I TOTALLY forgot to TITLE this~!~~~

Just after Thanksgiving, the holiday carols begin to play, the store windows aglow with twinkling lights, snow crunches underfoot, and the excitement of young children fills the air as they wait expectantly for what greets them under the tree. Watch sometime the surprise and delight creep over the faces of almost everyone as they tear into brightly colored wrapping paper. See the misty eyes of those who receive a heartfelt gift or hear the giddiness when they receive something more trivial and fun.

Today reminds me of that time at Christmas, where we wait with near impatience for the gifts we know is ours. I believe God wants us to approach the throne with that same level of giddiness and expectancy. I believe God delights in the bright and wide- eyed looks from the children, and we must remember; we are those children.

Matthew 18:3 Jesus instructs us: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Keep in mind that this is Jesus instructing us here, not Matthew, not Peter, not Paul. None of the disciples is speaking here; we see the definite words of Jesus answering a question. The disciples had just finished asking Jesus who was the greatest among them and in response; Jesus offers these words. “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

If we read the previous verse, we can almost see and feel the tension growing amongst the disciples. Picture it, all of them crowded around Jesus, jockeying for position. They are tired, dusty, excited about the stories they have heard and the sights they have seen. Maybe it is near suppertime and they are hungry. Maybe this is a down day after a long series of travels and conversations. Whatever the case, we know they have been together for a while and we can almost hear them setting one another up for the question.

“You ask him.”

“No, you do it; I asked him the last big question.”

“I’ll give you half my supper if you’ll do it.”

“John, you know he loves you best, he’ll be ok with you asking.”

We do not know who asked, all we know is how Jesus responded. Calmly and without flinching, He tells His followers to become like little children or expect not to enter the kingdom.

I can almost see all of the disciples milling about before supper, joking and giving each other a bad time, trying to wind down after the day. However, the intent behind Jesus’ words is clear. We are to turn from what we are doing and embrace a new way of thinking. Matthew does not want to hear it, Peter snorts in response. They had become so fixated on position and the organization of the kingdom here on earth that they forgot its purpose. They had lost sight of service and focused instead on advantage and power. This was the wrong focus for them. Amid the scoffing and dragging of their sandals in the sand, there is more truth than we like to admit. The truth is, I do not want to hear Jesus’ words because losing sight means I have lost focus as well, and I do not like being told I am wrong.

Therefore, if power, position, and prestige are the wrong focus for us that must mean that there is a right focus. This becomes a bit uncomfortable for many of us; it certainly was for Matthew and company. Jesus is asking for a change of both attitude and behavior. The attitude shift that Jesus requests is one that goes against everything the United States learns. It is opposite of all the clamoring to the top, making all the money we can, and solving all the world’s problems, and the myth that we must shoulder our burdens alone. It is uncomfortable, and Jesus knows it.

As I think of this change of attitude, I remember watching the sitcom, The Golden Girls, with my mom. Every Saturday night, we would tune in to see what new antics the girls were up to that week. This time Rose returns home after leading a Girl Scout troupe in their monthly activities. She comes home upset and full of worry about the girls as they drew pictures of bombs, warfare, and talked openly about their fear of the world blowing up, and all the hate that exists. The ever-naïve Rose decides that if the idea of global war is that disturbing to the children, maybe she ought to take special note of it as well. She decides that the best option for solving the problem would be a written note to both the Premiere of the Soviet Union, and the President of the United States. Keep in mind, the time is the mid 1980’s and Premiere Gorbachev and President George (not W) Bush are in positions of power.

For weeks, the letters go unanswered. Suddenly, the doorbell rings one afternoon to reveal a messenger from the Soviet Union, who would like to have a press conference with the “little girl” who wrote such a compelling note to the Premiere. Unbeknownst to Rose, the press conference is set up and she enters ready to deliver the note and message to a house full of journalists and politicians. Gorbachev unwittingly believes that a nine-year-old girl wrote the letter and wants to meet the little girl with such a compassionate heart. The comic tension climaxes when Rose discovers the mistake, and hoping to escape public and global disgrace, runs from the room, avoiding the press conference. We next see Rose, gathered with her friends at the kitchen table, where Dorothy offers Rose a bit of wisdom that I think Jesus would have appreciated. She calmly looks at Rose, encourages her note and compassionate action, and finishes by telling us that if all people would look at the world and our problems like a small child the world would be a better place.

When we think of children and childlike behavior, we often equate that with immaturity and a lack of thought and preparation. Roses’ note had nothing to do with an immature thought process, but a tender and compassionate response from her heart. She saw a wrong and knew it needed a solution. Mirriam-Webster defines immaturity as a lack of growth and development. Rose did not act out of an immature place, but a tender and innocent place. To be childish implies stubborn and fussy behavior, steeped in getting one’s own way. Think back to the Disciples who are drawing the line in the sand, keening to know who among them is the greatest. Does this sound stubborn to you? However, the one with childlike faith looks at a relationship with Christ as one full of wonder and adventure. A wide-eyed and expectant excitement fills us just as it does on Christmas. A childlike faith is not so much something that we do, but understanding whose we are and what we are. It is a state of being, not a state that we gain by achievement.

The word I can best think of to associate with a childlike faith would be that of dependence. When I looked up the definition of the word dependency, I found that dependency links logically to children. They believe that those who should care about them will and they place their humble and complete trust in those that love them. They are unquestioning and unwavering in their support of their caretakers. Their whole life and hope is wrapped in an exciting package of colors and sounds and faces; and it should be.

Today, we have taken the word dependence and turned it into a four- letter word depicting a weak character. We look at dependency in terms of addiction obstacles. We become dependent on all things material, all things positive, and all things negative. It is the dependency on all things positive that creates a negative situation. How many of us carry a cell phone with us and are apt to check it many times during the day?

In God’s Kingdom dependency, viewed weakness is simply not true. As we look at an infant, we know they are dependent on their parents for everything to sustain their well-being. Without their parents loving and constant care, the infants would not thrive or survive. They depend wholly on the fact that if they cry, their need for food, comfort, stability, and protection are met. Psychologically, babies who do not receive care become lethargic. Their growth and development stop and is literally defined as a failure to thrive. There is never a doubt that we would supply whatever need that baby has. It is the same with us in relation to God.

The same stunt in growth and development can happen to us if we do not go to the One that can care for us.

I believe Jesus gives us permission in His words in Matthew. Instead of grappling to the top and attaining as much as we can as fast as we can, Jesus urges us to catch our breath and approach the throne with a childlike faith. A childlike faith relinquishes the cares and weight of this world and lays them in the lap of Christ himself. Christ gives us this permission. Christ welcomes us to humbly come before Him and lay ourselves wholly dependent at His feet. He is begging we take the package, wrapped in blood and bandages, tear it open with zeal, and run for joy with the adventure and excitement of it all. Jesus extends the invitation for a complete and humble dependence on Him, knowing that we fail to thrive without it.

Jesus wants us to cast off the pride that ensnares us and concentrate on the adventure God has in store for us. There is desire, excitement, zeal, and fun to being a child of God and it is ok for us to let go and simply fall into the arms of the One who wants to hold us and laugh with us. There will be a net to catch us, and we can take comfort in that. We can thrive in that.

Today, I offer you the gift of childlike dependence.

I watched Atticus, fall asleep the other night. He is 4 and has established himself as my night owl. Long after Xavier has conked out, I peek in at Atticus to see him up and jabbering in the darkened room. One night I settled him down for the evening, he started fussing about the placement of his blanket; the same blanket he has had since birth. Jeanne Richards made it for him and he has had that blanket since he left the hospital after being born. He clutches it to his face, held fast in his arms, and cuddles it close to him. There is neither a naptime nor a bedtime that comes that he does not have this blanket. Try as I may to break him of this dependency, I cannot. I cannot even substitute a blanket that may look and feel like one similar. That blanket represents comfort, protection, love, and peace for him. I thought of that in relation to how Jesus wants us to cling to Him. Jesus is not simply our safety blanket, He is the comfort and protection we need in all our naptimes and bedtimes. He is the peace provided in the windy, rainy, and cold seasons as well as the love supporting us when the sun is shining and all is right with the world. He wants us to cuddle close to that promise and hold it fast in our arms, to cling tightly to his hand.

I offer us the chance to approach our faith through a more childlike lens. A lens where m&m’s were the best form of money, and we spent more time playing hide and seek than we did fighting about toys and possessions.  Where the age of eight was the best of years and we could finally cross the street by ourselves, but it was still ok to climb into mom and dad’s bed at night if we were scared. Where the biggest worries were where to build our tree fort and hide it so our parents would not find it. Where we were not worried about how to achieve or what to accomplish but were overjoyed at the adventure that tomorrow brings. Where we cling with confidence and dependency to the One who brings peace, laughter, love, and care to all. Jesus stands ready for us to take hold of the package so richly wrapped and giggle with glee at the gift we receive.

May Christ richly bless you not with a childish faith, but one of childlike wonder and amazement.

Shalom to you


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