generous of God to give us his "last wife."
My proudest moment came during the children's Christmas pageant. My daughter was playing Mary, two of my sons were shepherds and my youngest son was a wise man. This was their moment to shine. My five-year-old shepherd had practiced his line, "We found the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes." But he was nervous and said, "The baby was wrapped in wrinkled clothes."
My four-year-old "Mary" said, "That's not 'wrinkled clothes,' silly. That's dirty, rotten clothes." A wrestling match broke out between Mary and the shepherd and was stopped by an angel, who bent her halo and lost her left wing.
I slouched a little lower in my seat when Mary dropped the doll representing Baby Jesus, and it bounced down the aisle crying, "Mama-mama." Mary grabbed the doll, wrapped it back up and held it tightly as the wise men arrived. My other son stepped forward wearing a bathrobe and a paper crown, knelt at the manger and announced, "We are the three wise men, and we are bringing gifts of gold, common sense and fur."
The congregation dissolved into laughter, and the pageant got a standing ovation. "I've never enjoyed a Christmas program as much as this one," Pastor Brian laughed, wiping tears from his eyes. "For the rest of my life, I'll never hear the Christmas story without thinking of gold, common sense and fur."
"My children are my pride and my joy and my greatest blessing," I said as I dug through my purse for a Tylenol.
As Christmas approaches, we can’t help but notice that the celebration of Christ’s birth almost always employs the use of children. There are the various programs and pageants where the children are the actors and narrators, and children also sing special music. Out in the secular world, children are lined up to sit on Santa’s lap and have their picture taken. Toy stores are brimming with the latest toys and games which are geared for the younger generation. Children hang up their stockings and eagerly anticipate the gifts they are going to receive.
Parents are keenly aware of their children on Christmas. They want to be sure that their children have presents to open, and that nobody is either favored or neglected. Even if the money is tight, there are organizations like “Operation Santa Claus,” and “Toys for Tots,” and “Santa Cop” who will help provide items for children on Christmas.
Children seem to be very important at Christmas. Even though parents love them very much, I think a lot of it has to do with the way Jesus regarded children.
In our text for this evening, we find Jesus in the midst of his teaching ministry. There was a large crowd of people, some of which were the Pharisees. After his lesson, he was taking a breather; and during this time, people were bringing their children to him. The disciples right away tried to get the people to leave him alone, but Jesus rebuked them. He welcomed the children into his arms. He says, “let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
This would have been quite a shock especially to these Pharisees, who thought they had worked their way into a special place in heaven. These children were not teachers of the law or high church officials. They were just ordinary children. And yet, they receive the Saviour’s mark of approval.
As we look at the first Christmas, children were very much a part of it. We remember the birth of John the Baptist, and of course Jesus in the Manger. After that, we learn about Mary and Joseph taking Jesus and fleeing to Egypt, while Herod routinely slaughtered all of the baby boys in the land in an attempt to kill the Christ child. Children and Christmas always go together, even in a tragic sense.
Jesus Christ came into this world, not as an adult (which he could have done) but as a little child. He was true God, conceived by the Holy Ghost; but he was also a fully human man who was born in a natural way from a human mother. Jesus had a childhood, so he could identify with the children.
Jesus also knew the condition of their hearts. He knew what kind of faith they had. He knew that they were coming to him in joy and love, and that they believed in him with whatever amount of faith God had given them. They might not have been instructed in all of the finer points of theology, but they knew Jesus. They knew that Jesus loved them and accepted them, and that’s the picture we have in our text for today.
Everybody needs a Saviour, regardless of what point they are between the cradle and the grave. God gives people the faith to accept Jesus as their Saviour. For a little child, this faith is given through Holy Baptism; for someone a little older, this faith comes through hearing and believing God’s Word.
Jesus is the Saviour for everybody, regardless of their age or position in life. Scripture tells us that everybody has sinned, and that the wages of sin is death. But Jesus came so that sin might be eradicated completely from our record. He came so that we would be free from the threat of eternal death and destruction. He came so that through faith, we might have new life in his name. He came so that this blessed hope would be available to everyone, even little children.
In that little story I read at the beginning, we find a typical mother who sometimes found it a bit difficult to thank God for being blessed with children. She was embarrassed because of some of the antics for which her children were connected in the Christmas program at her church.
But as you picture this children’s nativity, amidst the bent halos and broken wings, you can almost picture Jesus smiling and saying, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.”