The Saviour’s birth was the humblest of beginnings:
“Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
—Luke 2:7 (NRSV)
The Westernised Christmas, paradoxically, is very much a children’s event. Despite negative allusions from the onerously pious, there is much to be gleaned about why Christmas is so exciting for children. Recalling my childhood, Christmases are about redeeming long-cherished memories of waiting, hoping, praying for wishes to come true—not just materialistic wishes, either.
The Salubrious Wonder in Advent
The celebration of the coming of the Incarnation-of-God into the world is history’s hinging point. The God-fearing Jews had waited ever-so-patiently for the coming of the prophesied Saviour. The promised King approached, and then came in the person of Jesus. Hundreds of years passed before the Lord arrived. And in all the anticipation wonder grew. Advent seemed to tarry, but it never more surely arrived right on time!
We think, in our day, perhaps days after Christmas, “Oh well, Christmas is over again for another year,” and often we are relieved—the burden of preparations is over; a family event has been accomplished; the stress is now over (for another year!).
Maybe we forget the wonder in Advent, for a child thinks differently. They wait patiently all year, enjoy their Christmas, and even lament the coming and the passing of a terrific celebration of joy, peace, love, and hope. We don’t know if the child is excited because it is the celebration of the coming of God into the world. It probably isn’t.
But there is a clarity of spiritual coolness in the wonder that this season generates. As an adult I find myself hankering for those childhood times, where birthdays and Christmases meant something more intrinsically wondrous.
The wonder that children can experience as Advent approaches, regardless of the materialism attached, is a resplendent watch point for parents and other adults alike. To know joy is to know the sense of wonder that a child experiences in contemplating the mystery in the replete, yet perfectly safe, unknown.
Wonder, Excitement, Humility, and Making a Difference
As we reflect over this joy that a child experiences in the approach of this season, there is the opportune time to teach the child through the narrative of their unfolding lives.
Never better may there be an opportunity to connect our children to advocacy for the social justice issues Jesus himself would grieve over. We get out our world maps and we wonder aloud. We enjoy with inclusivity the diversity over our green earth. And, in that, we commit to helping those less fortunate. We want to know their plight! We want our children to grow within their hearts a yearning for God’s justice to sweep the world. We want a better tomorrow.
There are the acts of random kindness we can commit to—one a day over the season of Advent—as we count the days down from the fourth Sunday before December 25.
Expressions of humility and selflessness come in one-million-and-one colours of thoughtful and behavioural expression. Such humility and selflessness are things our children will just soak up. In this they will know Jesus.
Whatever we plan, we plan better when we keep our kids engaged. Advent presents many opportunities for object lessons, in converting our children’s ambient joy into the Joy of the Lord.
Advent, most of all, celebrates the coming of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in such a way that we acknowledge he is coming again!
Waiting patiently through Advent, as children wait, anticipating the movement of God in our hearts, is our blessed opportunity. If we experience justice, let us fight injustice. If we experience wonder, let us conquer ambivalence. If we experience humility, we let that seed germinate and rest in our souls, forever.
Most of all let us share these experiences with our children.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.