Published in Refresh Bible Study Magazine, December 2016. Read the full magazine for free here!
The lights grew dim, which meant the big moment had arrived.
I stood on the stage, looking out at dozens of parents and teachers who filled the pews. Above my head were rustic wooden beams, and beneath my feet were strands of hay. Wearing a fleece donkey costume, I was in my first Christmas play.
My role was supposed to be silent, but no one said anything about hand motions. So, as the play began, I softly clapped my fabric-covered hands every few seconds as the miracle of Christ’s birth was acted out around me. After the show, many of the adults said my merry clapping was one of their favorite parts of the show.
Do you remember a time when you were filled with excitement about the nativity story, or any story about Jesus? Children can see Christ in a pure way, not corrupted by pride or human ideas. The story of the Savior’s birth is brand new and surprising.
Jesus stressed the importance of coming into God’s presence like a child. “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15, HCSB).
Bible scholars explain that this is about the posture of our relationship with God, one that is based on trust, dependence, and humility1. As an adult, I find this challenging. I’m now wired to be skeptical, untrusting. This is probably wise when dealing with people, but it dilutes my relationship with God.
So what does childlike faith look like in practice? Here are some ideas to give us a purer, more joyful faith during Christmas and into the New Year:
Trusting: Children trust what their parents tell them. They may ask questions along the way, but because their parents have been right in the past, they have humble faith. Because of this trust, they depend on their mother and father for food and shelter. In a similar way, our Father in Heaven wants us to depend on Him to meet our needs and guide our decisions. He wants us to trust that “all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28, HCSB).
Simple: Children focus on joy, without worrying too much. They don’t pollute the story of Christ with intellectual debates, and they don’t ruin their fun with excessive shopping trips or cooking marathons. Children are not like Martha, who chose household tasks while her sister Mary spent time with the Lord. Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42, HCSB).
Teachable: Like a child mesmerized during a bedtime story, our Father still has many wonderful things to show us and teach us. “Yet Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we all are the work of Your hands” (Isaiah 64:8, HCSB). As this year draws to a close and the new one begins, ask the Potter how He wants to keep molding you. He’s envisioning an even more beautiful you in His mind’s eye.
Enthusiastic: Children see Jesus with fresh eyes, asking questions along the way. They aren’t afraid to say “Wow!” Children act on this enthusiasm with thoughtfulness, often coloring drawings for loved ones and giving hugs. This Christmas, let the miracle of Christ’s birth move you to surprise others, and don’t be afraid to be creative. “…Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises” (James 5:13, HCSB).
We didn’t see our Savior’s birth with our own eyes. But with the trust of a child and the guiding hand of our Father, our joy can be as real as that fateful night in Bethlehem.
This Christmas, let us be children at heart.
1 Henry, Matthew. Commentary on the Whole Bible, Mark chapter 10, v. 13 to 16. Retrieved on Nov. 12, 2016 from https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/matthew-henry/mark.10.13-mark.10.16.