Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Becoming like children: Standing at the font

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me."
-- Matthew 18: 1-5

That comes from yesterday's Morning Prayer reading marking the day of Holy Innocents. It was placed in the lectionary for the day to evoke our memory of those children murdered by King Herod, and to spark our passion about all children everywhere who are killed, abused or in danger. The day is meant to remind us that evil exists in our world, and human beings are often the authors of that evil, and our own children the victims.

But that's not all.

The passage from Matthew, I believe, is a huge signpost for us on how children are the first citizens in the Kingdom of God. They see in ways adults have forgotten how to do. As adults, many of us become jaded, critical, buffeted by so much of life's twists and turns that we sometimes forget what it is like to be open, to see things new and be amazed -- to be a child, to have fun, and to smile.

I was so reminded of this on Sunday, the First Sunday after Christmas. We did something at St. Paul's I've never done before. We had a traditional Christmas service of Lessons and Carols, followed by the baptisms of three children.

As I was pouring the water into the baptismal font, one of the children, four-year-old Isaiah, walked forward so he could see a little better. Of course he wanted to see! So he came up to the font, and as I said the words of blessing over the water, I invited him to put his hands into the water, splash it around a little, and help me bless the water he would soon be baptized with. I have never seen such a huge smile on a small child. It was one of those great moments when I felt blessed to be a priest, and for a few wonderful moments, I felt as a child standing at the font.

"Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

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